BMW CHAMPIONSHIP: After a sweltering week in Memphis that saw Lucas Glover build on his improbable comeback story with his second straight victory, the field for these FedEx Cup Playoffs has been trimmed to 50, with the top-30 following this week’s BMW Championship set to move on to next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake. And since the Tour Championship has become a ridiculous “handicapped” event where the players each start with different scores, you might say that this is the last proper golf tournament of the season, and it’s certainly the last time we’ll see a field of this caliber for several months. With Ryder Cup selections upcoming and $18 million up for grabs, there’s a lot on the line this week.
Fortunately, we have a venue that is worthy of such a tournament. Designed over a century ago by 2-time Open champion Willie Park Jr., the North Course at Olympia Fields is a parkland-style layout that has hosted four major championships, a U.S. Amateur, a U.S. Senior Open, and the Women’s PGA, in addition to the PGA Tour’s Western Open five times. It played host to this event back in 2020, when Jon Rahm holed an incredible 60-foot snake to beat Dustin Johnson in a playoff, but prior to that it had not been seen on the PGA Tour since the 2003 U.S. Open. As the players found out three years ago, it’s certainly Major-level when it comes to difficulty, as Rahm’s winning score was a mere 4-under par and only five players broke par for the week. Long, lush rough and small, knobby greens account for much of the treachery, though as a par-70 measuring nearly 7,400 yards, Olympia Fields isn’t exactly short, either. That said, the fairways are actually slightly wider than Tour average, so it’s a fair test, with not as much severity off the tee as you’ll see in many modern designs. It’s going to be tough, though… should be reminiscent of a U.S. Open.
Rory McIlory (8.8) heads BETDAQ’s Win Market after a terrific run of eight consecutive top-10s and a victory at the Scottish Open, but he’ll have to fight off the usual suspects like Scheffler (9.9) and Rahm (11.0), as well as the rest of the top-10, the white-hot Lucas Glover (58.0), and a bunch of good, hungry players who have no intention of seeing their season end before the East Lake money-grab. It should be a fun week– here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Xander Schauffele (22.0)- Though he hasn’t really sniffed victory since his runner-up finish at the Wells Fargo back in May, Schauffele plays well nearly every week, finding the top-25 in 12 of his past 13 starts, a span which includes all four Major Championships, the Players, the Match Play, and of course last week’s Playoff opener. In other words, he brings his best stuff to the biggest events, and he’s developed a reputation for playing difficult courses really well. Combine that with his otherworldly iron play (5th on Tour in strokes gained on approach) and putting (7th in strokes gained putting), and you have a player who appears to be a perfect fit for Olympia Fields. Schauffele finished T25 here back in 2020 and something tells me he’s going to do better than that this time around… potentially much better. I’m happy to get him at better than 20/1.
Hideki Matsuyama (48.0)- Patience, a steady nerve around the greens, and elite ball-striking ability are what is required to succeed at Olympia Fields, and Matsuyama possesses all three traits in spades. Perhaps that’s why he had so much success here in 2020, when he was one of only five players to break par for the week and would finish just 2 shots outside the playoff that was eventually won by Rahm. And though this has been a disappointing year by his standards, Matsuyama’s game has been coming around lately, as he’s finished 16th or better 4 times in his past 8 starts, including a T16 in Memphis last week, when he closed with a 65 on a difficult Sunday. With his pedigree and recent form, I can’t turn my back on Hideki at nearly 50/1.
Taylor Moore (140.0)- Among the longshots this week I sure like the looks of Moore, who was in contention in Memphis last week until a final round 71 left him in a tie for 5th, his second top-5 finish in his past five starts. Moore has shown that his “good” is good enough to win– he picked up his maiden victory at the Valspar back in March and nearly won the Zurich team event before the two recent close calls. He wasn’t eligible for this tournament in 2020, so this is the first time he’ll be seeing Olympia Fields in competition, but he’s got the necessary tee-to-green chops and he’s one of the best putters in the world, ranking 11th on Tour in strokes gained putting. He’s a live one this week and is certainly worth a bet at a price like 140.0.