In a Monday finish forced by Tropical Storm Henri, Tony Finau ended a five-year drought with a playoff victory over Cameron Smith at the Northern Trust. Finau was 50-1 to earn the win and he did just to secure his spot as part of Team USA at the Ryder Cup next month. World No. 1 Jon Rahm, who had at least a share of the lead through three rounds at Liberty National – and through 14 holes on Sunday – faltered down the stretch, making bogey on two of his last four holes to finish third and out of the playoff by two shots. Rahm joined the list of recent 54-hole leaders who were unable to close it out on Sunday. It’s now 14 straight PGA Tour events, dating to Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship, in which the 54-hole leader/co-leader was unable to emerge victorious.
This week's BMW Championship field is whittled down to the top 70 players in the FedEx Cup Playoff standings. Rahm (13-2) was the leader or co-leader after the first three rounds over the weekend as he led the field for both SG: Approach and SG: Tee-To-Green before his Monday disappointment. Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele (18-1) is back in his wheelhouse in a shorter field at a no-cut event. Justin Thomas (18-1) was the first-round co-leader at the Northern Trust and his T-4 finish was his first top 5 anywhere since winning The Players in March. Collin Morikawa (20-1) did not practice at all last week due to a pinched nerve in his back, and it showed as he missed the cut. Jordan Spieth (20-1) had an eventful 73rd-place finish over the weekend. In Friday's round, Spieth shot 62, including back-to-back eagles. On Monday, he shot a 79 that included six bogeys, consecutive triple bogeys, four birdies and six pars.
Dustin Johnson (22-1), who missed the cut last week, was the defending champion at the Northern Trust, but his title defense got off to an odd start — and without a driver — after he noticed a crack in the crown of the clubhead just minutes before his first round. Johnson had a 3-wood in his car, though, which was retrieved and brought to him on the second hole. Brooks Koepka (25-1) and Bryson DeChambeau (28-1) both had nondescript T-31 finishes at the Northern Trust. Meanwhile, Smith (25-1) will try to recover from giving the tournament away to Finau when he hit his tee shot out of bounds on the first playoff hole. Louis Oosthuizen (28-1) returns after withdrawing from the last two events with a neck injury. Rory McIlroy (28-1) and Patrick Cantlay (30-1) are both looking to rebound from disappointing showings last week. As for Finau (30-1), his next win may or may not come this week, but surely another five-year winless streak looks highly unlikely.
The BMW Championship serves as the penultimate event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs with the top 70 in the point standings playing this week. While the BMW started in 2007, this tournament’s history dates back a long way. The event originated as the Western Open in 1889 and ran until 2006. The Western was predominantly played in the Chicagoland area at venues such as Cog Hill in Lemont and Butler National in Oak Brook. The Western Golf Association, based in Glenview, Ill., still serves as an organizer for this event, and Chicago is still its most regular stop, but the BMW now rotates around the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. There are only 70 players this week, so there is no 36-hole cut. The top 30 after this event move on to the Tour Championship in Atlanta next week.
Last week at the Northern Trust, six players played their way into this week's event, including Keith Mitchell (T-8), who birdied his last three holes on Monday to qualify. Five other players moved into the top 70, including Sweden’s Alex Noren (T-4), South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen (7th), Tom Hoge (T-4), Harold Varner III (T-11) and Harry Higgs (T-16). Players dropping out of the top 70 after missing the cut at Liberty National include Matthew Wolff, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Martin Laird, Troy Merritt and J.T. Poston.
This week's event carries big stakes for a multitude of players, not just for a victory and a large amount of money. Finau was informed that he will be on the USA Ryder Cup team, but he has not yet officially clinched the final automatic spot. Schauffele (minimum finish of 41st), Spieth (10th), Harris English (second), Patrick Cantlay (win), and Daniel Berger (win) could all grab the sixth and final automatic spot.
In addition, getting into the FedEx Cup top 30 points for the Tour Championship also gets players into the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open next year. Players affected by this include Charley Hoffman (29), Keegan Bradley (32), Cameron Tringale (34) and Hudson Swafford (40). There are also three players who can qualify for their first tournament invitations by making the Tour Championship — Tom Hoge (48), Maverick McNealy (53) and Talor Gooch (67).
Caves Valley Golf Club is a first-time venue on the PGA Tour. It is in Owings Mills, Md., in suburban Baltimore. Caves Valley is a Tom Fazio design (1991) that has hosted a few high-profile professional events, including the 2002 Senior U.S. Open. It hosted the 2014 LPGA International Crown team event and as recently as 2017 hosted the Constellation Senior Players Championship on the Champions Tour, won by Scott McCarron.
The track is a par-72 of 7,542 yards. Tom Fazio's son Logan renovated the course last year. Caves Valley features a wooded front nine with plenty of elevation changes. The back nine is flat, features more water and plenty of long Fescue grass for wayward tee shots.
