The players are in Carmel, Indiana this week for the BMW Championship. Crooked Stick will play host for the second time in the event’s history. This is the third of four play-off events in this FedEx Cup series and it really is crunch time now. The list of eligible golfers this week is down to 70. In addition, only 30 can progress to East Lake for the Tour Championship, so players will need their A-game here.
Not only do they get to play another week on Tour, but making it to the Tour Championship also gives a player exemption into next year’s majors. This is a very prestigious part of the season and one every player should want to play in.
Another story-line to bear in mind is the Ryder Cup. Three of Davis Love III’s wildcard picks will be named on September 12th, with one held back until 25th September. Players on the cusp of a pick will want to secure it with good play this week.
The extension of the last pick gives players who may be vying for that last spot to make an impression, right up until their final shot at East Lake. This system surely would have helped Billy Horschel back in 2014, as he went 2-1-1 in the last three play-off events to take home the $10m bonus.
Crooked Stick Golf Club, 7,516 yards, Par 72
The players are teeing it up at Crooked Stick this week, the host venue for this event back in 2012. Rory McIlroy won that week with a -20 score and changes have been made to toughen up the course.
The tee boxes have been redone on holes 3, 10 and 13 so all three will play longer than they did in 2012. There has been a major overhaul to 90 sand traps and bunkers have also been added along holes 7 and 10. These bunkers have been added in the 300-yard range to test the players tee shots. Lastly a lake has been added along the left-hand side of 17, which will add another dimension.
With the changes in place, this course now stretches in excess of 7,500 yards, compared to the 7,497 in 2012. This course is one of the longer courses used on the PGA Tour this season.
Important areas to focus on
Shot Shaping – Typical of a Pete Dye design, no two holes in a row are shaped the same way. This means no player can rely on a draw/fade all round and need to hit it both ways. Those striking the ball well should be able to deal with this, but those struggling may not cope well. Also a player that relies so much on hitting it one way rather than the other won’t like this test.
Driving Distance – There was heavy rainfall here in 2012 which would have played a part, but the big-hitters dominated that week. Four players in the top-10 that week ranked inside the top-10 in Driving Distance by the end of 2012. With the course getting longer, it looks as though this trend may continue. Although there are several hazards to avoid from the tee, the long hitters should enjoy this track. “Our course is set up for big hitters,” said Crooked Stick Director of Golf and Club Operations Tony Pancake in this article on Indystar.com – http://tinyurl.com/j4eyolo .
Pete Dye course form – It is always worth looking at players’ form on the designer other courses. The following courses were designed by Dye and are/have been used on the PGA Tour; TPC Sawgrass (Players Championship), TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic), PGA West (2016 CareerBuilder), La Quinta courses (CareerBuilder), Whistling Straits (2004, 2010, 2015 PGA Championship) and Kiawah Island (2012 PGA Championship and 1991 Ryder Cup). Of course, those courses such as Kiawah and Whistling Straits are harder to gauge from as they are not used regularly, but it is useful to know. If a player has played well at the other Dye courses and then played well at those two in majors, it can only be a positive. Dye was also responsible for the re-design for TPC River Highlands in 1984, which hosts the Travelers Championship. It was re-modelled again in 1989 by Bobby Weed though.
With all this in mind, here are my selections for the 2016 BMW Championship.
Adam Scott 18/1 (Betfair and PaddyPower)
Whilst not a fancy price, 18/1 was enough to tempt me into backing Scott, given his recent form.
After seemingly struggling with a mid-season slump, Scott is back to his best, finishing 4th in his last two events. His putting, as it has in the past has held him back from winning, but it all clicked Monday when he carded a final round 66 at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
When you look back at his form over the season, even when not at his best he was never dreadful and has made all 18 cuts this season. Two of those were wins, two were 2nd’s and six more were top-20’s.
His last three starts read T4, 4th and T18, with the T18 coming at the PGA Championship. If he can keep momentum going with the putter, after his great round on Monday, he can definitely win this week.
