The second leg of the PGA Tour’s 2020 season heads to Illinois this year. The BMW Championship is a 70-man event that is played on a series of rotating courses. Once titled as the “Western Open” it was rebranded as the BMW Championship in 2007 and made a part of the new FedEx Cup playoff series where it has maintained its place as the second-to-last event of the season ever since.
The last two years it has seen the event travel to former PGA Championship host Medinah in Illinois and the Donald Ross designed Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania. This season, it heads back to the midWest and suburban Chicago as Olympia Fields Country Club (North Course) will host the event. Last seen on Tour at the 2003 US Open, the long Par 70 venue should provide a tougher test than we saw last week at TPC Boston where multiple players shot 10-under par or better.
This event is similar to other WGC events we see throughout the season, in that there’s no Friday cut. It is, however, quite unique in that players will literally be fighting for a spot in next week’s season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake during the event. Only the top-30 players in the FedEx Cup points rankings will be allowed entry into East Lake, and a shot at the lucrative bonus money and exemptions that await. So, while there will only be one winner crowned here, many players will have a lot on the line Sunday, regardless of if they are in contention for the top prize or not.
The Northern Trust Open roundup
Dustin Johnson shot a second round 60 (that could have been a 57) and tore the face off the event, eventually winning by 11-strokes. It was as dominant a performance as you’ll see on the PGA these days as DJ gained +12.1 strokes on his approaches alone and another +5.4 strokes on the green. Harris English posted his best finish of the year, a solo 2nd, and moved into sixth-place in the FedEx Cup standings.
Players like Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth, and Rickie Fowler all failed to gain entry into this week’s event as they finished outside the top-70 in the FedEx Cup standings. Louis Oosthuzien moved into 70th place with a birdie on the last hole and will survive for one more week. Other big gainers included Alex Noren and Russell Henley who both finished T8 and moved from outside of the top-70 to inside it. All three men will need to continue their good play this week, however, to even have a shot at advancing into the top-30.
BMW Championship course details
Olympia Fields Country Club (North Course)
- Par: 70
- Greens: Bentgrass/Poa
- Design: Willie Park Jr. 1922
- Defending event champion: Justin Thomas (2019-Medinah)
- Previous events hosted: 2017 Women’s PGA Championship (Danielle Kang -13); 2015 US Amateur (Bryson DeChambeau-matchplay); 2003 US Open (Jim Furyk -8)
Olympia Fields Country Club is a private golf club that contains two 18-hole venues, the North Course, and the South Course. Both have been featured in top course rankings throughout the state and country but it’s the North that generally receives bigger acclaim and is the venue the players will be competing on this week. Created in 1922 it plays as a traditional Par 70 that measures in at a lengthy 7,366 yards and features a combo Bentgrass/Poa mix on the greens.
The venue hasn’t been seen on Tour since the 2003 US Open, when Jim Furyk won his first and only major championship. It did host the Western Open, the old title of this week’s event, at various times in the past but was last seen by the players in that regard back in 1971. Since 2003 though the North Course has seen both a women’s major championship and the US Amateur Championship held at its grounds. It also acts as a host for a yearly collegiate event–The Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields–which has been won in recent iterations by Matthew Wolff (2018) and Cameron Champ (2016), two players in the field this week.
As for setup, Olympia Fields should provide a much different test from last week. There are several long holes in play this week, including a Par 3 that could play up to 280 yards. The opening Par 5 measures in at around 625 yards and there is likely to be few if any, pure scoring holes for the players to take advantage of. From a comparison perspective, expect Olympia Fields to feel and play a lot more like TPC Harding Park did, another long Par 70 which challenged players off the tee with thick rough and hard to hit fairways.
Players with good strokes gained: off the tee stats should prosper here as thicker rough and a longer layout tips puts a premium on good driving and solid tee to green play.
2020 BMW Championship betting discussion and picks
Justin Thomas won this event last year in dominating fashion. He finished the event at 25-under par, three shots in front of Patrick Cantlay. Thomas was obviously playing a different course last year in Medinah but had come into the event with solid leadup form, finishing T12 in the first playoff event and T11 at the Open Championship just three weeks prior. The lead-ups for past winners of this event have been important and performance in the first playoff event has often been crucial as well.
The no-cut, playoff nature of this event has also seemed to draw in more elite winners. Justin Thomas went off around +1600 last season, but the last couple of winners in Keegan Bradley (2018 and +12500) and Marc Leishman (2017 and +4000) had bigger outright numbers attached. Dustin Johnson (2017) and Jason Day (2016) were both among the favorites when they won this event.
