The Punter

BMW Championship: Rahm the man to back at 11/1 in Illinois

Golfer Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm - fancied to go well again in Illinois

The PGA Tour heads to Illinois this week for the second of the three FedEx Cup Playoff events. Steve Rawlings previews the BMW Championship here...


Tournament History

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 FedEx St Jude Championship at TPC Southwind, the BMW Championship is restricted to the top-50 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.

Venue

The North Course, Olympia Fields Country Club, Olympia Fields, Illinois.

Course Details

Par 70 - 7, 366 yards

Stroke Average in 2020 - 71.82

The North Course was the venue for the memorable 2020 edition of this event when Jon Rahm got the better of a bang-in-form Dustin Johnson in extra time when he holed this remarkable 66-footer.

Prior to that extraordinary renewal, the Olympia Fields Country Club hadn't seen any action on the PGA Tour since Jim Furyk had coasted to his sole major success in the US Open back in 2003 so it's great to see it back on the schedule again so soon.

In-between Furyk's facile three-stroke success and Rahm's remarkable win, Bryson DeChambeau won the U.S Amateur here in 2015 and it was also the host course for the Women's PGA Championship in 2017.

Back in 2020, Olympia Fields North was the longest par 70 used on the PGA Tour in a non-major since the final edition of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club's South Course in 2019 and at 7,400 yards, Firestone measured 34 yards longer.

Back in 2003 holes 11 to 18 were played as holes 2 to 9, resulting in the two par fives being played in the first six but the course layout this week is how it should be and how it was in 2020. The two (very long) par fives are the first and the 15th.

The bluegrass rough was cut to around four inches long three years ago and the average sized but severely contoured Bentgrass/Poa Annua greens were set to run fast at around 12.5 on the Stimpmeter.

Olympia Fields North is far and away the hardest venue used for this event of late and with a round to go in 2020 all bar two players were over-par. DJ and Hideki Matsuyama were both on one-under-par and they were two clear of the rest.

There was no wind at all in round four, the greens appeared to have been watered and conditions were cooler than they'd been all week, so the scoring improved considerably.

Rahm shot a six-under-par 64 to get to get to -4 and seven players finished the week on par or better.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 18:00 UK time on Thursday.

Last Eight Winners with Exchange Prices

  • 2023 - Patrick Cantlay -14 22.021/1
  • 2021 - Patrick Cantlay -27 (playoff) 27.026/1
  • 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
  • 2015 - Jason Day -22 9.417/2

What Will it Take to Win the BMW?

Jim Furyk managed to get to eight-under-par to win the 2003 US Open here when only four players broke par and the leaderboard was dominated by accurate players. Furyk ranked second for Driving Accuracy and first for Greens In Regulation and it was a similar story in this event three years ago.

The front two ranked second and fifth for GIR, Joaquin Niemann, in tied third, topped the rankings and Matthew Fitzpatrick, who finished tied for sixth, ranked second for that stat.

The top five ranked sixth, fourth, 10th, 14th and fourth for Driving Distance in 2020 but accuracy off the tee was still a factor.

Rahm ranked 13th for DA and DJ ranked 18th and the pair ranked first and second for Total Driving.

Is There an Angle In?

It may make sense to side with players that have found form very recently.

Patrick Cantlay had finished only 57th in the FedEx St Jude the week before he defended the title 12 months ago but prior to that he'd finished fourth in the Scottish Open, eighth in the Open championship and second in the Rocket Mortgage Classic so he was in fair form overall.

patrick cantlay wins 2022 bmw champs.jpg

He wasn't in great form in 2021, but he'd finished 11th in the Northen Trust (the first of the three Playoff events) the week before he won and the front two were both in great nick in 2020.

DJ came into the event having finished second to Collin Morikawa in the US PGA Championship and first in the Northern Trust the week before and Rahm had finished sixth behind Johnson.

The 2019 winner, Justin Thomas, had finished inside the top-12 in each of his previous four starts and 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 US PGA, 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. In addition to Cantlay (twice), 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.

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, bar Cantlay in 2021, had recorded a top-ten in one of their four previous starts.

It appears you simply can't win this one if you're not in some sort of form so those that have made it this far thanks to strong form earlier in the year might be worth swerving.

This is a tough venue so it's no surprise to see that US Open form came to the fore last time we were here.

