BMW Championship Preview



The PGA TOUR heads to Chicago for the second leg of a three-event playoff race.

This week’s BMW Championship will feature the top 50 golfers in the FedExCup race with the top 30 in the standings advancing on to play in the TOUR Championship at East Lake.

As you would expect with a limited field, there is no cutline to worry about this week. All 50 golfers will be guaranteed 72 holes of action.

The Course

The North Course at Olympia Fields Country Club will be running the show this week. It’s a par 70 that stretches to 7,366 yards from the tips.

This Willie Park design was laid out in the 1920s and renovated in 2013 (Mark Mungeam). It was recently seen at the 2020 BMW Championship, with Jon Rahm winning at 4 under for the week, edging out Dustin Johnson. Before that, it hosted the 2015 U.S. Amateur which was won by Bryson DeChambeau and the 2003 U.S. Open (won by Jim Furyk).

The classical, right-in-front-of-you features force you to hit high-quality golf shots. That is the narrative you’ll hear when you listen to any previous pressers at the course. There is nothing tricked up about it. It’s a course where you need to keep it below the hole or bogeys will pile up fast.

As Robby Shelton put it in 2015 during the U.S. Am, “It’s a ball strikers golf course. You can’t really putt your way around the course.”

Off the tee, golfers see tight driving lanes framed by thick, Kentucky bluegrass rough.

With tall rough and tough bunker placement, there are plenty of options on what club to hit on the tee boxes. Big-hitting Tony Finau said this about the challenge, “I think mostly off the tee, just trying to figure out how to hit the fairway. You really don’t have to hit it with length on this golf course to contend. You have to hit the fairway, though, if you’re going to even give yourself a chance to start the hole.”

During the 2020 BMW Championship, the firm fairways really made it a challenge to find the fairways. The field averaged just 48 percent of fairways hit at Olympia Fields that year, which is quite a bit lower than the typical Tour rate which sits closer to 60 percent.

Even though Finau didn’t feel like he had an advantage with length, the leaderboard painted a different story. That is often the case when you get a course with tough-to-hit fairways and thick rough. It puts an emphasis on carry distance and the ability to pound it out of the thick rough.

For turf talk, we’ll see bent-poa fairways and greens with 4-inch Kentucky bluegrass rough. The greens are prepped to run on the speedy side, about 12.5 feet on the stimp.

The 2020 BMW Championship featured firm-and-fast conditions with winds whipping at times as well, resulting in a field scoring average of 71.82 (+1.82 RTP). When asked about comp courses in 2020, Justin Thomas referenced Muirfield Village and Bethpage. In addition to that, I think Riviera CC, Colonial CC, and East Lake also have plenty of crossover characteristics. We’re looking at courses with tight driving lanes but not a lot of penalty areas to worry about, with classical design elements and bonus points for bent-poa turf.

Golfers to Watch

Rory McIlroy

He’s opened as the pre-tournament betting favorite. That’s been a slot reserved for Scottie Scheffler most weeks but McIlroy has shifted the narrative thanks to a great run of results this summer. McIlroy has finished T-9 or better in eight straight events. While many are coming in blind in terms of course experience, McIlroy shared a piece of the 36-hole lead (alongside Patrick Cantlay) during the 2020 BMW Championship. The bad news? McIlroy faded over the weekend to settle for a T-12 finish.

Hideki Matsuyama

He snuck through at 47th in the FedExCup standings. Matsuyama will need to make a huge leap to play his way into the TOUR Championship (Top 30 FedExCup). For Matsuyama, he arrives with some good course vibes as he was the first-round leader during the 2020 BMW Championship. He also shared a slice of the 54-hole lead that week.

Jon Rahm

The Spaniard maintains his top spot in the FedExCup race but now leads by just 148 points over Scottie Scheffler. Rahm settled for a 37th-place finish in Memphis but should easily improve over that result as he heads to Olympia Fields Country Club, the site of his 2020 BMW Championship win. Rahm also played his way to the Quarterfinals during the 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields.

Wyndham Clark

Back in 2020, it was a common theme for golfers to talk about this course being similar to a U.S. Open setup. Tiger Woods said the following, “This golf course was basically a U.S. Open, with the rough being as high as it is and fairways a little bit narrow.” If that’s the case again, should we turn our attention toward this year’s U.S. Open winner, Wyndham Clark? He missed the cut in five of his last six starts of the 2020 campaign so he didn’t get a chance to play in the 2020 BMW, eliminated after leg one of the playoffs. He’s playing much better this time around, although he did just lose 11.5 strokes tee-to-green in Memphis.

Matt Fitzpatrick

Sticking with the theme of U.S. Open winners, Fitzpatrick twirled a T-6 finish during the 2020 BMW Championship at Olympia Fields. Similar to Clark, he arrives off a rough finish in Memphis. Fitzpatrick and Clark shared a slice of 66th place (of 70 golfers) at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Can one, or both, rebound in Chicago? For Fitzpatrick, he has the course history to suggest that a big finish could easily be in the range of outcomes.

Ranking the Field

1. Scottie Scheffler
2. Rory Mcilroy
3. Jon Rahm
4. Patrick Cantlay
5. Xander Schauffele
6. Viktor Hovland
7. Tyrrell Hatton
8. Collin Morikawa
9. Max Homa
10. Tommy Fleetwood
11. Rickie Fowler
12. Jordan Spieth
13. Russell Henley
14. Sungjae Im
15. Wyndham Clark
16. Jason Day
17. Tony Finau
18. Matt Fitzpatrick
19. Hideki Matsuyama
20. Lucas Glover