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FedExCup Playoffs Event No. 3

BMW Championship

Cherry Hills Country Club

Cherry Hills Village, Colorado

Cherry Hills Country Club (CHCC)

Yards: 7,352 via the scorecard

Par: 70 (34-36)

Greens: Bentgrass with Poa annua; 4,700 square feet on average.

Stimpmeter: 11.5’

Rough: Kentucky bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass at 3”

Bunkers: 82

Water Hazards: 4, plus Little Dry Creek, which isn’t so dry, meandering through the 18 holes.

Course Architect: William Flynn (1922); Tom Doak (2008) redesign

Purse: $8,000,000

Winner’s Share: $1,440,000

FexExCup Points: 2,500 to the winner

Defending Champion: The last three BMW winners have come from three different courses, Cog Hill, Crooked Stick and Conway Farms so course history can be thrown out the window this week. Zach Johnson is the event’s defending champion.

Dates:  September 4-7

Notes: The top 69 players (no Dustin Johnson) will play 72 holes of stroke play without a cut. The top 30 players advance to The TOUR Championship next week at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

Recent History Lessons

After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 26 of 43 events in 2013-14. The red, white and blue have gone back-to-back in the FEC Playoffs as Hunter Mahan and Kirk have secured the first two wins. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk (TWO), Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane, Kevin Streelman, Brian Harman and now Hunter Mahan have won for the USA.

Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed six victories. Hideki Matsuyama and Seung-yul Noh are the Asian representatives. Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the European chalk that has won four of the last six majors dating back to the 2013 U.S. Open. Angel Cabrera and Camilo Villegas are flying the flag for South America; Tim Clark flies it for South Africa.

S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd, Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had 10 in 43 events in 2014. 

Last week Chris Kirk joined Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy as the multiple winners on TOUR this season. Walker and McIlroy have three victories each #rydercupfoes.

Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys

Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. Ryan Moore (30), Zach Johnson (37), Kevin Stadler (33) and Bubba Watson (35), Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30), Matt Jones (33), all were victorious before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35), Justin Rose (33), Tim Clark (38), Geoff Ogilvy (37) Camilo Villegas (32) and Hunter Mahan, 32, have added to the prime-timers trophy case as the season moves along.

Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28) TWICE, Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22), Brian Harman (27) and Rory McIlroy THRICE (25), are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.

Australian John Senden (42) and Argentine Angel Cabrera, 44, who won at Greenbrier, are the only two 40-somethings to claim victory this season. Senden gave it another big fight last week as he finished T5 to lead the “old” guys.

Turn Back the Clock

At this point in the season last year there were 11, first-time winners and just four players with multiple victories Woods, Mickelson, Kuchar and Snedeker. Only Kuchar has cracked the winner’s circle this year and all that took was a hole-out from a bunker on the 72nd hole at RBC Heritage!

This year, Walker and McIlroy (three wins each) join Reed, Watson, Kaymer and now Kirk as multiple winners and there have been just 10, first-time winners.

Pay Attention: It’s FREE!

This is the first TOUR event played on this track since the 1985 PGA Championship. Hubert Green won that week by firing six-under-par 278 to win by two shots.

This will be the fourth different course in the last four years for the BMW Championship. Course history has no bearing this week. This is a recording.

Rory McIlroy (Crooked Stick) in 2012 and Zach Johnson (Conway Farms) last year have won the last two events. Seeing big name players winning on brand new courses shouldn’t be surprising. The cream rises to the top this time of year and the class players should have ZERO trouble adjusting once they hit the fairways.

Steve Stricker, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan are the only three players to compete in every TOUR Championship since the FEC Playoffs began. Mahan will keep his streak alive but Mickelson will need to win this week to match him. Steve Stricker has not competed in the FEC Playoffs this season.

Mahan has started every single Playoff event, 30 of them, over the last seven years. His streak continues this week.

Chesson Hadley is the only rookie remaining of two in this year’s FEC Playoffs. His T9 finish last week at Boston saw him leap from No. 84 to No. 67. He’ll also need a victory this week to make it to East Lake.

Only Rory Sabbatini (2007), Padraig Harrington (2009) and Dustin Johnson in 2012 have finished in the top 10 in in all four FEC events. Jason Day (T2 & T7) is the only player in 2014 that has a chance to join this elite club.

Only Phil Mickelson has a top 10 finish in at least one event of the Playoffs in every season. He was MDF at The Barclays and was T45 at the DBC last weekend. Streaks have an abrupt way of coming to an end.

