BMW Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings head to Caves Valley Golf Club for the BMW Championship, knowing that they will have to go some if they are to come anywhere close to repeating the drama we witnessed in this tournament 12 months ago.
Dustin Johnson, who was world No 1 at the time and in the form of his life, holed a 45-foot putt on the final green to force a playoff with Spain’s Jon Rahm. It was an incredible finish but was as nothing when compared to the events still to come.
On the first playoff hole, Rahm found the green but was fully 65 feet from the cup. Three-putt territory. Not a bit of it. Rahm’s putt set off down the ridge and into the hole, the Spaniard letting out a huge roar that made up for the lack of spectators.
Rahm's massive winning putt on the first extra hole allowed him to forget about a schoolboy error in the third round, when he picked up his ball on the fifth green without marking it, leading to a one-shot penalty and his only bogey of the weekend.
It was Rahm's second victory of the year on the PGA Tour, and the 11th time in his career worldwide. And he, of course, since gone on to win the US Open, as well as twice being tested for Covid-19.
2021 BMW Championship Preview
There is bound to be more drama this year. Whether or not it will involve Johnson is open to debate. His disappointing year continued at the Northern Trust in New York, where he missed the cut.
Nobody has enjoyed more top-10 finishes this season than Rahm. In 20 starts, the US Open champion has enjoyed a scarcely believable 13 top-10s. In anybody’s language, that is a remarkable level of consistency. And don’t forget that he would also have won The Memorial at Muirfield Village had he not walked off the final green while leading after three rounds to be told that he had failed a Covid test. He was devastated. But it is a measure of the man that he went into self-isolation and then returned a couple of weeks later to win the US Open, the first of what will surely be many major triumphs. On top of that, he failed a second test that prevented him from going to Tokyo to compete at the Olympic Games.
Rahm will be bitterly disappointed not to have won the Northern Trust, where he finished third, and will be looking to put that right this week.
Open champion Collin Morikawa has enjoyed an incredible year, with eight top-10 finishes ahead of the Northern Trust. He missed the cut in New York, but Morikawa is not a man to miss successive cuts and it would be a shock if he does not figure at Olympia Fields. He is perceived to be a poor putter but nobody contends as often as he does without holing a few putts along the way. He is, without debate, the best iron player on the PGA Tour and gives himself more birdie opportunities than any other player. His rivals had better hope that he never becomes one of the best putters on tour because if he does then they will all be playing for second place whenever Morikawa is in the field.
This has also been the year when we have seen Jordan Spieth record the most unlikely of comebacks. He headed to the Northern Trust with a victory and nine top-10 finishes to his name. Oh yes, and he is putting like the Spieth of old once again. The weakness in his armoury remains the driver but if he can find fairways he will be very hard to beat.
Patrick Cantlay has long been considered to be one of the best players on the planet and he has finally started to prove it this year, with a couple of victories to his name. And who knows what his victory at the Northern Trust will do for Tony Finau’s confidence? He now heads to Olympia Fields at the top of the FedEx Cup standings.
If you are looking for a decent outsider then you may want to keep an eye on Corey Conners. He possesses one of the sweetest swings on the PGA Tour and although he has yet to win this year he keeps giving himself chances to do so.
And once again, I make no apologies for pointing you in the direction of 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. The South African has performed superbly all year. He should have won The Open, where he eventually finished in a tie for third, after his runner-up finishes at the US PGA and US Open. A long-overdue win this week, followed by another at East Lake, would see him crowned FedEx champion and it is the very leats he deserves after what has been an incredible year for the South African.
Rory McIlroy won the Wells Fargo earlier in the year but will be disappointed with his performances in the majors, while Xander Schauffele turned his year around when he won the Olympic golf tournament - it would be a huge surprise if both men failed to contend this week.
Caves Valley measures 7,226 yards. Designed by Tom Fazio, it opened in 1991 and is set within the natural Maryland landscape featuring matures trees and plenty of water hazards.
The tournament was won in 2015 by Jason Day, in 2016 by Dustin Johnson, in 2017 by Marc Leishman, in 2018 by Keegan Bradley, in 2019 by Justin Thomas and last year by Jon Rahm.
Jon Rahm is enjoying the best year of his short career. With a major victory to his name, a wonderful performance at the Northern Trust and a bucketload of near-misses, his confidence couldn’t be higher. And he has great memories from last year. Can never be ruled out.
Xander Schauffele finally got back in the winners’ circle when he triumphed at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and he later admitted that he had been thrilled to put the gold medal around his neck. Schauffele is a class act and will be bitterly disappointed by his play in the majors this season - this would be a decent consolation prize.
And this could also be the week we see Rory McIlroy win again. His struggles in 2021 have been well documented but there is no doubt that he is feeling better about his game now. Charley Hoffman is worth an each-way flutter after a late spurt up the FedEx standings.
Tips & Picks
Jon Rahm. Hard to bet against him
Rory McIlroy. Encouraging signs
Xander Schauffele. A winner again
Five to Follow:
Jon Rahm. On the crest of a wave
Rory McIlroy. Feeling so much better about his game
Xander Schauffele. Desperate for a mainstream win
Tony Finau. Finally got that second win
Collin Morikawa. Pretty to watch
Kevin Kisner. Back in the winners’ circle
Corey Conners. Enjoys top-10 finishes for fun
Charley Hoffman. Finishing the season in style
Branden Grace. All hinges on his putting
Paul Casey. Looking for a boost ahead of the Ryder Cup
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Tags: PGA Tour