09/15/2015

So there were 70.

Hopefully you all enjoyed your week off from PGA Tour golf (I’m half kidding) and are now prepared to enter into the final 8 days of meaningful PGA Tour golf for about 4 months. We’re down to the final 70 in the FedEx Cup standings and we will whittle it down to 30 after this week at the BMW Championship.

It was two years ago already that Furyk went on a 59 march down the fairways of Conway Farms in one of the best rounds in recent memory. It was a round where he gained 12.1 strokes on the field, an incredible total.

The Bubble Busters

To enter the field in Chicago this week, golfers needed to work themselves into the top-70 on the FedEx Cup standings,

Golfers nudged from this week’s play include Alex Cejka (no. 71), Marc Leishman (no. 72) and John Senden (no. 73), all missing the 3rd playoff event by less than 15 points. Other notables from Boston who were unable to make it to Chicago include Kevin Streelman, Luke Donald, Boo Weekley, Davis Love III (despite his big win), Jason Dufner and rookie of the year candidate Carlos Ortiz.

This week, only the top-30 players will move on to the Tour Championship at East Lake. 14 winners from the 2015 season currently sit outside the top-30. Notable names on the outside looking in are the following:

  • David Lingmerth (31st): A winner at the Memorial, Lingmerth hasn’t made a cut in the playoffs yet, playing horribly in his first 4 FedEx Cup rounds in 2015. It’s slid him to outside the cut line. I don’t see a turnaround this week.
  • Justin Thomas (35th): Probably the ROY favorite, Thomas is playing golf on a level that doesn’t warrant his age. He doesn’t have a win this season (something that’s almost expected of our under-23 stars nowadays), but he’s strung together some wonderful golf. He’s about 30 points outside of a place in East Lake.
  • Tony Finau (41st): We’ve written about Finau (here), the young Samoan bomber, hyping him for a long career on Tour. He’s started to figure things out and played great of late. One more good week will get him into the Finals and give him potentially an edge over Justin Thomas for ROY.

The Course

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Conway Farms Golf Club

With Furyk’s score of 59 and a winning score of 16-under for Zach Johnson, many pundits within the game thought Conway Farms was a bit of a cake-walk for the pros, especially given the BMW’s status as a playoff event. But looking at the statistics, the course played +.811 to par and the winning score was worse in relativity to par (-16 to -20) to Crooked Stick the year before (2012).

Carved out of the farmlands and rolling tree-lined hills surrounding Chicago, the course has had the honor of hosting the NCAA Championships, USGA Mid-Amateur, U.S. Junior, Western Amateur and more. They will again be the hosts in 2017 of the BMW Championship, as they’ve already secured contract for the FedEx Cup’s third leg.

Luke Donald has been an advocate for the course ever since talks of brining the PGA Tour to the Chicago area became a potential reality. Donald started playing at the private club when he was a freshman on the Northwestern Wildcat golf team. He felt the course– and the area– were both deserving of high quality PGA Tour golf and crowds of 125,000+ have indicated as much.

The course, despite being a decent challenge, will not be the star this week. The fact that 70 players are competing for a chance to cash a check for $10 million will be. As much as I would like to dive into the dynamics of this course, all of that will be a secondary point this week. The main driving force– FedEx Cup standings.

Full Field

Click here to check out the final 70 golfers still competing on the 2015 PGA Tour.

Last 5 Winners

2014: Billy Horschel

2013: Zach Johnson

2012: Rory McIlroy

2011: Justin Rose

2010: Dustin Johnson

Last Week’s Picks (Deutsche Bank)

  • Henrik Stenson (almost won the tournament– arguably should have)
  • Jason Day (a nothing special, 12th)
  • Jordan Spieth (MC– what in the world is happening!)
  • Robert Streb (a boring 39th)
  • Justin Rose (odd, odd MC)
  • John Senden (my big-time, can’t miss, sleeper of the week: opened with a sluggish 76 in round one and finished 33rd)
  • Rory McIlroy (29th with a great final round 66)

Player Picks for the BMW Championship

Two from the Fairway (Contenders)

Zach Johnson

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I like Zach a lot this week and for more reasons than the fact that he won here the last time the tournament was at Conway Farms. He’s been good all year, capping his season off with a win at the Open Championship back in July. They’ve only lengthened the course by 50 yards for 2015, so Johnson’s length should remain sufficient this week.

Last time the PGA Tour was at Conway, 5 of the players in the top-10 were notably short players who pride themselves on accuracy, with Johnson leading the group with his 16-under par finish.

He’s been top-25 in both playoff events and his success keeps rolling this week.

Matt Kuchar

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I’ve been wondering when Kuchar would step into the realms of competitive golf again. I mean, he’s been playing. But Kuchar hasn’t been in the winner’s circle or anything close in a while. This is the week.

Ever since his hot start in Hawaii (where he went T3 and T2 the next week at Humana) he hasn’t been in contention much at all in 2015. When better than this week, at a site where he went for a 3rd round 61 in 2013 the week after he went top-10 in Boston?

Kuchar is going to be getting himself back into contention this week. His start in Boston was his 4th top-10 in the past few months. Come on Kuchar, get yourself back into the fold and find one of the final groups.

P.S. It should be noted that although he hasn’t won in 2015, he’s still up $2.5 million and ranks 20th in the FedEx Cup. It’s not like he’s been chopped liver.

One from the Rough (Sleeper)

Matt Jones

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He’s sitting just outside the top-30 in the FedEx cup and hasn’t made the Tour Championship in his career. For Jones, 2015 may be the year.

Last time we were at Conway Farms, he went for a T8 with weekend 67s. He’s playing great, putting up a T4 at Boston and has only missed one cut since July. Jones is considerably longer than the previous two players mentioned in this preview, and isn’t particularly accurate (120th in driving accuracy), but it didn’t seem to affect him in 2013 given his finish (where he drove it with 73% accuracy).

Top-25 in strokes gained putting on the Tour, Jones will be putting himself (and putting* himself) into the Tour Championship.

And he was feeling good at the PGA:

The Man with the Trophy

Sergio Garcia

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I really like Garcia this week– so much so, I have him winning. He’s taken two weeks off from FedEx Cup play and is now sitting comfortably outside the top-30, sliding to 54th. In every start he’s made at the BMW in his career, he’s finished inside the top-25. He’s so, stinking, solid.

Last time at Conway, he registered a T18 with Sergio-esque play, just consistent and solid.

Sergio coming off rest always seems to be a strong combination. He took two weeks off before the Open, finished T6. He only played two tournaments in May, finishing T2 at the PLAYERS. His first event in 2015 wasn’t until February and he finished T4.

(Edit: Actually, this article by Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner posted 09/16 outlines Sergio’s model of rest.)

Let’s date this trend back to 2014. After Doral last year, he took a month off and finished 3rd at the Shell Houston. He then played in the Masters, missed the cut and took another month off. His first start back? 3rd place again– this time at the PLAYERS (again).

He went for three straight second place finishes, but none occurred in the same month (one in May, one in June, one in July) in the only three PGA Tour events he played.

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Sergio likes rest and he plays energized golf with rest. I’ll ride that success and take him to win the BMW in Chicago this week, getting him into the Tour Championship.

Vamos Sergio!