This Will Win You a Bar Bet

Only Camilo Villegas has won the final two FEC Playoff events in the same season. Funnily enough, that was NOT enough to win all the marbles as the “old system” didn’t reset the points before East Lake. The first year of the FEC Playoffs, Singh won the first two events (and the title) and Villegas won the final two events. #weird

Inside the Ropes

For the first time since 2005 a major stroke-play event returns to historic Cherry Hills Country Club just outside Denver. The course was designed in 1922 by legendary architect William Flynn who is renowned for work at Shinnecock Hills and Merion. In 2008 Tom Doak was commissioned to restore the bunkers, remove a bunch of trees and restore the original design to keep Cherry Hills relevant for championship play.

CHCC has been very relevant over the course of history as it has hosted 11 major golfing events:

1938 U.S. Open – Ralph Gudahl

1941 PGA Championship - Vic Ghezzi defeated Byron Nelson in Match Play

1960 U.S. Open – Arnold Palmer

1976 Senior U.S. Amateur

1978 U.S. Open -- Andy North

1983 Mid-Am – Jay Sigel

1985 PGA Championship -- Hubert Green

1990 U.S. Amateur -- Phil Mickelson

1993 Senior U.S. Open -- Jack Nicklaus

2005 Women’s U.S. Open -- Birdie Kim

2012 U.S. Amateur -- Steven Fox

CHCC has plenty of demanding tee shots that include navigating dog legs, Little Dry Creek and perched, pitched fairways. The small-ish greens, playing just 4,700 square feet on average, will reward the players who find them as they are protected by plenty of bunkers and rough. Those who find the putting surfaces should have a very solid chance at making birdies as the Stimpmeter will be running at a very comfortable 11.5’

CHCC will play as 34-36 so both par fives will only be found on the back. There are a pair of par fours on the front that play 525 and 497 respectfully but at altitude they will only feel like 500 and 480 par fours. The par threes are no picnic either as they measure 276 (yes, not a typo), 246, 204 and 169. Scoring chances will fall to the par fives, both on the back side and a couple of drivable par fours (depending on tee placement). The winning score at Crooked Stick in 2012 was 22-under and the winning score last year at Conway Farms was 16-under. I believe somewhere in between will be the winning score this year as they can’t trick it out because so few players have played here.

Call to Order

I endorse the boys in DOPE ITALICS.

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The Chalk

These boys are the top 24 in the FedExCup Standings and should be playing themselves into $10 million form.

Chris Kirk (C): He answered a HUGE question last week in whether or not he was fit to compete with the big boys on TOUR and his answer was quite spectacular. He matched McIlroy shot for shot on Sunday before besting him and the field by winning on Monday. Kirk’s first two wins on TOUR were an opposite field event in Mississippi and a fall series event in Sea Island. His quiet summer kicked into the highest gear with that victory and I’m excited to see if he’s satisfied or ready to build on it.

Rory McIlroy (B): Win, Win, Win, T22 and T5 in his last five on TOUR. I’m not sure why anyone has any starts left on him but now is the time to fire away! Or you can wait until next week! It doesn’t matter! He’s on fire.

Hunter Mahan (B): Last week it all came to a screeching halt for Mahan as he made more bogeys than birdies and was 64th (of 92 players) in strokes gained-total. The man who led the last three weeks in GIR was 54th on a course with larger than average greens. I’m not sure Cherry Hills is the best place to rebound.

Jimmy Walker (C): He finds birdies on every track he plays. His length and superior putting have traveled well in 2013-14 as he has been racking up top 10s for fun, ten times to be exact, good for second-best on TOUR. He doesn’t hit tons of fairways but he still finds more greens than most. He’ll hit it even farther in the altitude.

Matt Kuchar (A): Tough times for Kuchar and his caddy Lance Bennett. Kuchar was very candid after his round on Monday talking in detail about everything that was going to happen this week BEFORE a golf ball is struck in Denver. None of it was uplifting. He hoped that he would be back to normal in a couple weeks because he’s not sure how this works. I don’t and can’t blame him.

Bubba Watson (A): It’s now five weeks and counting of T29 or worse.

Jason Day (B): I’ll argue he should have pulled a Vijay and won the last two weeks but his inability to finish out stroke play events is starting to stick out. He was in the last group out at The Barclays and finished T2 and he was only three behind young Russell Henley last week before finishing T7. As long as he’s healthy I’ll keep banging my ahead against his door waiting for the stroke-play breakthrough.

