I wrote in last week’s weekend preview that there are a handful of golfers on tour that, when at their best, no one else can catch. Dustin Johnson is one of those select few and he proved that by shooting an astounding 30 under par to claim the Northern Trust title by 11 shots. We did have a few of our golfers near the top of the leaderboard with Harris English finishing 2nd and Daniel Berger finishing 3rd but they were screaming distance away from DJ. Still, there is nothing wrong with picking two of the top three golfers when betting outrights, except for the part of not getting paid. We’re doing something right though and hopefully it will carry over to this week’s field of 70 golfers for the BMW Championship.
- Field: 70 golfers / no cut
- Course: Olympia Fields CC
- Greens: Poa (bluegrass)
- Length: 7,366 yards
- Par: 70
- Defending Champion: Justin Thomas
This week the golfers head to Olympia Fields Country Club in Illinois for the 2nd leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. Following this past week in Boston, the top 70 remaining golfers on tour move onto the next round with the goal in everyone’s mind to be in the top 30 and make it to East Lake for the FedEx Cup final.
Players who moved their way into the top 70 with their performance this past week are Alex Noren, Harry Higgs, Russell Henley, Robby Shelton, Jason Kokrak, and the last man to get in, Louis Oosthuizen.
The other side of the coin would be the five golfers who struggled last week and will not be heading to Illinois; most notably Phil Mickelson. Phil will be taking his game to the Champions Tour for the first time this week where he is the heavy favorite to win.
Dustin Johnson heads into this week as the new #1 golfer in the world and will be the favorite to win at Olympia Fields after the show he put on in Boston. Scottie Scheffler will look to back up his 59 from Friday as he makes his BMW Championship debut. Tiger Woods will once again tee it up looking to claim the title at this event for the third time. Other previous winners that will be competing are Marc Leishman, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, and Billy Horschel.
It is worth mentioning the differences that the golfers will face this week as opposed to normal events on the PGA Tour. The biggest detail of note is the fact that there will be no cut prior to the two weekend rounds. We see this take place a handful of times throughout the season, most notably at the World Golf Championship events. This opens up a ton of possibilities when looking at betting outrights.
One way to attempt to exploit this wrinkle is by looking at the weather. It is still very early in the week but as of now the initial forecast calls for some rain around the course later in the week. Thursday appears to have some wind attached to it as well. If a golfer finds the wrong end of the tee time draw they could be in for a long first round. But with there not being a cut in place, one poor early round does not eliminate them from contention. In 2017, Justin Rose won the WGC – HSBC which is a no-cut event. He came from 8 shots back on the final day to claim the title. Anything is possible once the weekend hits and with all golfers getting to play four rounds, it leads to some come from behind victories quite often.
Sticking with our preferred pre-tournament golfers even after a bad round or two can lead to some great live value that we will hope to take advantage of as we move throughout the week.
Olympia Fields Country Club (North Course) will play host to the second to last event of this bizarre 2020 PGA Tour season. The par 70 located about 30 miles from Chicago is just over 7,300 yards in length which, relative to par, makes it longer than the courses they have faced the past few weeks. The history of this course is vast even if it is not in the normal PGA Tour rotation. It hosted the US Open in 2003, the US Senior Open in 1997, and most recently the US Amateur in 2015. If it means anything, the winner of the 2015 US Amateur was a youthful Bryson DeChambeau.
The length of this course will be shown off in a number of different ways. There are seven par-4s that will be played over 450 yards, two par-3s stretching over 215 yards, and a par-5 that will get close to 600 yards. Driving distance and long irons will come into play this week more so than we have seen recently.
The north course makes use of Butterfield Creek which will come into effect as an obstacle on seven holes including on two different shots for the par-4 12th which ranks as the hardest hole on the course. The other most challenging holes are the lengthy par-4s and hole 17 which is a par-3 that will be playing roughly 250 yards. Six of the holes play much easier than the rest and scoring overall should still be low, all things considered. Length off the tee and approach to the greens should lead to success around this track.
- Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
- Strokes Gaines: Approach
- Driving Distance
- Par-4s 450-500 yards
- Proximity 175-200 yards
Favorites to win
There are three names at the top of the betting board for this week: Dustin Johnson (+800), Justin Thomas (+1000), and Jon Rahm (+1000).
Dustin Johnson +800
We’ve already mentioned the newly named world #1 golfer quite a bit but it’s worth touching on again. DJ is the favorite for a reason after the masterful display at TPC Boston. It kind of came out of nowhere considering just a few weeks ago he posted scores of 80, 80, and 79. It just goes to show how good the top golfers in the world are and when at their best they can score on any type of hole. There is no way I will be betting DJ at 8/1 but he sure is fun to watch when he gets it going.
