BMW CHAMPIONSHIP: On to Week 2 of the three-week FedEx Cup Playoffs, with the top 70 in the standings set to do battle over the next four days to determine the 30-man field at next week’s Tour Championship.

These Playoffs got off to a brilliant start for Happy Gilmore fans and followers of this column, as Will Zalatoris quieted the critics with some clutch putting to earn his first career PGA Tour victory and vault to the top of the FedEx Cup standings. The action now moves east to a fresh venue, Delaware’s Wilmington Country Club, which looks like a throwback U.S. Open-style layout, with long, lush rough, undulating greens, and narrow doglegs. There are two courses on property, both dating back to the 1950s, and it’s the longer South Course that will be in the spotlight this week, a 7,500-yard Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that hosted five USGA championships since 1965. Some holes were re-worked slightly in 2020 after a severe storm, and the holes for this week’s tournament will be jumbled up compared to what the members usually see (this week’s front nine will consist of holes 10-13-14-15-5-6-7-8-9, in that order), but it retains the look and feel of an old-style parkland course and it will be interesting to see how it holds up against the world’s best players.

The market this week is crowded at the top, with eight players currently trading at 20/1 or shorter on the BETDAQ exchange. Rory McIlroy tops the list at 13.0, but short prices make me nervous at a new venue, and Rory’s missed cut in Memphis last week may be a sign that all the pressure and drama with St. Andrews and the LIV stuff is finally wearing on him a bit. I think I’ll take my chances with these three instead:


Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Justin Thomas (18.5)- Thomas has a quiet summer after winning the PGA Championship, finishing 3rd in the RBC Canadian Open but never contending in the year’s final two majors, the U.S. and British Opens. He took a month off after St. Andrews and the break must’ve done him some good, because he looked like his old self in Memphis last week, opening with back-to-back 67s, closing with a 66 and finishing T13. His long game has been brilliant all season– he ranks 3rd on Tour in strokes gained tee-to-green– and he’s professed his love for fast bentgrass greens like the ones he’ll see this week at Wilmington CC. As a matter of fact, Thomas is the only player in the field to have logged a competitive round on Wilmington’s South Course, having been part of the victorious U.S. Palmer Cup team in 2013 (Thomas clinched the Cup with a 2 & 1 victory over Sebastian Cappelen). He tops my list of contenders this week and his price is more attractive than a couple others, so I’m firing a bet his way.

Corey Conners (68.0)- I’ve been on Conners a few times this season because I feel he’s on the precipice of a breakthrough– with the way he strikes the ball he’ll be in contention most weeks, and he’s gotten much more comfortable over the putter these past couple of years, especially when he’s on slick bentgrass greens like the ones he’ll see this week. If Wilmington CC plays like I think it’s going to, driving the ball well is going to be critical, as the course is fairly long and there won’t be an abundance of birdies made from the long, sticky rough. Conners has been terrific with the driver in his hands all season, ranking 4th on Tour in strokes gained off the tee, and he’s 21st in strokes gained on approach, so he’s turning those good drives into birdie opportunities. He’s quietly found some form lately, breaking par in 11 of his last 12 competitive rounds and finishing 28th or better in each of his past three starts, and Wilmington CC feels like a great setup for him. At a price like 68.0, Conners may be the best value on the board this week.

Davis Riley (98.0)- After a rough start to the season Riley found his sea legs and has been a semi-regular presence on the first page of leaderboards this summer, logging top-15 finishes in 7 of his past 12 starts, including three top-5s. He’s solid off the tee, averaging better than 307 yards per drive and finding the fairway nearly 63% if the time (38th in SG: OTT), and he makes a lot of birdies, ranking 15th on Tour in birdie average (4.17 per round). I don’t know about you, but if I’m looking for a 100/1 longshot at a new venue, a guy who is playing well, drives the ball well, and makes lots of birdies is a pretty good place to start. Riley’s runner-up finish at the Valspar earlier this year proved that he could hold up to Sunday pressure, and his last eight competitive rounds have been 67-66-68-69-69-67-68-70, so he’s got things rolling right now. You won’t find a better option in this price range.