Jim Furyk (B): Last year they took this event to a brand new track. Furyk christened it with 59. I doubt that’s going to happen again this year but as well as he’s been playing it wouldn’t surprise me either. He’s one of the first names on the team sheet again this week as he’s just cruising along. His last win was The TOUR Championship in 2010 but that has not diminished his fantasy value.

Jordan Spieth (B): It’s hard to fathom that he has more points than Rickie Fowler. It was disappointing to see him not fire last week at Boston but he’s right in the middle of a learning curve. He’s looking forward to his first Ryder Cup so it won’t surprise me if he’s daydreaming a bit again this week. Kids, eh?

Rickie Fowler (A): There has not been a course or force to slow him down over the last two months. No point in bailing now.

Zach Johnson (B): Even though three of his last four have landed him T23 or better, gamers are still waiting for Johnson to kick into gear. With only two chances left, Johnson will need to get going. He’s 17th in strokes gained-tee to green and that will help this week.

Patrick Reed (A): He was three off the lead and shot 82 last Sunday. He MDF instead. Not for me.

Adam Scott (A): He keeps finishing T15 and gamers continue to be disappointed. He has set the bar quite high. I’m a bit disappointed that he hasn’t given McIlroy more to think about as world No. 1 but it’s not like he’s slumping. Once again he hit it great last week but couldn’t make anything with the broomstick. I’ll take the premium ball-striking this week, no questions asked.

Russell Henley (B): He’s like Scott Stallings. He doesn’t nothing forever and them BLAM! Right into the mix! His T2 last week was his first top 25 in 11 events. His last two top 10s were backed up with T37 and T47.

Martin Kaymer (B): After completely disappearing after winning THE PLAYERS and the U.S. Open., Kaymer remarked he was dealing with a shoulder issue. Do you notice how they never tell you when they are healed? It always seems to be after a top 10…Weird! The good news is that last week’s foray was on the back of premium ball-striking instead of a fool’s gold putter. That’s a positive.

John Senden (C): He’s not going quietly into the good night as he takes up the mantle that’s usually reserved for Phil, Furyk or Stricker this time of year. His career-best 2014 added another notch in the belt with his T5 last week in Boston. He looks very comfortable in his skin.

Bill Haas (B): He gets NO LOVE for the consistent season he has had but he must be on the radar after T2, T15 and T9 finishes in his last three. You wanna guess what finish was the week I had him in OAD? GO AHEAD. I DARE YOU. A podium finish is not out of the question this week. Get in.

Cameron Tringale (C): His season ended when he finished T2 two weeks ago at The Barclays. Let’s see what he learns over the next two weeks and get ready for 2015.

Webb Simpson (B): Ready? He was third, MC, T31, MC, T5, MC, T9 in his last six. There is no cut this week so we’re safe. He’s the American Charl Schwartzel. All his big finishes are on EASY courses yet he’s won a U.S. Open. I’m out.

Billy Horschel (B): He had a five iron in his hand on the last hole last Sunday and chopped it into the hazard that cost him a chance at his second win on TOUR or a playoff. He laughed. That was awesome. He could win this week or finish dead last. I’m not building around him and will take a look at him in the later rounds.


Kevin Na (C):  I would have argued that Na is better suited for putting contests like Valhalla and TPC Boston but it seems he’s enjoyed the tougher layouts (Ridgewood, Innisbrook, Valero) just as much. He’s in the top 30 of both strokes gained categories and is 11th in the all-around. I’m expecting a big week.

Dustin Johnson: Not entered

Sergio Garcia (C): He’s second on TOUR in scoring average, total strokes gained and strokes gained-tee to green. He’s had a fantastic season and all that is missing is a win. He took last week off to chill and get recharged. I’ll argue he needed it after T35 at the PGA and T57 at The Barclays. I’ll gladly hop right back on this week.

Geoff Ogilvy (C): His putter decided to wake up at the absolute best time of the season as he almost won for the second time in four events last week. His T2 moved him from No. 100 to No. 24 in the Playoff standings. Better late than never! He MC at The Barclays as he gave back over THREE shots to the field on the greens. His course history at DBC leaned towards him playing well and he sure did. This week, I’m not so sure.

The Bubble Nos. 24-46

These boys are going to play themselves in with a big finish or bad finish will see them fall on the outside looking in. Let’s see who can handle the pressure.

Brendon Todd (C): Big fields and new courses have finally caught up with Todd. He has nothing inside T45 in his last five on TOUR and with another new track this week, I’m not confident he breaks out.