Unlike Liberty National, this course features tighter fairways (25 yards wide), although there are fewer bad lies off the fairway and Bentgrass greens that are 600 square feet on average (5,200) larger, but still well below tour average. The greens will also roll around 12.5 feet on the stimpmeter. All four of the par-5s are less than 600 yards, while the par-4s provide an interesting mix. It is rare that you see three par-4s at less than 400 yards on the PGA Tour, but at Caves Valley, the first (365 yards), fifth (356 yards) and 11th (356 yards) are all semi-drivable for the bigger hitter. On the other hand, there are six par-4s that measure over 450 yards. Four par-3s are mostly of the longer variety with elevation changes, with the scorecard highlighting 224 yards (third), 223 yards (sixth), 221 yards (13th) and 192 yards (17th).
BMW CHAMPIONSHIP RECENT HISTORY
2020: Jon Rahm (-4/276); Olympia Fields; 10-1*
2019: Justin Thomas (-25/263); Medinah; 16-1
2018: Keegan Bradley (-20/260); Aronimink; 140-1**
2017: Marc Leishman (-23/261); Conway Farms; 45-1
2016: Dustin Johnson (-23/265); Crooked Stick; 10-1
2015: Jason Day (-22/262); Conway Farms; 15-2
2014: Billy Horschel (-14/266); Cherry Hills; 66-1
2013: Zach Johnson (-16/268); Conway Farms; 40-1
2012: Rory McIlroy (-20/268); Crooked Stick; 7-1
2011: Justin Rose (-13/271); Cog Hill; 66-1
2010: Dustin Johnson (-9/275); Cog Hill; 33-1
* playoff win over Dustin Johnson
* playoff win over Justin Rose
STATS AND ANGLES
With potentially reachable par-4s and par-5s all under 600 yards, Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee looks to be important on these narrower-on-average fairways.
Strokes Gained: Off The Tee
1. Bryson DeChambeau 24.7
2. Jon Rahm 21.6
3. Brooks Koepka 21.1
4. Sergio Garcia 18.5
5. Patrick Cantlay 17.5
6. Keith Mitchell 16.7
7. Hudson Swafford 16.7
8. Corey Conners 15.1
9. Maverick McNealy 14.7
10. Jhonattan Vegas 14.4
11. Viktor Hovland 14.2
12. Cameron Champ 13.8
Note: Last 24 rounds
While the greens are larger (5,200 square feet) at Caves Valley vs. Liberty National (4,600), they are still smaller than tour average, so players must be on point with their irons.
Strokes Gained: Approach
1. Collin Morikawa 34.1
2. Paul Casey 32.8
3. Daniel Berger 29.8
4. Russell Henley 25.7
5. Louis Oosthuizen 24.7
6. Emiliano Grillo 23.1
7. Shane Lowry 22.6
8. Hideki Matsuyama 22.1
9. Keegan Bradley 21.1
10. Talor Gooch 21.1
11. Jon Rahm 20.9
12. Rory McIlroy 20.8
Note: Last 24 rounds
Six of the 10 par-4s measure 450-500 yards.
Strokes Gained Par-4s 450-500 Yards
1. Rory McIlroy 21.8
2. Justin Thomas 20.3
3. Louis Oosthuizen 18
4. Jon Rahm 17.6
5. Collin Morikawa 17.1
6. Tony Finau 15.7
7. Patrick Cantlay 13.8
8. Max Homa 13.3
9. Branden Grace 12.8
10. Chris Kirk 12.6
11. Keegan Bradley 10.6
12. Mackenzie Hughes 10.1
Note: Last 24 rounds
With four par-5s ranging from 550 600 yards and a couple of par-4s where players may take 3-wood or iron off the tee, there will be several approach shots of greater than 200 yards.
Proximity Gained 200+ Yards
1. Erik van Rooyen 28.9
2. Jason Kokrak 28.6
3. Tom Hoge 24.2
4. Marc Leishman 22.5
5. Jon Rahm 19.9
6. Viktor Hovland 19.9
7. Ryan Palmer 19.7
8. Dustin Johnson 16.7
9. Bryson DeChambeau 16.4
10. Scottie Scheffler 16.3
11. Lee Westwood 16
12. Paul Casey 14.7
Note: Last 24 rounds; feet per shot
Three of the four par-3s measure 200-225 yards.
Strokes Gained Par-3s 200-225 Yards
1. Harris English 6.3
2. Keith Mitchell 5.1
3. Abraham Ancer 4.8
4. Erik van Rooyen 4.8
5. Branden Grace 4.7
6. Russell Henley 4.2
7. Jason Kokrak 4
8. Dustin Johnson 3.8
9. Jhonattan Vegas 3.7
10. Lucas Glover 3.6
11. Jordan Spieth 3.2
12. Chris Kirk 3.2
Note: Last 24 rounds
Caves Valley is heavily bunkered so players will have to get up and down from the sand.
