The BMW Championship begins on Thursday as the top seventy in the FedEx battle it out for a place in the Tour Championship. Only thirty players will make it to Atlanta meaning forty players will be disappointed come Sunday evening. While the likes of Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott & Phil Mickelson are all but guaranteed a place in Atlanta, big names such as Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell & Rory McIlroy need strong weeks to guarantee progression. Another who faces a tough battle to make Atlanta is last years Open champion, Ernie Els. He needs a fourth place or better finish to guarantee his place in the Tour Championship and knows anything worse than a seventh place finish will not be enough.
Conway Farms Golf Club is the host course for this years championship as it hosts its first big professional tournament after hosting a string of amateur tournaments. Luke Donald and Mark Wilson are two notable members, Donald in particular played a major role in bringing the tournament to Conway. The lack of relevant tournaments on this course makes assessing who will flourish a tough ask but there some snippets of information to assist us. Firstly, Conway is known to be exposed to wind so someone who is comfortable in these conditions is essential. Another essential attribute, and the focus of my three selections, for Conway as I see hit is someone who hits fairways and greens on a regular basis. The fairways are either tree lined or have fescue grass waiting to gobble up wayward shots and the greens are protected by ample bunkers and thick rough in the main. Aside from the course, the FedEx tournaments tend to go the way of form players, Scott, Stenson, McIlroy, Snedeker all came into their prospective wins on the back of good recent form.
My selections this week start with Justin Rose, I don’t know why but when I look at Conway Farms I just see Merion. Quite how many similarities there are remains to be seen but the fact Donald is a member here and played well at Merion lends some credence to the comparison. Rose comes into this week in very solid form, since his U.S. Open victory he has posted three top twenty finishes and a tied second finish at the Barclays. What Rose does best is precisely what is required at Conway Farms, he keeps the ball in play the majority of times and hits plenty of greens. I was particularly impressed with the way Rose played the par-3’s at TPC Boston last time out, scoring -7 on them and with four tough par-3’s at Conway that sort of play will be a real bonus. I expect him to go very close at a tournament he has won before.
Steve Stricker is my second pick this week, Mr September has already bagged two FedEx tournaments since it’s inception and looks well placed to a strong tilt at a third this week. Plenty has been written about his light schedule this year but the fact is that it is paying dividends, his second place finish at TPC Boston was his third of the season. He’s finished inside the top ten on five of his ten stroke play starts, not missed the cut any of his ten stroke play events and sits 20th in FedEx points despite his limited schedule. Stricker’s play this year has been in short a credit to his consistency and this consistency will serve him well this week. He is ranked seventh in driving accuracy, second in greens in regulation and ninth in strokes gained – putting, with that mix of stats it’s hard to see him not winning soon.
My final selection is Jim Furyk, a player who is enjoying a real up turn in form with four top ten finishes in his last five starts including his runner up finish at Oak Hill. After a spell of three months without a top ten finish, this upturn in form has thrust Furyk into a strong position for a return to Atlanta. The main driving force behind his improved form has been a number of strong putting performances coupled with his usual consistency from tee to green. As a past FedEx champion, he knows very well the importance of week on week consistency in the playoffs and will know that he can’t afford a quiet week this week. The course will suit Furyk in my opinion and is located within miles of Olympia Fields, the scene of Furyk’s sole major win to date. I think this proximity can inspire another big week for Furyk.
- McIlroy, Donald Try to Salvage a Season (abcnews.go.com)
- PGA Tour: BMW Championship preview (isportsweb.com)
- 2014 BMW Championship Priority Ticket Program Introduced (prweb.com)
- GTC: Power Rankings: BMW Championship (golfchannel.com)
- 2013 FedExCup: Rory McIlroy (remember him?) hopes to defend BMW Championship title (sbnation.com)
- FedExCup 2013: Tiger Woods favored to win BMW Championship (sbnation.com)