Stuart Appleby (C): He’s 126th in strokes gained-tee to green and was one of a very few to MC last week at the DBC. He gained 1.5 strokes on the greens at TPC Boston last week but still MC. Yikes.

Justin Rose (B): Rested and ready to go after last week’s hiatus, Rose needs a solid week to maintain his position inside the top 30 as he currently sits No. 27. I’m confident he’s confident because he wouldn’t have taken the week off if he felt his game was rocking. I have him penciled in for my OAD next week. Considering this, there is no way he makes it to Atlanta. His ball-striking makes him a threat on any course anywhere in the world.

Keegan Bradley (B): This play will hinge on whether or not he’s named one of Tom Watson’s captain’s picks for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. If he’s not chosen, he’s toast in my opinion. If he makes it, I would suggest a large performance this week. Stay tuned.

Gary Woodland (A): During the Playoffs this year he posted a round in each event that he’d like to forget. At The Barclays he opened with 73 before closing 10-under over the final three rounds. Last weekend his Sunday 73 made sure his Monday 65 didn’t matter that much.

Hideki Matsuyama (B): After a stunning season last year, Matsuyama “improved” this year as he won a tournament and locked up his status for two years. But, his overall play has regressed and that’s not surprising for a 22-year-old. His uneven play this summer suggests another T28 or so finish and a coin flip on whether or not he advances. It’s his first FEC experience and it will do him well in the long run as he’s not going ANYWHERE.

Harris English (C): He’s MC in his last three with nothing lower than 71. He was the classic tale of two halves of the season. He’ll be back.

Kevin Stadler (A): He grew up in the Denver suburbs so he should have no problem getting back on that bike when it comes to playing in the altitude. He’s only had two rounds over 71 in his last four tournaments and has made seven cuts in a row. He closed 67-68 at the DBC and should be ready to contend this week.

Brian Harman (B): He’s only had one week off in the last seven and he has nothing better than T26 to show for it. #gassed

Ryan Moore (A): He hasn’t fired a round below 71 in two playoff events. His last three events are T40, MC and T73. Hardly inspiring. The last two weeks he’s lost over TWO strokes on the greens. #nothotputting

Charles Howell III (A): He’s hit the top 10 once since March. His last top 10 in the Playoffs was in 2011.

Seung-yul Noh (C): He went 12 weeks between top 25 performances so asking him to do it back-to-back sounds a bit silly.

Ryan Palmer (C): His ball-striking was a disaster last week but he made everything on the greens to finish T16. He was T74 at The Barclays and made just as many putts. I learned you cannot hit crooked it Ridgewood and it’s looking that way this week as well. I don’t love him but he’s played too well recently to omit.

Kevin Streelman (B): Since his win at Hartford he hasn’t hit the top 25 in six events. I prefer him in a birdie fest/TPC-style course than a classic layout.

Matt Every (B): Nothing inside T47 since his T3 at Memphis, a span of seven events. Pass.

Russell Knox (C): Gamers looking for a top half finish will probably find one in Knox this week. His top finishes this season have come on difficult courses, Torrey Pines South (T10), Harbour Town (T9) and T2 at PGA National. His ball-striking is beyond solid. He’s 25th in ball-striking and scoring average.

Charley Hoffman (C): He’s made 20 of 24 cuts on the year. He’s missed three of his last four. Time for Goldilocks to hibernate.

Chris Stroud (C): His T19 at The Barclays was his first top 25 since his T4 at The Greenbrier. Another Playoffs top 25 would be another excellent building block as he trends to his first win on TOUR next season.

Graham DeLaet (B): He couldn’t build off his second round 67 at The Barclays last week as he finished T50. The last two courses that he hadn’t seen before, Royal Montreal and Valhalla, saw him finish T7 and T15. #ballstriker

Ernie Els (B): His T7 at the PGA and his T5 at the Barclays were because he gained almost three total strokes putting on the field over those two events. He gained almost a full shot at Valhalla and gained over TWO full shots at Ridgewood. He finished T50 last week because he gave back 1.553 shots to the fields on the greens. The week between the PGA and The Barclays he dropped .183 shots and finished T64 at Wyndham. WHICH ELS IS GOING TO SHOW UP?

Steven Bowditch (C): Closing with 65 at the DBC couldn’t offset his opening round 77. Within that last sentence lies the problem…

J.B. Holmes (C): He has one finish inside the top 25 in his last 13 starts after winning at Quail Hollow.

