We're off to Illinois this week for the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoff Series - the BMW Championship - so read Steve Rawlings' detailed preview ahead of Thursday start here...
"Wining back-to-back isn’t a common occurrence as a rule but as many as six players have achieved the feat in FedEx Cup Playoff events. That’s a phenomenal return and not something to be ignored."
The BMW Championship was introduced to the PGA Tour schedule in 2007 when it replaced the Western Open to become the third leg of the brand-new FedEx Cup Playoff Series. The Western Open dated all the way back to 1899 and only the Open Championship and US Open date back further.
The format of the Playoff Series has changed this year with only three events instead of four so following the Northern Trust at Liberty National last week, the BMW Championship is restricted to the top-70 in the FedEx Cup standings only and following this event, the standings are recalculated again and only the top-30 advance to the series deciding Tour Championship at East Lake next week.
Medinah Golf and Country Club (No.3), Medinah, Illinois
Par 72, 7,613 yards
Medinah's Number Three Course, originally designed by Tom Bendelow in 1928, and upgraded by Rees-Jones before the Ryder Cup in 2012, has staged five majors to date. Three US Opens - 1949, 1975 and 1990 and two US PGA Championships, in 1999, and most recently, in 2006. Both PGA's went the way of Tiger Woods but the most memorable major moment came courtesy of a fresh-faced Sergio Garcia in 1999.
Medinah is also famous for the incredible European comeback at the Ryder Cup there in 2012, universally known as the 'Miracle of Midinah".
The course is long and tree-lined and the smaller than average Bentgrass greens are expected to run at around 12 on the stimpmeter.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting with live Featured Group coverage at 14:45 UK time and full coverage 20:00.
Last Tournament Winners
2018 - Keegan Bradley -20 (playoff)
2017 - Marc Leishman -23
2016 - Dustin Johnson -23
2015 - Jason Day -22
2014 - Billy Horschel -14
What Will it Take to Win the BMW Championship?
Medinah is a beast of a golf course and power off the tee is going to be beneficial this week but I'm not convinced it's that simple. Mike Weir was tied for Tiger Woods with a round to go at the 1999 US PGA Championship at Medinah but he shot 80 in round four to slip to 10th but he wasn't the only short-hitter that contended that year.
The Canadian return in 2006 to finish sixth and he was far from the only relatively short hitter to prosper then either. Shaun Micheel finished second and Luke Donald was tied for third, with K.J Choi, Ryan Moore, Steve Stricker and Ian Poulter all finishing inside the top-ten also. None of those six are known for their power of the tee so although I'd favour length, it's certainly not imperative.
Is There an Angle In?
It may make sense to side with players that have found form very recently. In the old format, when this event was the third of four FedEx Cup Playoff Series events, up until last year, all the winners had been in really good form.
Keegan Bradley took the title last year having finished 42nd at the USPGA, 34th in the Northern Trust and 49th at the now defunct, Dell Technologies, in his three previous starts but he'd been fourth at the Canadian Open before that so his win didn't come entirely out of the blue, and the first 11 winners of this event had all shown something recently.
Incredibly, 10 of the 11 had finished inside the top-ten in either of the first two FedEx Cup Series events. The only exception had been Zach Johnson but he'd been in fine fettle before the series began and prior to finishing 27th in the Dell Technologies, after skipping the Northern Trust, he'd finished fifth in the Wyndham.
If you want to nail that down further, the 2017 winner, Marc Leishman, was the seventh winner in 11 years to have finished inside the top-three in one of the first two Playoff events, although interestingly, nobody ever won the BMW having finished inside the top-ten in both previous Playoff events.
Here's a look at how the first 11 tournament winners (since it became a FedEx Cup event) did in the first two FedEx Cup Playoff events and how they'd fared before the series began.
Marc Leishman 2017 - The Aussie had traded at odds-on the week before in the Dell Technologies before a late collapse which saw him finish third. He'd missed the cut in the first FedEx Cup Series event but prior to that he'd finished fifth at the Quicken Loans National, six at the Open Championship, 41st at the WGC - Bridgestone Invitational and 13th at the US PGA Championship.
Dustin Johnson 2016 - 18th at The Northern Trust and eighth at the Dell Technologies Championship but before the Series had begun, he'd won the US Open and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and he'd finished runner-up in Canada.
Jason Day 2015 - first in the Northern Trust and 12th in the Dell Technologies, Day had already won the US PGA Championship and the Canadian Open.
Billy Horschel 2014 - MC at the Northern Trust but runner-up at the Dell Technologies Championship.
Zach Johnson 2013 - Sat out the Northern Trust and 27th at the Dell Technologies Championship but Zach had finished inside the top-eight in his previous five starts.
Rory McIlroy 2012 - Made it back-to back wins after success at the Dell Technologies Championship, which had followed a 24th at the Northern Trust and victory in the USPGA Championship
Justin Rose 2011 - Sixth at the Northern Trust and 68th at the Dell Technologies Championship
Dustin Johnson 2010 - Ninth at the Northern Trust, having finished fifth in the USPGA Championship in his previous start, and 57th at the Dell Technologies.
