BMW Championship matchups: Driving key in Wilmington

August 16, 2022 07:09 PM

Will Zalatoris won the first leg of the FedExCup playoffs — in a playoff over Sepp Straka — for his first PGA Tour victory. I was on Zalatoris in both of his playoff losses this season but missed out this time. “LongShots” colleagues Wes Reynolds and Matt Youmans as well as our guest last week, Esten McLaren, cashed in.

The second leg of the playoffs takes place at Wilmington Country Club in Delaware. While the first leg in Memphis featured the Top 125 in the FedExCup standings, the second leg is now chopped to the Top 70. There is no 36-hole cut this week, nor will there be next week when the Top 30 in the standings head to the Tour Championship for the crowning of this year's FedExCup champion.

Wilmington Country Club, which has never hosted a PGA Tour event, is a Robert Trent Jones design and appears very long as a Par 71 of more than 7,500 yards. When taking a closer look, most of the extra length comes on the Par 3s and 5s — three of the Par 3s measure over 200 yards and the three Par 5s are close to or more than 600 yards. The Par 4s are pretty standard in length, with most measuring between 400 and 450 yards.

The fairways and greens are Bentgrass and the greens are undulating and very large. The fairways are tree-lined and bordered by thick fescue rough. I believe this course will cater to the bombers because even when they miss a fairway, hitting these large greens in regulation shouldn't be too difficult. The size of the greens also brings 3-putting into play, so I looked at players who are good putters and good at avoiding 3-putts. The statistics I feel deserve the most attention this week are Total Driving (distance plus accuracy), Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Putting and Proximity from 150-175 Yards.

Here are the full tournament head-to-head matchups I considered and the one that I played this week:

Considered (34-32-3 YTD)

— Tony Finau (+ 100) over Justin Thomas

— Collin Morikawa (+ 115) over Xander Schauffele

— Collin Morikawa (+ 125) over Sungjae Im

— Russell Henley (+ 100) over Aaron Wise

— Scott Stallings (-125) over Cameron Tringale

Played (33-27-2 YTD)

Keith Mitchell (-125) over J.T. Poston  

This matchup features a bomber versus a shorter hitter, and in this case, it’s the bomber who is accurate off of the tee versus a shorter hitter who also lacks accuracy. Mitchell is second on tour in Total Driving behind only Jon Rahm. He’s 19th in Driving Distance and 73rd in Driving Accuracy. Poston doesn’t crack the top 100 in distance or accuracy. Many of the other stats are pretty close, but Mitchell has a decided advantage on long Par 3s and long Par 5s. In fact, he’s No. 1 in this week’s field in Par 5s over 600 yards. A course that might be similar to Wilmington Country Club is Quail Hollow Club, host of the Wells Fargo Championship, where Total Driving is also key. Mitchell has finished 3rd, 8th and 34th at Quail Hollow, while Poston has finished 26th with two missed cuts. I think this price should be closer to -135 or even -140, so -125 is a bargain. I’ll lay the short price with the favorite.

Don’t miss this week’s edition of “LongShots” for all the plays from myself, Wes Reynolds, Matt Youmans and our special guest, professional bettor Rufus Peabody. Go to or wherever you get your podcasts to check it out.

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