The Outsiders

Miracles needed

Marc Leishman (A): Only two rounds of his last 10 are in the 60s. That won’t be enough to contend this week.

George McNeill (C): After three MCs in a row McNeill’s putter got hot last week as he closed with 66 to finish T29. I’ll always take a look at a guy who finished strong the week prior and there is nothing wrong with a hot putter either.

Brian Stuard (B): Here’s a longshot that has played his way back into the conversation after a disastrous late spring and summer. He closed 65-68 last week on the back of a smoking hot putter to finish T16.

William McGirt (B): Last week’s T69 broke a four week run of T25 or better and wiped out back-to-back weeks in the top 10. His recent run suggests a return to form.

Tim Clark (C): He’s WD the last two weeks with an elbow problem. Omit.

Charl Schwartzel (C): Flip a coin. Seriously. Before the Playoffs he hit the top 15 in three out of four events. In two Playoff events he’s finished T30 and T45.

Graeme McDowell (C): Proud Papa skipped last week as his wife gave birth to his first child. He learned his Ryder Cup mates on Monday. I can’t see him being too concerned with what goes on THIS week as he knows he needs a win to advance.

Camilo Villegas (C): His season ended after he won at the Wyndham.

Henrik Stenson (A): He closed 67-66 at the PGA for T3. He fired 64 on Friday and 68 on Sunday at The Barclays. He closed last week with 65. He’s close. He leads the TOUR in total driving. He leads the TOUR in ball-striking. I like it.

Phil Mickelson (A): He won the 1990 U.S. Amateur on this track so he’ll have positive thoughts entering the week. I’m not sure if he’s mentally ready for anymore golf until the Ryder Cup. He hit it all over the shop last week but made everything on the greens. That won’t work this week.

Chesson Hadley (C): He’s the only rookie left. In between his T13 at Memphis and his T9 last week at TPC Boston he MC in six of seven events. His other finish was 70th at The Barclays. He’s made $1.5 million and change even though he’s only made 12 of 28 cuts. #allornothing

Will MacKenzie (C): He’s MC in 11 of his last 13. The only reason he’s not going to MC this week is because there isn’t a cut.

Angel Cabrera (B): He’s been all-or-nothing this summer. He rattled off win, T19, T31, WD, T22 and MC last week. Yep, sounds about right. No, thanks.

Daniel Summerhays (A): Since his T13 at the JDC he’s been sliding the wrong direction. The positive is that he’s made 11 of 13 cuts since his T2 at Valero. I can endorse him in deeper drafts.

Kevin Chappell (C): He’s made eight cuts on the bounce but has been wildly inconsistent linking good rounds together. His ball-striking, 16th in strokes gained-tee to green, will give him a puncher’s chance this week.

Erik Compton (C): Missing four cuts in the last five events isn’t going to get my attention.

Freddie Jacobson (B): If hitting fairways and small greens are a premium, I have to look elsewhere this week. He’s currently 136th in strokes gained-tee to green.

Jason Bohn (C): Nothing inside the top 35 in his last five. Omit.

K.J. Choi (C): His best finish this summer was T2 at the Travelers. His best finish in his last seven since the Travelers was T35 last week. His next-best finish was T64. That’s not enough versus a field like this.

Carl Pettersson (C): I’ll always take a look at a guy with form entering a tournament and Pettersson fits that bill. He was bogey-free 66 to close at TPC Boston and has three top 10s in his last eight on TOUR. His best finish this year was in Memphis on another ball-strikers course.

Matt Jones (B): He’s picked off ONE top 25 since his victory in the first week of April. He posted three rounds of 75 or WORSE last week.

Morgan Hoffmann (B): I like the moxie of the kid who needed big finishes the last two weeks just to advance. He began the Playoffs at No. 124 and hit a top 10 at The Barclays to move up to No. 72. His T35 last week kept him in the chase as he enters this week No. 68. Not bad for only his second appearance in the Playoffs.

Ben Crane (B): Needing just a double bogey to advance last week, Crane made it very interesting on the final hole. He eventually rolled in a putt for double and made this week’s field by a shot. He’s found the top 25 twice in 24 starts this season and one of those was his win in Memphis back in June.

Jerry Kelly (B): His eagle on the 72nd hole last week saw him enter the BMW as the last man in the field. It’s not surprising as he hasn’t posted anything in the top 25 since his T3 at the JDC.

 

Coming Later TUESDAY Night

Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 6ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.

Coming Wednesday

And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at noon ET. We will be breaking down the field at The Barclays and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.

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