Sand Saves Gained
1. Kevin Na 6.7
2. Marc Leishman 5.7
3. Russell Henley 5.6
4. Cameron Smith 4.5
5. Harris English 4.3
6. Billy Horschel 4.1
7. Ryan Palmer 3.9
8. Maverick McNealy 3.5
9. Alex Noren 3.5
10. Tom Hoge 3.4
11. Chris Kirk 3.3
12. Sungjae Im 3.2
Note: Last 24 rounds
Justin Thomas 20-1
Thomas shared the first-round lead at the Northern Trust with Rahm but settled for a T-4 finish. However, he found something with his putter as he was 11th best in the field for SG: Putting.
The approach game was also solid, and he also has the best Total Strokes Gained mark on Tom Fazio designs over the last 36 rounds and he won on a Fazio design at Quail Hollow in 2017.
Bryson DeChambeau 25-1
The wedge game has been struggling of late for DeChambeau but showed signs of life in New Jersey. He was fourth for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 20th for Strokes Gained Approach last week.
DeChambeau has always been good with the longer irons — ninth for Greens in Regulation of 200+ yards and second for Proximity from 200+ yards on the season.
The putter did not fire last week, but all other facets of his game looked good and he is still the biggest hitter in the game (first Driving Distance; first SG: Off The Tee) and that will play well on this week's big-boy golf course.
Patrick Cantlay 25-1
Although he is likely to make the team, Cantlay surely has some motivation to lock up a Ryder Cup spot this week.
He also ranks first in Scrambling and second in GIR Gained to go along with top-5 marks in SG: Tee To Green, SG: Ball Striking and SG: Off The Tee over the last 24 rounds.
Hideki Matsuyama 40-1
Matsuyama finished runner-up three weeks ago in Memphis coming just one week after the disappointment of not earning a medal in Tokyo.
He also has good enough form on Fazio designs, most notably fourth at the Olympics just four starts ago and a seventh in the 2015 BMW Championship at Conway Farms.
Paul Casey 40-1
Casey has been the model of consistency with nine top-10s in 18 starts, including a win in Dubai for us earlier this year.
He was brutal on the greens at Liberty National but tends to rebound the next time out from dreadful putting and scrambling. His ball striking was near the top of the field last week.
Keegan Bradley 90-1
Bradley has a lot to play for this week. A top-7 finish would get him into the Tour Championship and earn him invitations to the 2022 Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.
He also ranks fourth for Total Driving and first for Greens in Regulation from 200+ yards.
Omega European Masters
American Johannes Veerman, at 25-1, became the sixth first-time European Tour winner in as many weeks with his victory at the D + D Real Czech Masters by two strokes over fellow American Sean Crocker and 54-hole leader Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland, who had as large as a four-shot lead early in Sunday's final round. Henrik Stenson shared the lead at one point in the final round but settled for T-4 (along with 2016 Czech Masters champion Paul Peterson), which was his first top-10 finish in nearly two years.
This week, the European Tour heads to Switzerland for the Omega European Masters. The field is a little deeper with predominantly European players either in Switzerland or at the BMW Championship attempting to make a last impression on Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington.
Bernd Wiesberger (22-1) has 12 professional wins (eight on European Tour) but has yet to make a Ryder Cup team. South African Justin Harding (30-1) has a tour victory from earlier this season in Kenya and has two top-10s in his last two events. Thomas Detry (30-1) returns for the first time since the Olympics and still seeks his first European Tour victory. The Belgian has six runner-up finishes on the tour, including two this year at the Scottish Open and the Porsche European Open. Calum Hill (33-1) broke his maiden two weeks ago at the Cazoo Classic. Richard Bland (30-1) also earned his first tour victory in 478 career starts earlier in the spring at the Betfred British Masters. Sam Horsfield (30-1) won twice in 2020 but still seeks his first victory in the 2021 calendar year. Veerman, last week’s winner, is 40-1 this week.
Thomas Pieters (33-1) elected to play here in lieu of the Korn Ferry Tour finals to lock in a PGA Tour card. Andy Sullivan (35-1), along with Pieters, was a member of the 2016 Europe Ryder Cup team. Guido Migliozzi (35-1) appears for the first time since the Olympics and had a red-hot summer despite no victories. Other past recent Ryder Cup players in this field include Francesco Molinari (40-1), Martin Kaymer (40-1), Danny Willett (45-1) and Henrik Stenson (55-1). Sebastian Söderberg (125-1) is the two-time defending champion of this event after defeating four players, including Rory McIlroy, in a five-man playoff.