Justin Thomas +1000
Justin Thomas is an interesting option coming into this week. He enters the field first in strokes gained: approach over the past two months and also 11th in driving distance. That is a deadly combination and one that could definitely compete for the title in Illinois. He has yet to miss a cut since June and that is a stretch that has included a win and a 2nd place finish. He could have some extra motivation heading into this week as well since DJ is the new points leader in the FedEx Cup standings, overtaking Thomas after his win in Boston. It is considered risky taking a golfer in this betting range but I see no reason why Thoms can’t run away from the field the same way Johnson just did.
Jon Rahm +1000
Rahm has been quietly playing some of the best golf on tour. He did win a month ago at Muirfield but since then has been out of the spotlight despite three straight made cuts and a 6th in the first playoff event last week. Over the past three months, he is 2nd in this field in strokes gained: off-the-tee and 8th in driving distance. If Olympia Fields plays as a driving course, Rahm could be primed for a big week. His putter has been on fire as of late as well gaining 4.5 strokes last week. Poa is by far his preferred surface which could lead to even more putting success. Jon Rahm has the ability and skill set to pop any given week and that could easily take shape in this event.
If I was to rank the three favorites this week it would be:
- Justin Thomas
- Jon Rahm
- Dustin Johnson
Rory McIlroy +1500
If you told me four months ago that Rory McIlroy would have five golfers ahead of him in the outright odds to win a golf tournament I would have considered you a crazy person. Well, it is 2020, and this is the situation we find ourselves in. At a certain point, this isn’t about the stats as much as it is about the potential. Rory is a once-in-a-generation golfer and we saw that right before golf’s hiatus in March. Leading into the cancellation of The Players, McIlroy posted a stretch of finishes that is staggering:
|3/8/20||5||Arnold Palmer Inv|
|2/23/20||5||WGC – Mexico|
|11/3/19||1||WGC – HSBC|
That is a truly historically run for the then #1 golfer in the world. We just saw Dustin Johnson turn on his A-game seamlessly out of nowhere and I am banking on Rory to be able to do the same.
The stats last week actually are not as bad as his 65th place finish may suggest. He gained 5.1 strokes on approach and 2 strokes tee-to-green. He struggled with the flat stick where he lost 6.5 full strokes. He is 5th in the field in driving distance, and 8th in proximity from 175-200 yards. Too much talent to have the 6th favorite outright odds. Give me Rory McIlroy this week to win.
Viktor Hovland +4500
There was quite a bit that got lost in the shuffle on Sunday in Boston as the attention was rightfully on Dustin Johnson setting scoring records. One of those overlooked details was Viktor Hovland climbing the leaderboard with a Sunday 66 to follow up a Saturday 68. Hovland has fallen out of the spotlight since his three straight top 10 finishes in late June to early July but even if he hasn’t been on the first page of the leaderboard every week, he still has yet to miss a cut since early March.
His off-the-tee game has been inconsistent and approach hit and miss but when he is on, Viktor is a premier golfer who can compete with anyone on tour. Last week he posted an 18th place finish in arguably the toughest field of the year. He did so by gaining positive strokes on all major stats outside of scrambling. The past five events that some would consider below average finishes for him, he gained 2.7 strokes tee-to-green, 1.1 strokes off-the-tee, and 1.7 strokes on approach. Pretty nice numbers for someone who has been “off his game.” Still in search of his first career PGA Tour win, a breakthrough is definitely possible this week for the 2018 US Amateur champ. He is a far superior player to the other golfers in his range of 45/1 and I will be looking to take advantage of that value.
Bubba Watson +10000
Perhaps the most inconsistent golfer on tour, Bubba Watson continues to randomly show up on leaderboards throughout the 2020 season. He has a handful of top 10 finishes but also a collection of missed cuts. Everyone knows Bubba after his two green jackets and also for his ability to hit the ball a mile. Well we will certainly be looking for long drivers this week and Bubba fits that mold. Over the past two months, he is in the top 10 in this field for Driving Distance and Strokes Gained: off-the-tee.
The driver has never been the issue for Watson. He can be frustratingly inconsistent with the putter but when looking at green surface splits, one type of grass stands out as his preferred surface. Poa is the only type that he actually gains strokes putting on. Two courses that he has found a great deal of success playing in the past are Riviera Country Club and TPC River Highlands which are both similar in length to Olympia and both rolled with Poa for the greens. He let a Sunday 72 derail his chances of competing last week but a T18 finish is still promising to see. Bubba Watson could be set up for success this week in Illinois and at 100/1 I will definitely take a chance on just that.
Round two of the playoffs is set to get underway and the biggest names in golf are taking to Illinois to try to claim the BMW Championship. With the strength of this field we are gearing up for what should be another great weekend. It will be a scramble to the finish trying to claim the title and sneak into the top 30 in order to have a chance to hoist the FedEx Cup in two weeks at East Lake. And also to claim the $15 million bonus check that comes along with it. I’d say that motivation enough.