The new look, three tournament, FedEx Cup playoffs continue this week after Patrick Reed claimed his first win since the 2018 Masters at the Northern Trust. Only the top 70 in the FedEx Cup rankings get a place in the field for the BMW Championship which heads to Medinah Country Club for the first time.
Most of the world’s finest golfers are in attendance at Medinah but it’ll take a huge performance to get past the best of the lot, Brooks Koepka. He is gunning to end a strong season on the highest of highs by winning the FedEx Cup and can put himself in pole position at the Tour Championship by winning the BMW Championship.
The BMW Championship visits some of the very best golf courses and this year it’s the turn of Medinah Country Club. The historic club is used to hosting the world’s best players as it has held three US Opens, two PGA Championships and US Senior Opens, and the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Medinah was opened in the 1920s. Golf Course 3 is very much of its time (it was opened in 1928) with tree-lined fairways and the standard number of four par threes and four par fives for a par of 72. Unlike some older courses, Medinah has enough length to challenge even the biggest hitters in the game. In fact, there aren’t many longer courses on the PGA Tour than this 7,657 yard beast.
It’s unlikely the event organisers will use the full yardage available to them this week. They have grown the rough up considerably compared to the course we saw for the 2012 Ryder Cup though. Every player will find themselves in some difficult rough at times as doglegged fairways are a big feature of Medinah. The nature of the fairways means the bigger hitters won’t be able to pull out the driver everywhere which should mean that, like last week, the best ball strikers during the week find themselves in contention come Sunday.
|Course Number 3, Medinah Country Club||Medinah, Illinois||7,657 Yards||$9,250,000|
The nature of the BMW Championship, with a limited field consisting only of players who have had a good season, means that it tends to be won by genuinely top class golfers. That is very much the case with the last five winners. Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day are all major champions, Billy Horschel was playing inspired golf en route to winning the FedEx Cup and Marc Leishman is a world class ball striker.
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2017||Marc Leishman||Conway Farms||-23||5 Strokes|
|2016||Dustin Johnson||Crooked Stick||-23||3 Strokes|
|2015||Jason Day||Conway Farms||-22||6 Strokes|
|2014||Billy Horschel||Cherry Hills||-14||2 Strokes|
Analysis: Consistent Iron Play the Order of the Day
As well as the numerous doglegs at Medinah, the design makes clever use of elevation changes to force players to hit into certain areas. This should even things up between the longer and shorter hitters off the tee but the most powerful players will have an advantage by being able to hit scoring irons into the greens whilst others are relying on long irons.
The ability to control ball flight will also be important this week. It’s been quite dry in the Chicago area for some time now so Medinah will be firm and fast. That will demand a high ball flight and plenty of spin to hold approach shots on the greens. However, the wind is set to whip up over the weekend which will require a completely different type of shot. Only those in complete control of their ball will have a chance of winning.
Koepka to Give Himself the Best Chance at East Lake
Patrick Reed jumped an incredible 48 places on the FedEx Cup rankings with his win in New Jersey last week. The only man he was not able to pass is Brooks Koepka and the world number one is very keen to ensure he maintains his grasp on top spot in the FedEx Cup rankings before the Tour Championship.
Koepka certainly has the tools for Medinah. He is one of the longest hitters in world golf so will be able to hit shorter clubs than most into the greens. He’s also an excellent ball striker who so can work well with his caddie, Ricky Elliott, to execute well thought-out course management plans.
The sight of Koepka putting in extra work on the putting green after his final round at the Northern Trust prompted an outpouring of respect for his work ethic. Whilst that shows he was unhappy with his game, it also shows how important the next two weeks are for him. Koepka comes alive in the biggest tournaments and can become the latest big name winner of the BMW Championship at 8/1 with Coral.
Scott’s Strong Season May Get Better
Adam Scott would probably bristle at suggestions that he lost his game at any point in the last couple of years but his world ranking tells its own story. In 2018 he dropped out of the world’s top 50 and flirted with the 100 mark. The Australian is very much back on his way to his best.
Scott’s fifth place finish at the Northern Trust took him back up to 17th in the world and 14th on the FedEx Cup standings. Both of those rankings could get a lot better this week. Scott is exactly the sort of quality ball striker and shot maker who should thrive at Medinah. Providing his improved putting holds up, he can challenge for the BMW Championship title at 25/1 with Betfred.
Final Verdict: Brooks Koepka to Win
Brooks Koepka has proven many times that he has the quality and mentality to win on the biggest stages in golf. He would love to take his form in major championship golf into the FedEx Cup playoffs where he doesn’t have a great record. That could all be about to change in two huge weeks starting with victory in the BMW Championship at 8/1 with Coral.