The theory here seems to say look for players who have been in contention of late and didn’t end up too far down the leaderboard last week. Straying too far down the odds here has paid off, but it’s worth noting that three of the last five winners have had pre-event outright odds under +2000.
Betting favorites to win the 2020 BMW Championship
Dustin Johnson +800
Johnson is the deserved favorite as he regained the number one player in the world mantle last week. He’s the first player we’ve seen priced under +1000 in odds for quite some time now and it’s worth noting the playoffs have seen multiple-event winners in four of the past six seasons. If anyone can break the parity at the top of the game it’s Dustin given the form he showed last week. Back-to-back wins wouldn’t be shocking but I’m fine leaving him out to chase bigger and hopefully better odds elsewhere.
Jon Rahm +1000
Rahm’s again showing the same kind of form that had him in contention nearly every week at the beginning of the season. He’s proven to love tough golf courses with wins at Torrey Pines and Muirfield Village already but he’s barely bigger than Dustin in the outright odds at most sportsbooks leaving little value to be had.
Bryson DeChambeau +1400
Bryson looked out of sync last week on the greens where he lost over 4-strokes putting in just two rounds. The tough Olympia Fields is where he won the US Amateur in 2015 so good memories should abide here for him. No player in the last 10-years has missed a cut the week prior to the BMW Championship though and come back to win. Despite the missed cut last week we’re not really getting better odds on Bryson here so leaving him out feels somewhat easy.
Justin Thomas +1400
Thomas has looked slightly out of sync in his last couple starts. He did win just about a month ago at the WGC FedEx St. Jude Classic but didn’t look like his usual sharp self in any area last week and has been atrocious with the putter of late, losing 3-or-more strokes on the greens in each of his last two starts. It’s enough for me to avoid him too.
Rory McIlroy +1800
Rory made some comments about motivation (or lack thereof) after yet another poor performance last week and it got circulated through the national media. This is likely why his outright betting number here is now the highest we’ve seen it in years. It’s an awfully tempting price for an elite player and it’s also worth noting that Rory’s irons have shown vast improvement in his last two starts as he gained +5.1 strokes on Approach last week. If you’re thinking of taking multiple players in this range, he should be on your shortlist.
Tiger Woods +3000
Tiger finished last week with his best competitive round of 2020. Like McIlroy, his ball-striking has still been solid of late but his around the green game and putting have been dismal. Tiger is mostly about majors at this point in his career and this price is actually a bit worse than what we saw last week when he was +4000 or better in spots. The progress has been slow since the restart so far and it’s hard to see it all coming together for four rounds on a more challenging course this week. He might be a better top-10/20 play as he does need a solid week here in order to advance to East Lake for the finale. Tigers currently sitting around +350 in the top-10 market.
Favorite bets (each-ways and outrights)
Xander Schauffele +1800 or better outright
While younger players and better recognized names have grabbed most of the spotlight of late, Schauffele has continued to grind out solid finishes. The 2017 Tour Championship winner is very familiar with the FedEx Cup playoffs–winning the finale on his first time qualifying–and heads into this year’s BMW Championship on a run that includes a T10 finish at the PGA Championship and T6 a week earlier at the WGC FedEx St. Jude. While TPC Boston caused many elite players to miss the cut last week, Schauffele was one of the few who was able to maintain a steady enough hand to ply his trade over the weekend where he grinded out respectable rounds of 67 on Saturday and Sunday.
The 25-year-old certainly has to feel as if his time is coming soon and his record at no-cut events is almost without parallel at this point having grabbed three wins at WGC and limited field events in the last three years. The outright number here isn’t huge but the setup at Olympia Fields has been described as “US Open-like” at recent events it has hosted and will surely play more into the hands of a long, straight hitter off the tee like Schauffele, who ranks fifth in SG: Tee to Green stats over the last 50-rounds. With elite players dominating at these playoff events more often than not, he feels like a good starting point for cards this week.
Daniel Berger +2200 or better outright
If I’m going to take Schauffele, I certainly can’t leave out the man who has out-paced him at almost every step this year at a better price. It’s safe to say that the now 27-year-old Daniel Berger has regained his pre-2019 form and then some in 2020, posting a ridiculous six top-5 finishes now in his last eight starts. Berger has gained strokes on his approaches in every start since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February and been particularly strong off the tee in his last two starts, a trait which should serve him well at the more demanding Olympia Fields.
