BMW CHAMPIONSHIP PREVIEW
This week the top 70 players in the FedEx Cup Standings head to Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois for the BMW Championship. Medinah can only be described as an iconic track, hosting three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships (Tiger won both!). The field is comprised of the top 70 in the FedEx Cup Standings that will undoubtedly be shrunken by WDs as we saw last week. The goal for players this week is simple: get into the Top 30 and punch a ticket to the year’s final event next week, the Tour Championship. It is important to note that unlike last week there is no cut at the BMW Championship. Currently on top of the standings is Brooks, followed by last weeks winning Patrick Reed. Rory, Kuchar, Rahm, Cantlay, Xander, Ancer, Woodland and DJ round out the top 10. Remember, the Tour Championship has changed its format to a “Starting Strokes” index where whoever is #1 in the FedEx standings will start the 30-person tournament at -10, 2nd at -8, number 3 at -7 all the way down to 26-30 starting at even Par. Winning scores of the Tour Championship are usually between 9-13 under, meaning it may be difficult to make up much ground next week, giving anyone who can sneak into the top 10 (like Ancer last week) a nice advantage in taking home the $15 million in first place prize money.
NORTHERN TRUST RECAP
WHAT. A. WEEK! Patrick Reed held off a charge from both Ancer and Jon Rahm to secure his 7th PGA Tour title. SEVEN titles! It amazes me that even with all his success Reed is rarely talked about as being one of the most elite players on Tour. Reed was a featured matchup this space last week, securing 2 units and was also included in the Outright card, cashing at 55/1. Snedeker came through with a 2nd featured matchup victory, helped by a Saturday 63. Further, the full card (always posted on Twitter Wednesday Morning) included a rare 3-unit play that cashed upon Tiger’s withdraw as well as a First Round Leader play on Troy Merritt that also came through. All things considered it was an awesome week but the season isn’t done. Onto the BMW!
A Major Championship venue awaits players with week as Course Number 3 at Medinah Country Club will be an entirely different look compared to what we saw last week at Liberty National. Medinah is a long, undulated, traditional course with gorgeous tree lined fairways and Bentgrass greens that is set in the western suburbs of Chicago. On the scorecard Medinah measures a daunting 7,613 yards making it one of the longest courses players will see all year. The bulk of the length comes from the four long Par 3s (192 yards being the shortest) and two 600 yard Par 5s. The majority of the Par 4s dogleg and possess slopped fairways where if players are able to can catch the speed slot they will see a large amount of roll. My research shows the length is a bit deceiving and most players will be taking irons and utility woods off the tee in order to place the ball in perfect position in the fairways. Tiger was quoted in ’06 as saying, “I’m not going to hit that many drivers because it won’t really allow me to. Most of the holes are doglegged. Obviously I’d have to take driver up over the top of these tall trees, and it doesn’t make any sense. Yeah, I’m going to use it a few times, definitely. But overall, just like it was back in ’99, I hit just a bunch of 2 irons and a bunch of 3 woods here. Just because that’s the way the golf course allowed you to play. You play to a lot of the corners and obviously fire from there. If you try to take on a lot of the corners or shape the ball around the corner, yeah, you can, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do. I’ll take driver on just the Par 5s and maybe one or two more.” This seems to be the common consensus as players of all driver length have thrived here in the past.
Current Form, Ball Striking and Approach are the usual suspects and will be relied on heavily again here at Medinah. I also anticipate most of the scoring here to be done on the Par 5s. Two will be reachable by most players, but the two 600 yarders will only be reached by the longest and most elite Par 5 players so Strokes Gained: Par 5s will also be a component to my model this week. With players laying up off the tee due to the doglegs at Medinah we can expect a lot of long approach shots so proximity to the hole from 175+ will also be included.