About the BMW Championship
The BMW Championship is viewed by many fans of golf as one of the most exciting events on the PGA Tour calendar. This tournament has grown from strength to strength since taking over from the Western Open in 2007.
The BMW Championship has been held at various courses across the USA since the first, though Illinois has hosted eight of the 13 tournaments since 2007. The 2020 tournament is set to take place at Olympia Fields in Illinois.
The BMW Championship is the second of three playoff events for the FedEx Cup, preceded by the Northern Trust and followed by the Tour Championship. Prior to becoming the BMW-sponsored competition in 2007, the event was known as the Western Open from 1899 to 2006. Scotsman Willie Smith won the first, and South African Trevor Immelman won the final Western Open in 2006 when he held off the joint challenge of Mathew Goggin and Tiger Woods by two strokes.
Bolt from the Blue
This tournament has thrown up a number of memorable moments over the years, but none more so than the incident in the 1975 Western Open in Illinois. Lee Trevino and Jerry Heard were sitting under an umbrella near the 13th hole at Butler National in Oak Brook, with horrendous weather conditions suspending play.
The pair were struck by lighting on the course, with a second bolt striking Bobby Nichols and a bystander. Both Trevino and Heard had to undergo back surgery due to the burn marks they suffered.
Woods Ties with Hagen in 2009
In the 2009 BMW Championship, Tiger Woods ran out a comfortable winner at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, finishing eight strokes ahead of Jim Furyk and Marc Leishman. Woods also won the first BMW Championship after it was rebadged in 2007.
Woods’ win in 2009 was his fifth BMW Championship success (including Western Opens), equalling Walter Hagen’s record in the process. Hagen was very successful in the 1920s and 30s, winning the Western Open in 1916, 1921, 1926, 1927 and 1932.
Hagen versus Woods (Western Open & BMW Championship)
|Year||Walter Hagen v Tiger Woods|
|1916||Walter Hagen (Western Open)|
|1921||Walter Hagen (Western Open)|
|1926||Walter Hagen (Western Open)|
|1927||Walter Hagen (Western Open)|
|1932||Walter Hagen (Western Open)|
|1997||Tiger Woods (Motorola Western Open)|
|1999||Tiger Woods (Motorola Western Open)|
|2003||Tiger Woods (100th Western Open presented by Golf Digest)|
|2007||Tiger Woods (BMW Championship)|
|2009||Tiger Woods (BMW Championship)|
Verplank’s Amateur Success
Scott Verplank had a reasonably successful career in golf, picking up seven professional wins. However, his Western Open victory as an amateur and member of the Oklahoma State golf team in 1985 will be one of his most memorable tournament wins.
Verplank played some excellent golf, taking Jim Dent to a playoff at Butler National Golf Club. The Texas man then won the playoff to become the first amateur to win on Tour since Doug Sanders did it in 1956 when he won the Canadian Open.
Day’s Time to Shine
After opening with scores 61 and 63 in the first two rounds respectively, Jason Day looked destined to win the 2015 BMW Championship from the start. Of course, Day went on to win the trophy in emphatic style, finishing six strokes ahead of Daniel Berger at Conway Farms Golf Club and in truth he rarely looked in much trouble of blowing it after the opening rounds.
Day had a year to remember in 2015. As a result of his BMW Championship victory, the Australian ace went on to become the number one player in the Golf World Rankings for the first time. He also won the US PGA Championship that year, which at the time of writing is his only Major success.
Rory’s 2012 Triumph
Rory McIlroy has won many competitions and tour events during his career, but his one and only BMW Championship success came in 2012. A year after Justin Rose became the first British winner of this competition in the new format (and the first since Harry Cooper’s Western Open victory in 1934), Northern Irishman McIlroy came out on top at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana.
Rory edged out fellow Brit Lee Westwood and American great Phil Mickelson to win the 2012 BMW Championship by two strokes. McIlroy, the top-ranked golfer at the time of the tournament, hit a score of 67 in the final round to seal the crown against an extremely talented field. He also won the US PGA Championship that year
Since the tournament became the BMW Championship, prior to the 2020 renewal, it has been won by American golfers on eight occasions, with two wins for Aussies (Marc Leishman in 2017 and Jason Day in 2015), two Brits (Rory McIlroy in 2012, Justin rose in 2011), and a Columbian (Camilo Villegas, who won by two strokes from Dudley Hart in 2008).