Shotgun Start: Previewing the BMW Championship

Jonathan Wall

It's tournament time! The top 70 players in the FedExCup standings travel west to famed Crooked Stick Golf Club, located in Carmel, Ind., for the BMW Championship, the third phase of the PGA Tour playoffs. Here's a tournament primer to get you prepared for the week.

The course: One of the things I love about the Barclays and BMW Championship is the fact that both switch out the tournament site on a yearly basis. Nothing against TPC Boston (Deutsche Bank) and East Lake (Tour Championship), but rotating courses and giving players a different layout is like a pitcher facing a batter for the very first time: You really have no idea what you're getting.

While Crooked Stick, site of this week's BMW Championship, is hosting its first-ever PGA Tour event, it's already accustomed to the big stage. The course has hosted major golf events over the years, including the '91 PGA Championship, '05 Solheim Cup and '09 U.S. Senior Open.

At a beefy 7,516 yards, Crooked Stick is a big ballpark and ranks as the fourth-longest layout on the PGA Tour this season. It could play even longer with the rain Hurricane Isaac dumped on the course on Monday. There's also a slight chance of showers over the first three days of the tournament, so things could get even more interesting.

Designed by Pete Dye in 1964, the course has all the traits of a typical Dye layout: smaller-than-average greens, tight landing areas and straightforward tee shots. Players don't have to worry about tricked-out greens or squirrely fairways. Dye has been building tough but fair tests his entire life, and Crooked Stick is no different.

While the greens may be small, they are receptive and with the rain earlier in the week, should be soft over the first few days. That means players should have no problem attacking almost every pin position on the course.

If you're looking for a hole to keep an eye on this week, it has to be the par-4 18th. The 457-year finishing hole could make or break the tournament for the final-round leader, who will not only have to contend with a lake that guards the entire right side of the hole, but a deep valley on the left side as well. With three pot bunkers guarding the green, you not only have to be accurate off the tee, but precise with your approach. There's a good chance this could play as the toughest hole for the week.

The schedule: The tournament runs Thursday-Sunday. It'll be broadcast on the Golf Channel from 3 to 6 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday, 3:30 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 12 to 2 p.m. on Sunday; and on NBC from 12 to 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday and 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The field: The top 70 players in the current FedExCup points list will be in attendance at Crooked Stick, with only the top 30 moving on to the Tour Championship at East Lake. Since the PGA Tour groups players together based on their FedExCup ranking, we'll get a chance to see Rory McIlroy (No. 1), Nick Watney (No. 2) and Tiger Woods (No. 3) over the first two days. Some of the notables in the field include newly minted captain's pick Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan, and Luke Donald.

The video: Check out some of the memorable moments from the BMW Championship's history.

Your turn. Who are your picks for this week? Swing away!