Jon Rahm +1000 – I have to admit, I am not much of a Rahm guy and I rarely back him but I think this is a perfect fit. While many will be taking irons off the tee for premium fairway placement, that just isn’t something Rahm does. He will instead be blasting driver over the corners and there are few in the game who are better with the big stick in their hands, ranking 3rd in the field Strokes Gained Off the Tee. Simply put, most cannot do what he does. Those pesky Par 5 shouldn’t be a problem as Rahm rates out 19th in the field over his last 50 rounds there and where he is left with a long approach he checks in at 20th in proximity from 175+ yards in his last 50 rounds. To top it off his form is absolutely impeccable with a win and a top 5 in Europe prior to the British Open, an 11th at Royal Portrush, a 7th at the St. Jude and a 3rd last week. While the price is steep, it is a little easier to swallow given the smaller field and with Rahm’s unique driving ability he can absolutely run away with this.
Paul Casey +5050 – Casey seems to thrive on these difficult, less than driver courses, as evidenced by his wins this year and last coming at the Valspar Championship held at the notoriously difficult and tight Copperhead. I also like the fact that Casey is well rested, taking last week off in the middle of what is a grueling stretch of the season. Casey’s is in excellent form gaining strokes in every major category besides putting over his last 5, 10 and 20 rounds. More importantly for Medinah Casey is 2nd in Ball striking over his last 24 rounds and 1st over his last 36. Just to make sure all the boxes are checked, Casey is 4th in the field in Par 5 Scoring over his last 50 rounds and both his proximity from 175+ is in the top 20 over that same span. This number is just incorrect for one of the best pure ball strikers on Tour and I will gladly take a piece of a well rested Paul Casey.
Emiliano Grillo Top 20 +330 – Grillo’s short game will absolutely make you cringe. When a player gains over 6 strokes ball striking and still misses the cut as Grillo did last week you know the guy has problems on the greens. Grillo is no stranger to that kind of ball striking performance as he has gained strokes in the category in every single round he has played in in 2019 except for two. Pretty remarkable. Here’s the thing, over his career Grillo has actually GAINED strokes per round while putting on Bentgrass. So while we did see that surface last week, I’m willing to overlook his poor putting result and for a top 20 all he will have to do is continue to strike it as he has all year and not completely melt down on the greens. At +330 I’m willing to take that bet.
2u Billy Horschel (+125) over Jason Day – Something isn’t quite right in the Jason Day Camp. After just two months with Tiger’s old caddie and fellow Aussie Steve Williams, Day has apparently given him the axe. That is an odd thing to do so quickly and hints at a similar distraction angle as last week. But I’m not looking at this only from a narrative point of view, Day has been absolutely terrible and last time I checked Stevie wasn’t hitting any shots for him. Day’s last 4 finishes read like this: MC, 40, MC, 66. The former World Number 1 and a notoriously excellent putter has had a terrible time on the greens, losing strokes in his last 5 tournaments with the flat stick. Further, his striking numbers are just not where they need to be, losing strokes there in three straight. As for Billy Ho, he was a featured write up here last week and my opinion of him certainly hasn’t changed after a T21. Considering their form and where it seems Day’s mental state is, Horschel should not be a dog and I’ll gladly jump on this price.
1u Rory Sabbatini (-105) over Abraham Ancer – I make Sabs a favorite here so let’s take advantage of some recency bias. Winning a golf tournament is HARD. What can be even harder mentally is coming in 2nd. Ancer played excellent last week, gaining all of his strokes tee to green while still losing almost two strokes putting en route to a 2nd place finish. His play last week was coming off a missed cut and his 2019 can only be described as up and down. Throughout the season Ancer’s best finishes have been immediately followed by a missed cut and while that cannot happen here, a let down finish can be expected. Sabs is the perfect player to take over the inconsistent Ancer. As featured here in prior write-ups Sabatini has been the model of consistency on Tour this season, only missing a single cut since the middle of February and gaining strokes tee to green in all 15 tournaments outside of the 3M Open during that timeframe. Here I will back the high floor of Sabbatini over what will be a letdown spot for Ancer.
That is it for this week’s breakdown! Thank you for reading. My Outright plays are below, look for my full card on Wednesday morning and as always feel free to shoot me any questions on Twitter @jmazzjd!