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Preview of the BMW Championship


The PGA TOUR heads to Chicago for the second leg of a three-event playoff race.

This week’s BMW Championship will feature the top 50 golfers in the FedExCup race, while the top 30 in the standings will advance to the TOUR Championship in East Lake.

As you would expect with a limited field, you don’t have to worry about the cut line this week. All 50 golfers are guaranteed 72 holes of action.

The course

Olympia Fields Country Club’s North Course will run the show this week. It is a par 70 that extends to 7,366 yards from the tips.

This Willie Park design was laid out in the 1920s and renovated in 2013 (Mark Mungeam). It was recently seen at the 2020 BMW Championship, with Jon Rahm winning this week 4 under, beating Dustin Johnson. Prior to that, it hosted the 2015 US Amateur won by Bryson DeChambeau and the 2003 US Open (won by Jim Furyk).

The classic features right in front of you compel you to take high quality golf shots. That’s the story you hear when you listen to previous pressers on the course. There’s nothing made up about that. It’s a course where you have to stay under the hole or bogeys will pile up quickly.

As Robby Shelton put it at the 2015 US Am, “It’s a ball striker’s course. You can’t really work your way around the course.”

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From the tee, golfers see tight lanes framed by thick, rugged Kentucky bluegrass.

With high rough and tough bunker placement, there are plenty of options as to which club to hit on the tee boxes. Tony Finau, a big hitter, said of the challenge: “I think mostly off the tee, I’m just trying to figure out how to hit the fairway. You really don’t have to take long to compete on this course. You have to hit the fairway, if you even give yourself a chance to start the hole.”

During the 2020 BMW Championship, the firm fairways made it a real challenge to find the fairways. The field averaged only 48 percent of the fairways at Olympia Fields that year, which is well below the typical Tour percentage which is closer to 60 percent.

While Finau didn’t feel he had an advantage with the height, the leaderboard painted a different story. That’s often the case when you get a course with hard-to-hit fairways and thick rough. It emphasizes carry distance and the ability to pound it out of the thick rough.

For turf talk, we see curved fairways and greens with 4-inch Kentucky bluegrass rough. The greens are prepared to turn on the fast side, about 12.5 feet on the stimp.

The 2020 BMW Championship was characterized by firm and fast conditions with some wind gusts, resulting in a field score average of 71.82 (+1.82 RTP). When asked about comp courses in 2020, Justin Thomas referred to Muirfield Village and Bethpage. In addition, I think Riviera CC, Colonial CC and East Lake also have a lot of crossover characteristics. We’re looking at courses with tight lanes but not many penalty areas to worry about, with classic design elements and bonus points for artificial turf.

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Golfers to watch

Rory McIlroy

He is open as the pre-tournament betting favorite. That’s reserved for Scottie Scheffler most weeks, but McIlroy has shifted the story thanks to a stellar run of results this summer. McIlroy has finished T-9 or better in eight consecutive events. While many come in blind in terms of course experience, McIlroy shared a chunk of the 36-hole lead (alongside Patrick Cantlay) at the 2020 BMW Championship. The bad news? McIlroy faded over the weekend to settle for a T-12 finish.

Hideki Matsuyama

He snuck into 47th place in the FedExCup standings. Matsuyama will have to take a giant leap to make his way to the TOUR Championship (Top 30 FedExCup). For Matsuyama, he arrives with a good sense of course as he was the first round leader at the 2020 BMW Championship. He also shared part of the 54-hole lead that week.

Jon Rahm

The Spaniard retains his top position in the FedExCup race, but is now just 148 points ahead of Scottie Scheffler. Rahm settled for 37th in Memphis but should easily improve on that result as he heads to Olympia Fields Country Club, the site where he won the 2020 BMW championship. Rahm also played his way to the quarterfinals at the 2015 US Amateur at Olympia Fields.

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Wyndham Clark

In 2020 it was a common theme for golfers to say that this course was similar to a US Open setup. Tiger Woods said, “This course was basically a US Open, with the rough as high as it is and the fairways a bit narrow.” If that’s the case again, should we turn our attention to this year’s US Open winner Wyndham Clark? He missed the cut in five of his last six starts of the 2020 campaign, so he had no chance to play in the 2020 BMW, eliminated after the first leg of the playoffs. He’s playing much better this time around, though he only lost 11.5 strokes tee-to-green in Memphis.

Matt Fitzpatrick

Sticking with the theme of US Open winners, Fitzpatrick turned in a T-6 finish at the 2020 BMW Championship at Olympia Fields. Like Clark, he arrives in Memphis after a rough finish. Fitzpatrick and Clark tied for 66th (out of 70 golfers) in the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Can one, or both, bounce back in Chicago? For Fitzpatrick, he has the course history to suggest that a big finish could easily be in the series of results.

Arrange the field

1.Scottie Scheffler
2. Rory Macilroy
3. Jon Rahm
4.Patrick Cantlay
5. Xander Schauffele
6. Victor Hovland
7. Tyrrell Hatton
8. Colin Morikawa
9. Max Homa
10.Tommy Fleetwood
11.Ricky Fowler
12. Jordan Spith
13.Russell Henley
14. Sungjae Im
15. Wyndham Clark
16. Jason Day
17.Tony Finau
18. Matt Fitzpatrick
19. Hideki Matsuyama
20. Luke Glover

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