The two playoff protagonists in 2020 have both won a US Open and last year's US Open winner, Matthew Fitzpatrick, finished tied for sixth.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

Keegan Bradley was very much a surprise winner five years ago when the top-70 in the FedEx Cup standings qualified. He came into the event ranking 52nd in the 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 15 years ago, whose price I can't recall or find, we hadn't seen any wild outsiders before Bradley and six of the last eight winners have been very prominent in the market.

Leishman was matched at 55.054/1 before the off six years ago but the two winners before him were first and second favourites, Thomas was the third favourite in 2019, the second favourite, Rahm, beat the favourite, DJ, in extra time here in 2020 and Cantlay has been priced at less than 30.029/1 in each of the last two years.

In-Play Tactics

We don't have much to go on so it's tough to know what to expect and the two course winners this century have got across the line very differently.

The first and second in the 2003 US Open here, Furyk and Stephen Leaney, were up with the pace throughout.

The two both sat tied for fifth and just two off the lead after round one and Furyk was tied for the lead with Vijay Singh at halfway. Leaney sat two adrift in a tie for third.

After round three, Furyk was three strokes clear of Leaney and he went on to win by three, but it was a very different story here in 2020...

Rahm's victory was fairly miraculous given he trailed by eight in a tie for 51st after a five-over-par 75 on Thursday and that he was still seven back in a tie for 39th at halfway.

The previous player to win a non-major having opened with a 75 on day one had been Mark Calcavecchia back in 2007, the last player to win a non-major having opened with a 146 36-hole total was Greg Norman way back in 1990, and the last player to win any event having opened up with 146 or worse was Paul Lawrie at the Open in 1999.

The Spaniard, who was a pre-event 12.011/1 chance, was matched in-running for plenty at in excess of 300.0299/1 and for pennies at a high of 700.0699/1.

Market Leaders


After yet another decent performance last week, where he finished tied for third and one shot short of the playoff at the FedEx St Jude Championship, to record his eighth top-10 in-a-row, Rory McIlroy heads the market. I'm happy to swerve him.

It would be ridiculous to say he can't play tough tracks given he has five top-10 finishes in-a-row in the US Open, but he is better suited to an easier assignment and he's still yet to win a tournament in anything less than a 10-under-par total.

He's certainly playing well enough to put that right this week (if the course plays tough again) and although he was only 12th here three years ago, he wasn't in great form at the time.

Rory McIlroy at TPC Southwind.jpg

We can expect an improved performance this time around but he's just short enough for my liking.

Scottie Scheffler looked like he may have finally started to put his putting woes behind him last week when he sat just three off the lead at halfway in Memphis, ranking third for Putting Average and sixth for Strokes Gained Putting, but it all went pear-shaped over the weekend and he finished the week in a tie for 31st, ranking 35th for PA and 63rd for SGP.

Scheffler was 20th here three years ago and until he sorts the flatstick out he's one to be wary off.

Given the manner of his victory here in 2020, the way he performed at the Open when finishing tied for second, and how well he played after a slow start in Memphis last week (shot 67-67-68 after an opening 73 had left him too much to do), Jon Rahm is my idea of the most likely winner.

His driving hasn't been up to its usual standard and that's most certainly a concern. But he's a very fair price on the exchange at 12.011/1 given he's a 10/111.00 chance on the High Street.

If he can put Sunday's disappointing playoff performance behind him, Patrick Cantlay appears to be finding form at just the right time to win this event for the third year in-a-row, but the negatives outweigh the positives.

In addition to needing to pick himself up after Sunday, Cantlay hasn't putted well for a few months now and he was only 12th here back in 2020. All things considered, the threepeat looks unlikely.

Selection

Rahm has a habit of winning the same events and winning or performing very well at the same tracks.

He finished second in Mexico at the end of April when defending and he won the Open de España back-to-back in 2018 and 2019.

He's gone on to win that title for a third time since and he's also won the American Express twice, the Irish Open twice, and the DP World Tour Championship three times.

He comes into the week top of the FedEx Cup Standings and given he's yet to win the FedEx Cup, he'll be extremely keen to stay ahead of the rest before next week's title-deciding Tour Championship. He's my sole selection before the off.

Back Jon Rahm @ 12.011/1

Bet now


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