Tiger Woods 2009- Runner-up at the Northern Trust and 11th in the Dell Technologies and prior to that he'd finished second in the USPGA Championship after back-to-back wins at the Buick Open and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational
Camilo Villegas 2008 - MC at The Northern Trust, having finished fourth in the USPGA Championship in his previous start, and third at the Dell Technologies Championship
Tiger Woods 2007 - Sat out The Northern Trust and runner-up in the Dell Technologies Championship, having won his two previous starts at the USPGA Championship and the Bridgestone Invitational.
Being in fair recent form has been essential and 11 of the first 12 tournament winners (the first 11) had all finished inside the top-ten in one of their two previous starts. And although Bradley hadn't sparkled in his last three starts, his fourth in Canada means every winner of this event has recorded a top-ten in one of their four previous starts.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Keegan Bradley was very much a surprise winner 12 months ago. He came into the event ranking 52nd in the FedEx Cup standings and he was a [210.0] chance before the off but he's the only big outsider to take the title so far.
Looking back over the event's history, with the possible exception of Camilo Villegas 11 years ago, whose price I can't recall or find, we hadn't seen any wild outsiders before Bradley. Leishman was matched at [55.0] before the off two years and the two winners before him were first and second favourites.
I very much doubt two renewals provides anywhere near enough information to give us much of a steer but for what it's worth Tiger Woods sat tied for 10th after round one in both 1999 and 2006. He was third and two behind Jay Haas at halfway in 1999 and he sat tied third and just a stroke behind four co-leaders through 36 holes in 2006, and he was tied for the lead after three rounds before going on to win by one in 1999 and by five in 2006.
The market can't split Brooks Koepka or Rory McIlroy but I'm happy to swerve them both.
Koepka may have won the WGC-FedEx St Jude Classic easily enough two weeks ago but he was back to his old non-major self again last week. I thought that win in Memphis might give him the motivation to stay more focused last week but he really wasn't engaged in the same way he is at majors and I suspect we'll probably get another lackadaisical performance again here.
Rory is playing some great golf this year at times and he's contended in each of the last two events but his iron play hadn't been as sharp is needs to be and he always has the propensity to miss one or two short and crucial putts.
Jon Rahm is another enjoying a great summer but he'll feel he should have done better than he has since he won the Irish Open from way off the pace. He started brightly at the Open Championship before fading to finish outside the top ten, he led the FedEx St Jude after day one but finished seventh and after hitting the front in New Jersey on Sunday, hitting a low of [1.61], he made back-to-back bogeys and eventually finished third. Having witnessed those efforts, as well as his final round collapse at the Players Championship, I'm starting to think he's a better proposition from slightly off the pace.
In his last four starts, Justin Thomas has finished ninth, 11th, 12th and 12th so he's certainly more consistent than he's been for much of the year. He lost his form completely after throwing away the Genesis Open in February so it's good to see him rounding the corner but it's debatable whether he's value to win here at around [17.0] and the same can be said of Dustin Johnson.
DJ led at the halfway stage last week and he looked primed to bounce back to form but a woeful weekend saw him plummet to 24th place and given his form figures over the last three months read 20-35-MC-51-20-24, it's tempting to think his first two rounds were a flash in the pan.
The FedEx Cup Playoffs have been running for 12 years and in eight of those 12 years at least one player has won two Playoff events. Tiger Woods won the last two in 2007 (in the inaugural series) and last year, Bryson DeChambeau won the first two, exactly ten years after Vijay Singh had done the same thing. And that year, Camilo Villegas won the last two events too so it's happened nine times in 12 years!
The number of Playoff events have been reduced from four to three for the first time this year so it's going to be interesting to see if we see anywhere near as many multiple winners in the same season going forward, despite the reduction, but I'm happy to take a chance on last week's winner, Patrick Reed.
Wining back-to-back isn't a common occurrence as a rule but as many as six players have achieved the feat in FedEx Cup Playoff events. That's a phenomenal return and not something to be ignored. Reed is yet to win concurrent tournaments but he's placed on a number of occasions after winning so he's capable of holding his form and prices north of [40.0] are far too big.
Like Dave Tindall, I like the chances of in-form Englishman, Ian Poulter, given his obvious association with the venue and I've also thrown a few pounds at big-hitting outsider, Cameron Champ.
The 24-year-old Californian has lost his way since winning the Sanderson Farms Championship in October but he's been troubled with injuries. He ranked number on for Driving Distance again last week, as he invariably does, but he also ranked fourth for Greens In Regulation. Last week's 21st was far and away his best performance in a very long while and he might just be rounding into form at just the right time.
Patrick Reed @ [42.0]
Ian Poulter @ [80.0]
Cameron Champ @ [240.0]
I'm going away for a few weeks so Paul Krishnamurty is going to step in and cover the In-Play Blogs and De-briefs but I'll still publish my previews each week.
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