BMW CHAMPIONSHIP: The top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings will head to historic Olympia Fields this week for the second leg of the Playoffs, the BMW Championship, with a cool $9.5 million and a shot at next week’s Tour Championship on the line. Only 30 will advance to East Lake, so there’s sure to be storylines that don’t involve the first page of the leaderboard– and after Dustin Johnson drained all the drama out of last week’s Northern Trust with his dominating performance, I don’t think anyone would mind a little added intrigue.
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. Despite this illustrious history, very few players in the field will have seen the course in competition, as the last time it was used for a significant men’s (professional) event was the 2003 U.S. Open, won by Jim Furyk. Given that Furyk has never been known for length off the tee, it stands to reason that this won’t be a “bombers only” week, despite the fact that the course is plenty long in spots, measuring nearly 7,400 yards from the tips while playing to a par 70. And though the rough is said to be long and lush this week, the fairways are actually slightly wider than Tour average, so players won’t be under too much stress off the tee, particularly those that are swinging it well.
The difficulty here will be the greens and green complexes: like may older courses, the greens at Olympia Fields are significantly smaller than those at a typical modern course, with knobs, hollows, and run-offs that will test the imagination. If the greens firm out as the week goes along and the rough around them is as punishing as we expect, this weekend could have a U.S. Open-like feel. At the very least, I don’t think we’ll see another race to 25-under like we’ve had the past few weeks. This course, with all its subtleties, won’t be so easily dominated.
Dustin Johnson (9.6) heads BETDAQ’s win market, which shouldn’t be the least bit surprising to anyone who saw his virtuoso performance at TPC Boston last week. Maybe he’ll continue his tear, but he has been uncharacteristically inconsistent over the past few months, so his price is a bit short for my liking. Same goes for Jon Rahm (11.5), who is coming off a strong week at The Northern Trust but has only two top-10s in eight starts since the re-start and will have his hands full with the tricky Olympia Fields greens. Of course if you try hard enough you can poke little holes in everybody I suppose, and both DJ and Rahm are certainly capable of winning anytime they tee it up. As for me, though, I’ll be riding with these three:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Collin Morikawa (23.0)- After his life-changing victory at the PGA Championship, a bit of a letdown was certainly understandable, and Morikawa obviously didn’t have his best stuff at TPC Boston last week as he missed the cut after shooting 71-72. But consistency has been his calling card thus far in his young career, so I expect him to get right back to playing the type of golf that has carried him to two victories and a runner-up in his last eight starts. A ball-striking specialist who currently ranks third on Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, Morikawa has a game ready-made for just about anywhere, but unlike most others in the field this week, we actually have proof that he can succeed at Olympia Fields, as he played a collegiate event on the North Course back in 2018 and finished runner-up after opening with rounds of 67-66. He’s a blue chip option this week and is priced very reasonably at better than 20/1.
Kevin Kisner (50.0)- There’s been a lot going on in the world of golf lately, with five different players ascending to No. 1 in the World Rankings this calendar year, a fresh crop of young talent on the rise, tournaments being canceled or moved around, and, more recently, Dustin Johnson obliterating an elite field in historic fashion. Lost in all that noise is lil old Kevin Kisner, who is quietly enjoying one of the best seasons of his career and has been red-hot of late, logging three top-5s and five top-25s in his last six starts, including a T4 at The Northern Trust last week and a 3rd-place showing at the Wyndham two weeks ago. With three PGA Tour victories under his belt, including a WGC event, Kisner certainly knows how to close, and if he keeps knocking on the door the way he has been these past few weeks, it will soon open for him. Maybe it’ll be this week– at a price like 50.0, I’m willing to pay to find out.
Alex Noren (120.0)- Noren has officially played himself out of his funk and looks ready to be a serious contender again, thanks in large part to his putter, which has been white-hot these past few weeks. In his last 12 rounds he’s a combined 35-under par, good enough for a T3 at the 3M Open, a T22 at the PGA Championship, and then a T8 at last week’s Northern Trust. Sitting at 47th in the FedEx Cup standings, he’ll need a big week here to advance to East Lake, so motivation certainly won’t be an issue, and Noren has a good history on traditional, parkland-style courses. Another thing to consider: the greens at Olympia Fields are small, firm, and tricky, meaning scrambling will be critical this week. That sets up well for Noren, who has a brilliant short game and currently ranks 8th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Around the Green. He’s a terrific value at such long odds.