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Scott Shapiro's BMW Championship preview

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August 25th, 2020

The PGA Tour's FedEx Cup Playoffs move to Olympia Fields in suburban Chicago this week, after one of the most dominant performances in recent memory by Dustin Johnson at the Northern Trust.

Johnson lapped a field of the world’s best golfers and shot 30-under par, 11 strokes better than runner-up Harris English.

On Thursday, the top 70 golfers in the FedEx Cup standings move on to the BMW Championship, which is a no-cut event. Those players in the top 30 after four rounds in Illinois will compete at the Tour Championship next week, at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

Olympia Fields is a par 70 that measures 7,300 yards, with bluegrass greens. The venue has not played host to a PGA Tour event since it was used as the site for the U.S. Open in 2003, so course history is not a valuable tool this week.

Length off the tee, precise iron play, scoring on long par 4s, and the ability scramble when in trouble are the assets I value most for the second leg of the playoffs. I am leaning on players who rank high in driving distance, strokes gained ball striking, and scrambling, as well as golfers who score well on Par 4s of more than 450 yards, since there are seven of them in this configuration.

BMW Championship 2020 - Winner

Thu, August 27 2020, 12:00 PM

Dustin Johnson

+750

Jon Rahm

+900

Justin Thomas

+1200

Bryson DeChambeau

+1200

Xander Schauffele

+1600

Rory McIlroy

+1600

Webb Simpson

+1800

Daniel Berger

+2000

Collin Morikawa

+2000

Patrick Reed

+2800

Jason Day

+2800

Patrick Cantlay

+3000

After he put on a clinic in Boston, it is no surprise to see Dustin Johnson atop the BetAmerica outright market. While it is unlikely DJ will forth an effort like he did a week ago, his length off the tee and ability to score on long par 4s makes him a scary favorite to oppose. However, the price is just too short to swallow, given the quality of this field.

Here are my selections this week

Patrick Reed (+2800)

The 2018 Masters winner was a popular selection last week, where he made the cut but finished a disappointing 49th. His off-the-tee game was far from good enough to win, but surprisingly it was his approach game and putting that let him down most. Look for him to turn that around at the BMW this week.

Reed is excellent with his long irons, long enough off of the tee to not be at a major disadvantage, capable of getting himself out of trouble, and loves to make big putts.

He currently sits 10th in the FedEx Cup standings, so a strong performance will put him squarely in the mix for the title. He offers fair value in all markets.

Justin Thomas (+1200)

The 2017 PGA Championship winner let me down in Massachusetts, but I am willing to go right back to him.

Thomas’ ball striking was not as brilliant as it was in his previous few tournaments, but it was solid. It was his poor putting that took him out of the Northern Trust. I expect him to perform much better with the flatstick at Olympia Fields.

He ranks second in the field over the last 24 rounds in strokes gained ball striking, 14th in driving distance, third in scrambling, and is one of the best long-iron players on earth.

A win will make him the favorite in the Tour Championship next week. He is the likeliest winner in Illinois.

Jason Kokrak (+8000)

The 35-year-old big hitter had a career year in 2019 but has struggled with consistency this season.

He finished third in his first start off the hiatus, in the Charles Schwab Challenge, but missed four of the next five cuts, including at the PGA Championship in San Francisco. But since then, he has put forth a pair of top 15 finishes and has gained more than seven strokes with his tee-to-green game in those two events. He heads into the BMW in good form.

It is probably a reach to expect Kokrak to finish atop the leaderboard this week, but his length off the tee and strong approach game make him worth a small slice in the outright market. Larger plays to finish in the top 10 and top 20 make the most sense.

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