The American has collected wins at two other tough Par 70 venues over his career in TPC Southwind and Colonial and ranks fourth in Par 4-scoring, as well as fifth in Par 4 efficiency from 450-500 yards. After being somewhat disregarded due to an injury that severely affected his play in 2019, the American is playing with a chip on his shoulder in 2020 and doesn’t seem like he’ll be satisfied until he takes home at least one more big prize. Given that he’s mostly outplayed players like Webb Simpson and Rory McIlrioy in 2020, who remain on his level or smaller than him in the outright odds here, Berger’s outright price also looks worth taking on.
Tony Finau +3500 or better (each-way)
While the trends say that players who missed the cut at the first playoff event aren’t generally a great target here, Finau was one player I was willing to bend the rules for. The unlucky playoff loser at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier in the season, Finau’s problems from last week all stemmed from a putter which caused him to lose -3.8 strokes on the greens in just two rounds. Otherwise, everything about his game looked on point again and he even ended up shooting two-under on Friday despite a wonky putter.
This was a player who finished T4 at the first major of the season just three weeks ago, gaining +10.4 strokes tee to green at the tough TPC Harding Park, a venue that should set up as a great comparable to this week at Olympia Fields. While the on the green play could hold him back again, the course fit here and his recent trend of bouncing back quickly from a bad week (he was T65 the week prior to his T4 finish at the PGA) make it all too enticing for me to leave him off. He makes for a solid each-way bet at slightly bigger prices than last week.
Bubba Watson +9000 or better (each-way)
As mentioned above, this event has seen veteran players grab wins at bigger odds multiple times over the last five years. Bradley’s 2018 win at +12500 seems particularly relevant to Watson here as Keegan was also in the throes of a longer winless drought at the time, one that he eventually extinguished with a playoff win.
Watson is simply a much better player than Bradley, when firing on all cylinders, which only makes the price we’re getting here all the more enticing. He’s flashed with some intriguing form of late and it’s worth noting that he may have found some confidence around the greens last week as he gained strokes in that area for the first time in six events at TPC Boston. With his price now nearing triple digits as well, Bubba’s form coming in also reads suspiciously close to the T4-T42-T34-T49 Bradley had posted prior to winning this event in 2018, as Bubba’s T18 from last week marked his second top-25 finish in his last three starts. He’s a solid each-way target and a player who looks like he may be ready to compete soon.
Top 20 market
Cameron Champ +300 or better
- Played decently enough last week, and shot a 68 on Friday, but much like Finau simply had a bad week on the greens at TPC Boston
- He flourished at TPC Harding three weeks ago and the venue change should work in his favour
- Former winner in college at Olympia Fields and price seems slightly too big considering his strike-rate (three top-20’s in last seven starts now)
Cameron Smith +350 or better
- Coming off his best ball-striking week since 2019 as he gained +6.5 strokes on approaches last week
- Great around the green game which will serve him well if the conditions get tough and has proven himself well at tough courses with multiple top-10 finishes in majors already
- Talented enough to contend and did record two top-5’s in playoff events in 2018, so +900 or better for a top-10 makes sense too
Tony Finau (-110 or better) over Patrick Reed
- This bet didn’t pay for us last week, mainly due to Finau losing -3.8 strokes in the first two rounds. His ball-striking was solid though and it seems very likely he wins this bet last week if he had squeaked through on Friday. Reed only managed a T49 and lost over a stroke on his approaches
- The tougher/longer Olympia Fields favours Finau’s game and this week we’re guaranteed to get four rounds to let this play out
Tyrrell Hatton (+100 or better) over Viktor Hovland
- Hatton lost out to Hovland last week, but it was only by a stroke. Hatton bounced back nicely at the Northern Trust, gaining strokes throughout the bag, including over a stroke on APP and OTT.
- Hovland did most of his damage with his putter, a club that is still highly variable for him from week to week. His off the tee game has been poor (for him) in four straight starts so I like taking the plus-money here with the Englishman.
Alex Noren +5000 or better (each-way)
- Included Alex Noren in the FRL bets from last week, he didn’t perform well in round one but Harris English did get us a ¼ payout and full top-5
- Noren still ranks top-20 in First-round leader scoring and gained +1.4 strokes on approach in his last round last week, so we could see some carry-over in that area on Thursday
- His around the green game and putter have been sharp of late and since he comes in ranked 47th in the standings and in need of a big week, I expect a fast start from the veteran