When he teed it up here in 2012, he finished in a tie for 6th. Given this result Scott should be comfortable at Crooked Stick again this week.
Scott has one win on a Pete Dye layout (2004 Players Championship). Aside from the Players and PGA Championship, he hasn’t played a whole lot on Dye tracks. Apart from those two events, has only played here in 2012 in the last six years and as noted, played well. He finished T9 at the 2004 PGA Championship, T39 in 2010 and MC in 2015 (all at Whistling Straits). It is a mixed bag of form when he has played Pete Dye tracks but I am confident he can improve on that T6 showing here, four years ago. He is in red-hot form and is well positioned to take home the $10m (#5 in FedEx Cup ranking)
Bubba Watson 50/1 (General)
At over 7,500 yards you want to back a big hitter here and they don’t come much bigger than Bubba Watson.
Consistency has been an issue all season for the two-time Masters champion, despite bagging a win. Watson bested the field at Riveira to win the Northern Trust Open for the second time.
Watson has disappointed of late, but still managed a T25 at the Travelers and a T13 at the Barclays last week. A T25 finish at the Travelers was not great given his form there and his Olympic showing was far from his best but with all that said I still don’t think he should be 50/1 in a 70-man field.
Somewhat of a Pete Dye specialist, Watson can win here and secure his Ryder Cup wildcard pick. He has twice won at TPC River Highlands and has also won at TPC Louisiana. Even when he doesn’t win those event he still plays well there, so the courses fit his eye. Add to that his 2nd at Whistling Straits at the 2010 PGA and he looks a solid pick.
After a 12th here in 2012, Watson is already familiar with Crooked Stick which is a bonus.
Ryan Moore 50/1 (General)
Moore has finished inside the top-10 in each of the last two weeks and can contend here. He finished T7 at The Barclays and backed that up with a T8 last week at the Deutsche Bank. He didn’t have his best stuff last week, losing strokes on the field off the tee and putting last week. If he puts that right here, he can definitely contend.
There’s a pattern forming here and it isn’t entirely intentional. Scott, Watson and Moore have all won this season and all played at Crooked Stick in 2012. Like the others, Moore played well that week (T10) and he can better that this time around.
Some players struggle coming off a win but Moore has gone T53, T7, T8 since winning the John Deere. He has obviously found something in his game that he didn’t have earlier in the year. Whether he has finally adjusted to his new PXG clubs and that’s all it took I don’t know.
Unlike Scott and Watson, Moore has not won on a Pete Dye layout, but he has come close. He finished T5 at the 2014 Travelers, T7 a year before in 2013 and T2 in 2011. Given his form at River Highlands plus his good showing here four years ago, I am willing to chance he goes one better here and gets that elusive Pete Dye win.
Moore is in red-hot form and if he can just improve slightly on his last two showings a win here in more than possible.
Si Woo Kim 100/1 (BetVictor & StanJames)
Si Woo Kim is my only three-figure selection this week. In just his second season on the PGA Tour (qualified for status in 2012), the 21 year-old from Korea has been very impressive. Kim has a win, a 2nd and 14 top-25’s in 32 starts this season. In his previous PGA Tour experience, he made eight starts in 2013 as an 18-year old, missing the cut seven times and withdrawing once.
Four of those top-25’s this season came on Pete Dye courses. A T9 at the CareerBuilder Challenge, T14 at the RBC Heritage, T23 at the Players and a T25 at the Travelers show these courses suit him.
With a win (Wyndham Championship) under his belt already in his young career, he looks to have a bright future. For now though, he will look to continue climbing the FedEx Cup rankings. He moved up four places to 18th last week after finishing T15 at the Deutsche Bank.
In his last eight starts, Kim’s form figures read 35-2-23-MC-25-1-MC-15, so the form is there.
This will be his first visit to Crooked Stick but I am confident he can go well here.
Given his recent win and play last week, the 100/1 looks rather generous. He is the youngest winner on TOUR this season and he was the second youngest winner in Web.com history last year. This is a huge improvement from his efforts in 2013 and he now looks a different player.