The Omega European Masters was founded as the Swiss Open in 1923. The tournament was prefixed with European Masters in 1983, before dropping Swiss Open from the title in 1992. The event has been a fixture on the European Tour since the tour's inception in 1972 but ended its streak last year when the tournament was canceled because of COVID-19. The tournament has an extensive resume of notable winners, including major champions such as Seve Ballesteros (1977, 1978, 1989), Bob Charles (1962, 1974), Nick Faldo (1983), Nick Price (1980), Craig Stadler (1985), Jose Maria Olazabal (1986), Ernie Els (2003), Sergio Garcia (2005) and Danny Willett (2015) in addition to many other modern era top European Tour players, including Matt Fitzpatrick, Alex Norén, Thomas Bjørn, Miguel Ángel Jiménez, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie.
Crans-Sur-Sierre Golf Club in Crans Montana, Switzerland (east of Geneva) has played host to this tournament since 1939. In 1997, the legendary Seve Ballesteros redesigned this track, which was originally created in 1908. The course is a par-70 of 6,848 yards and is played at altitude in the Swiss Alps. It is a tree-lined, undulating test with tiny and slower (10 feet, 6 inches on the stimpmeter) Bentgrass/Poa greens that are guarded by bunkers and run-off areas.
Four of the par-4s measure less than 400 yards whereas two stretch over 500 yards, plus there are five par-3s between 175 and 235 yards, however with the undulation changes and altitude, the holes don’t necessarily play as lengthy as the card would indicate. The front nine contains three of the sub-400-yard par-4s from the stretch from the fifth to the seventh. Back-to-back reachable par-5s at the 14th and 15th also present opportunities.
2019: Sebastian Söderberg (-14/266); 275-1*
2018: Matthew Fitzpatrick (-17/263); 12-1**
2017: Matthew Fitzpatrick (-14/266); 30-1***
2016: Alexander Noren (-17/263); 18-1****
2015: Danny Willett (-17/263); 16-1
2014: David Lipsky (-18/262); 125-1*****
2013: Thomas Bjorn (-20/264); 40-1******
2012: Richie Ramsay (-16/267); 80-1
2011: Thomas Bjorn (20/264); 55-1
2010: M.A. Jimenez (-21/263); 18-1
* playoff win over Lorenzo Gagli, Rory McIlroy, Andrés Romero and Kalle Samooja
** playoff win over Lucas Bjerregaard
*** playoff win over Scott Hend
**** playoff win over Scott Hend
***** playoff win over Graeme Storm
****** playoff win over Craig Lee
TRENDS AND ANGLES
• 7 of the last 10 winners here arrived with a top-7 finish in their previous event.
• 10 of the last 10 winners had at least a top-10 finish in their 10 previous starts.
Justin Harding 30-1
With three top-10s in his last six, including a second at the Cazoo Open in Wales, as well as finishing top 20 in the British Open, Harding has shown a return to the form that helped him to that victory in Kenya earlier in the year.
The South African also has an excellent short game, ranking 14th for scrambling, 21st around the greens and 49th for putting.
Kalle Samooja 41-1
Finland's Samooja was part of the five-way playoff here two years ago when he led the field for SG: Putting.
He finished eighth two weeks ago at the Cazoo Classic in London, where he topped the field for SG: Tee to Green, was second for SG Approach and ranked sixth for SG Around the Green.
Samooja also has three other top-10 finishes this season with a fourth in Dubai and a third and a ninth in Tenerife.
Richie Ramsay 43-1
Ramsay, a Scotsman, has had a good run of results as of late — fourth at the Irish Open, 15th at the Scottish Open, 25th at the Cazoo Open, 28th at the Hero Open and ninth at the Cazoo Classic.
The 2012 event champion has always gone well on shorter courses in the mountains and could certainly do the same once again.
Andrew Johnston 50-1
"Beef" has played only 10 events this year but has two top-10s and four top-20s.
Johnston finished third here in 2016 and has a win at Valderrama, which has many similar characteristics to Crans.
Jacques Kruyswijk 66-1
Kruyswijk was the best of the bunch in this column last week with a T-7, but out-of-form bigger names have bumped his price up to where he is worth a go again.
Last week, he was sixth in the field for SG: Tee To Green, but his typically good putter let him down (47th).
While he has missed the cut both times here, the South African is a much better player now ranking first in stroke average, first in par-5 scoring, fourth in birdie average, sixth tee-to-green, ninth in putting and 10th in bogey avoidance.
Shubhankar Sharma 90-1
India's Sharma has shown progressively good form leading up to this week — T-32 in Wales, T-30 in Northern Ireland, T-16 in Scotland and a T-9 in London two weeks ago.
Sharma was third and seventh for Driving Accuracy, 14th and 17th for GIR and 12th and 13th for SG: Approach over his last two outings.