BMW Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE FedEx Cup Playoffs are beginning to get serious, with the leading 70 players in the standings heading to the BMW Championship at Aronimink Golf Club and an elite group of players starting to dream about finishing off the whole shooting match at the Tour Championship by picking up the $10m bonus for winning the ultimate trophy.
By its very nature, the tournament boasts a star-studded field with the entire US Ryder Cup team in attendance and some of Europe’s finest trying to spoil their party. The list of recent winners of the BMW reads like a who’s who of modern golf. It was won in 2011 by Justin Rose, in 2012 by Rory McIlroy, in 2013 by Zach Johnson, in 2014 by Billy Horschel, in 2015 by Jason Day, in in 2016 by Dustin Johnson (who also won in 2010) and last year by Marc Leishman.
Tiger Woods is also a five-time winner, while England’s Paul Casey has twice finished runner-up. The standings change quickly at this time of year, with masses of points on offer for the winners of each of the four playoff tournaments. After the Northern Trust, Bryson DeChambeau claimed the top spot from Dustin Johnson, with Justin Thomas in third place and Tony Finau fourth, and DeChambeau extended that advantage with another brilliant victory at the Dell Technologies, while Justin Rose edged up into third before entering this week.
Finau has had a remarkable season. The big-hitting American is the only player to have finished in the top 10 at The Masters, US Open and The Open in 2018 (he was a disappointing 42nd at the US PGA Championship) and he seems to have been in contention almost every week, but he is still looking for his first win. He has actually managed eight top-10 finishes, finishing second on three occasions. It is the sort of season of which Matt Kuchar would be proud but Finau admits that he is becoming increasingly frustrated at coming so close so many times without being able to close the deal. He seems to have everything. The 28-year-old is one of the longest hitters in the game, but he also has a lovely touch around the greens. If there is a weakness in his game it is his putting, but most of his peers believe that when he does finally make the breakthrough then the floodgates will open and he will become a serial winner.
American golf is blessed with a plethora of fabulous twenty something golfers and the odds are that one of them will be raising the FedEx Cup aloft at the end of the Tour Championship. Take your pick from the likes of Finau, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Xander Scaufelle, Patrick Reed, Aaron Wise…the list is seemingly endless. Headed right now by Bryson DeChambeau, who has incredibly won both FedEx Cup Playoff events thus far. And that is without considering the merits of Dustin Johnson, a veritable veteran at the age of 34. There is a perception that the Dustinator has had a quiet year and, while there have been a couple of disappointing finishes, he has nevertheless won three times, missed a solitary cut (at The Open), which he followed the next week by winning the Canadian Open in sensational fashion, 10 top-10 finishes and 15 top-20 finishes. It is a quite extraordinary record and an amazing level of consistency, and it is why he remains my favourite to win this week and go on to pocket the $10m jackpot.
Thomas also continues to produce a remarkable level of consistency. It was always going to be difficult for him to follow his sensational 2017 season, when he won five times, including his first major, but he has done a pretty decent job of it. Thus far there have been another three victories and nine top 10s. He also briefly took over from Johnson at the top of the world rankings. And he is still only 25 years of age.
The successes enjoyed by Johnson and Thomas will have spurred on Jordan Spieth to keep grinding away and solve the problems which have afflicted him throughout 2018. Incredibly, he found himself languishing in 33rd place in the standings going into the Dell Technologies. Worse than that, the tree-time major champion is still looking for his first win of the season. Spieth watchers will tell you that it is his putting that has cost him dear in 2018 but that only tells part of the story. He has been wildly inaccurate from the tee, sometimes missing fairways by more than 100 yards. And when he was winning everything in sight he was leaving his wedge shots stiff, time after time. He hasn’t done that this season. Too often when he has found the middle of the fairway he has reached for a wedge and got his distance control all wrong. This is something that has also afflicted Rory McIlroy. When these guys are on song they seem to have the ball on a piece of string - with a wedge or a short iron in their hands you expect them to finish within six feet of the hole every time. But, just like the rest of us, they also have their bad days. The problem is that in the cases of Spieth and McIlroy there have been too many off days in 2018. Who would ever have believed that Jordan Spieth would go through a regular season without winning? Not your correspondent, that’s for sure?
So who else is worth keeping an eye on? Rose has been nursing a back injury but has still managed to play some decent golf. He has had a stellar season, with his only disappointment being that he failed to add to his one major victory. Many pundits say that Rose is too mechanical and he would be the first to admit that he has to work hard to keep his game in shape, but when it comes to choosing the PGA Tour Player of the Year, Rose would have been the choice of many had it not been for Brooks Koepka winning two majors. There are few better drivers of the ball than Rose, he is a magnificent iron player and he has finally found a reliable putting stroke.
Koepka ran out of steam after getting himself into contention at the Northern Trust. It was hardly surprising after the summer he has had. But Kopeka is a super-fit individual and it would be no surprise to see him in the mix again. It promises to be a thrilling couple of weeks.
Dustin Johnson. Is having another astonishing season
Tony Finau. Breakthrough can’t be long in coming, surely?
Jordan Spieth. Finding some form
Dustin Johnson. So impressive
Tony Finau. The model of consistency
Jordan Spieth. Looking to end a poor year in some style
Justin Thomas. Wants to keep that title
Bryson DeChambeau. Playing some incredible golf
Tiger Woods. Needs a big finish
Rory McIlroy. Still looking for his best form
Justin Rose. Just keeps cruising along
Rickie Fowler. Hopefully back to fitness again
Brooks Koepka. What a year he’s had
Matt Kuchar. There or thereabouts
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