Following Tony Finau's win in the Northern Trust on Monday, the PGA Tour heads to Maryland for the second of the three FedEx Cup Playoff events. Steve Rawlings previews the BMW Championship here...
"Collin Morikawa is a tempting price again but the only one I’m chancing before the off is last year’s FedEx Cup winner and two-time BMW Championship winner, Dustin Johnson."
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 changed in 2019 with only three events instead of four so following the Northern Trust at Liberty National, 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. Patrick Reed isn't in the field due to contracting double pneumonia.
There will be no 36-hole cut this week so all 69 players will play all four rounds.
Caves Valley Golf Club, Owings Mills, Maryland.
Par 72 - 7, 542 yards
The Tom Fazio designed Caves Valley Course opened in 1991 and it was renovated in 2020. Although new to the PGA Tour, it hosted the 2002 Senior U.S. Open, the 2014 International Crown event on the LPGA and the 2017 Constellation Senior Players Championship on the Champions Tour.
The 2005 NCAAs and the 2007 Palmer Cup were also held at Caves Valley.
At over 7,500 yards Caves Valley is a long course with fescue-bluegrass rough (four inches) and bentgrass fairways. The smaller than average bentgrass greens are expected to run at around 12.5 on the stimpmeter.
The two nines at Caves Vallley have been flipped for the BMW Championship and after a sustained wet spell, it's likely to play even longer than its yardage suggests and favour the bigger hitters.
Other Fazio designs worth considering
The only Tom Fazio designed course that we visit every season at present is the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship course in the Dominican Republic but he's been responsible for redesigns at Quail Hollow (home of the Wells Fargo Championship), Riviera Country Club (Genesis Invitational) and the Seaside Course at Sea Island which hosts the RSM Classic.
The Fazio-designed Congaree Golf Club hosted the brand-new Palmetto Championship on the PGA Tour as recently as June (won by Garrick Higgo) and Fazio was also responsible for the redesign of Kasumigaseki Country Club which hosted the Olympics last month. Won by Xander Schauffele.
And finally, Fazio designed Conway Farms in Chicago at the same time as he worked on Caves Valley and Conway Farms has hosted this event three times previously. Zach Johnson won there in 2013, Jason Day won the 2015 edition by fully six strokes and fellow Aussie, Marc Leishman, won there in 2017 by five shots.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, beginning 15:00 on Thursday.
Last Five BMW Winners with Pre-Event Exchange Odds
2020 - Jon Rahm -4 (playoff) 12.011/1
2019 - Justin Thomas -25 16.015/1
2018 - Keegan Bradley -20 (playoff) 210.0209/1
2017 - Marc Leishman -23 55.054/1
2016 - Dustin Johnson -23 11.010/1
Is There an Angle In?
It may make sense to side with players that have found form very recently. Jon Rahm had finished sixth in The Northern Trust the week before he won this event - beating The Northern Trust winner, Dustin Johnson, in a playoff - and the 2019 winner, Justin Thomas, had finished inside the top-12 in each of his previous four starts. They were all big events, so he was bang in-form and in the old format, when this event was the third of four FedEx Cup Playoff Series events (up until 2018) all the winners had been in really good form.
Keegan Bradley took the title in 2018 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 he's very much the outlier and in addition to Rahm and Thomas, 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 at Conway Farms in 2013 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 Championship.
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 the first 11 tournament winners had all finished inside the top-ten in one of their two previous starts. That run ended in 2018 but given Thomas had finished ninth in the Scottish Open and Bradley fourth in Canada, every single 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 three years ago. He came into the event ranking 52nd in the FedEx Cup standings and he was a 210.0209/1 chance before the off but he's the only big outsider to take the title so far.
Looking back over the events history, with the possible exception of Camilo Villegas 13 years ago, whose price I can't recall or find, we hadn't seen any wild outsiders before Bradley and four of the last six winners have been very prominent in the market.
Leishman was matched at 55.054/1 before the off four years ago but the two winners before him were first and second favourites, Thomas was the third favourite in 2019 and the second favourite, Rahm, beat the favourite, DJ in extra time last year.
What little evidence we have shows that it's possible to win from off the pace here.
Don Pooley got the better of Tom Watson in a playoff at the 2002 US Senior Open here in 2002, having trailed by six at halfway and Scott McCarron caught and past the 36 and 54 hole leader, Bernhard Langer, at the 2017 Senior Players Championship having sat tied for third and six off the lead with a round to go.
Pooley made his big move with a 63 in round three in 2002 and McCarron's 66 in round four catapulted him to the front after the front two with a round to go, Langer and Brandt Jobe, shot disappointing final rounds of 73 and 72.
Having welcomed his first born son to the world and won the his first major - the US Open - it's been quite a summer for Jon Rahm but it could have been quite a bit more successful on the golf front.
He was cruelly denied a successful Memorial Tournament defence by a positive covid test when six clear with a round to go in June and he should have won both last week's Northern Trust and the Scottish Open in July. He traded at a low of just 1.21/5 in running last week and he was matched at 1.4640/85 in round two in Scotland before finishing seventh.
Rahm was also in with a chance at the Open after a slow start on Thursday so he's playing some of the best golf of his career this summer without getting properly rewarded. He looks almost certain to contend again here and he's won the same title three times on the European Tour (the DP World, the Irish Open and the Open de Espana) so a successful defence is perfectly possible.
Bryson DeChambeau looks an ideal fit for the venue, but he's been poor in-contention of late. The Olympic champ, Xander Schauffele, has the obvious course designer link, and although he threw in a couple of very odd little runs last week, Justin Thomas has found some form at just the right time. It would be no surprise to see any of the trio collect but I'm happy to leave them all out...
Collin Morikawa is a tempting price again but the only one I'm chancing before the off is last year's FedEx Cup winner and two-time BMW Championship winner, Dustin Johnson.
His missed cut when defending last week make turn out to be a plus given the tournament went into Monday, he has a tiny bit of course form given he played in the Palmer Cup here, and he's just too big given his propensity to suddenly find a bit of form and win (like he did in The Northern Trust last year).
Although he appears not to be in great shape, he did finish tenth in his penultimate start in the WGC- FedEx St Jude Invitational, he traded at odds-on in the Palmetto Championship at the Fazio-designed Congaree (finished 10th!) and he looks a decent enough price to chance.
Dustin Johnson @ 26.025/1
I'll be back later in the week with the In-Play Blog
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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