BMW Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
WHEN the going gets tough...now we are down to the final 70, with 55 players eliminated, and the serious business of the FedEx Cup playoffs really gets under way at the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick.
If the big names hope to have any chance of winning the FedEx Cup and the $10m bonus prize then this is the week when they need to get it going. The list of recent winners is impressive – Dustin Johnson (2010), Justin Rose (2011), Rory McIlroy (2012), Zach Johnson (2013), Billy Horschel (2014) and Jason Day (2015). Horschel also went on to win the Tour Championship in 2014 and, with it, the FedEx Cup. In the best form of his life, he missed out of the US Ryder Cup team because it had been selected two weeks earlier.
Day, you may remember, won two of the FedEx Playoffs tournaments in 2015, but somehow lost out to Jordan Spieth in one of those mathematical idiosyncrasies that could only happen on the PGA Tour.
Crooked Stick is the course where John Daly won the US PGA Championship way back in 1991, having got into the event as an alternate and driving through the night to get there. Many things have changed in the intervening 25 years, but one thing that hasn't is that this golf course still favours big hitters, and that means McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Day should all fancy their chances.
McIlroy has turned his season around with a sensational victory at the Deustche Bank Championship at TPC Boston. As he told us back in July, he only enters tournaments to win them, so by that measure he must have hated just about every minute of this year. It is bad enough that he was not in serious contention to win any of the majors, but he has also endured a number of poor final rounds when he has got himself into contention Stateside. But that all changed in Boston. He was four over par after the first three holes but battled back brilliantly to salvage an opening round of 71 and then came from six shots behind 54-hole leader Paul Casey to win the tournament by two strokes thanks to a brilliant round of 65.
The best thing of all is that a man who struggled on the greens all year long has finally turned things around. He putted superbly for all four days, using a new putter and a rebuilt putting stroke. We are all taking it for granted that he will be the star of the European team at Hazeltine, and with his confidence now sky-high, it would be no surprise to see him win the FexEx Cup and then go on to the Ryder Cup and lead Europe to victory.
Europe's best chances of glory at Crooked Stick almost certainly lie with McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Russell Knox. Stenson is the Open champion and came within a whisker of winning the Olympic Games golf tournament. The big Swede, a former FedEx champion, is in the form of his life and will want to finish his PGA Tour season with another victory. He hits the ball huge distances with his three wood and Crooked Stick should suit his eye, especially as his short game has also been nothing short of sensational this summer.
Knox has a point to prove. Had he joined the European Tour in October last year he would have qualified for the European Ryder Cup team automatically, and with something to spare. He has won twice on the PGA Tour this season and had every reason to expect that would be good enough to earn him a wild card. It is fair to say that he was slightly miffed when Darren Clarke overlooked him in favour of Thomas Pieters and he immediately said that the way to prove the European captain wrong was by going out and winning again. He is not a long hitter, but he doesn't miss many fairways.
Like McIlroy, Day has not figured in this season's majors but his game is in good shape and this would be the perfect time to win again. And I believe that he will do precisely that – and then go on to win the Tour Championship at East Lake when the field will be reduced to just 30 players. Day is a class act who has learnt to score well when struggling with his game. He also hits the ball a very long way but, more important, when he has his eye in, he holes everything he looks at. He could be very hard to beat this week.
His closest rival is likely to be Patrick Reed, winner of the Barclays and one of the most consistent players on the planet in 2016. There will also be many people rooting for Rickie Fowler, who had the Barclays within his grasp, only to throw it all away with a back nine holes in the final round that he will want to banish from his memory.
If you are looking for 2016's Billy Horschel, then that man could easily be Kevin Chappell, who has had an extraordinarily consistent season.
BMW Championship Picks & Tips
To Win: Jason Day. Wants to get something from the year
Each Way: Patrick Reed. Back to winning ways
Each Way: Rory McIlroy. Back to his very best
BMW Championship Fantasy Picks
Jason Day. Could be difficult to beat
Patrick Reed. Confidence is sky high
Rory McIlroy. Now thinking only of winning the main prize
Henrik Stenson. Can he win FedEx Cup again?
Rickie Fowler. Needs to put Barclays disaster behind him soon
Dustin Johnson. Capable of winning anywhere, anytime now
Jordan Spieth. Still trying to find his best
Phil Mickelson. Looking for first win of 2016
Russell Knox. Wants to prove Darren Clarke wrong
Matt Kuchar. Just keeps rolling along
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