BMW Championship Preview

·6 min read

After a weather-impacted opener, the FedExCup Playoffs kick on with a short drive down to Owings Mills, Maryland.

This event is the BMW Championship and it's the second leg of the FEC Playoffs with only 70 golfers remaining. At press time, only Patrick Reed is set to miss the event, but there could be more than back out before Thursday.

Since the field has been trimmed to a maximum of 70 golfers, we have seen our last cut sweat of the season. Everyone will be guaranteed four rounds of action this week at Caves Valley Golf Club.

That course name may not sound familiar so let's hop in and discuss what the players might see this week.

The Course

Caves Valley Golf Club is the host venue this week, the first time it has hosted a PGA TOUR event. It won't be their first rodeo, though, as they've hosted LPGA and Champions Tour events in the past.

One of its members is Cal Ripken Jr. who will be serving as a tournament host or ambassador of sorts.

This Tom Fazio design was opened in 1991 and will play as a par 72 that stretches out to 7,542 yards. The nines have been flipped for tournament play and the course has been closed for three weeks in the lead-up to the BMW.

Looking at a hole-by-hole level, the par 4s offer a good bit of variety. Six of the par 4s that play over 460 yards but also three that play under 370 yards.

Off the tee, golfers will see fairly generous landing areas although the tournament staff has attempted to narrow the fairways ahead of this week's event. The problem is that the new rough has not grown in that well so there shouldn't be much of a penalty for missed fairways. Update: The rough may have been successfully grown out in more areas than originally believed.

What about approaching the greens? Most greens require an aerial approach so that brings around-the-green play into the equation. If golfers find themselves in trouble after shot one, they probably can't run one up to the green but will need to lay up and recover from there or attempt to land the green and likely find themselves in the greenside rough or bunkers.

The average green sizes are small, just 5,200 square feet and golfers will see bentgrass putting surfaces that will be prepped at 12+ feet on the stimp.

To sum it up, I think priority A will be the big-hitting, ball-strikers that have a good driving week. Behind them will be the short-game wizards that score fine on the easy holes and perform some magic around the greens to keep their cards relatively clean along the way.

A majority of this information was gathered from our man, Patrick McDonald, who is going to have an in-depth course breakdown so keep an eye out for that.

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Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.

Jordan Spieth: "I expect scoring to be pretty average, relatively good, but in a really exciting way where you have to pull off a lot of good shots. You've got to take risks. When you take risks, you're rewarded when you pull it off, and when you're not, there could be a separation and scoring gap."

Jordan Spieth: "Trees are pretty thick out there. I'd probably stay out of the trees. Such cool par-3s, really fun undulation change. One of those unique courses that's tucked in a beautiful place in the country where you get out there and you just feel like you're away from everything. It's really enjoyable. It's just peaceful golf."

Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:

Quail Hollow Club
TPC Boston
Muirfield Village Golf Club
Augusta National

We don't have much to work with in terms of confirming our suspicions but the Fazio connection with the lengthy Quail Hollow is an easy one to make. Other than that I'd look for courses in the region (TPC Boston/Muirfield Village) or Augusta National might fit the bill as a course that is forgiving off the tee and requires you to take on some risk/reward holes if you want to really contend.

The Weather

Thursday: Sunny with a high of 91 degrees. Chance of afternoon storms. Calm winds.

Friday: Partly sunny with a high of 91 degrees. Slight chance of afternoon storms. Very calm winds.

There are some storms in the forecast for each day of the tournament this week. Not ideal but the small field should allow them to coordinate around the weather, if possible.

Golfers to Watch

Jon Rahm
It's hard to stop him when he's in peak form like he has been for most of the summer. He didn't get the job done at week's end at THE NORTHERN TRUST but he was hovering at the top of the board all week. We should continue to have that as our expectations for Rahm moving forward.

Jordan Spieth
He's one of the few golfers in the field with some known reps at Caves Valley. Spieth said he's played the course close to 10 times during his visits to Under Armour over the years. He's arriving off a roller-coaster of a week where he posted rounds of 72-62-72-79, always making things interesting.

Justin Thomas
The Alabama product hasn't been his best self this summer but he's flashed glimpses of form lately. Most recently, he racked up 25 birdies and an eagle last week. Unfortunately, he also swallowed eight bogeys and a pair of double bogeys. It may be easier said than done but if he tidies up the blemishes then he'll be right back in the hunt on a week-to-week basis.

Tony Finau
Perhaps it's just a fancy talking point but experienced analysts often talk about one win "opening the flood gates" for many more. Could that be the case now that Finau is back in the winner's circle for the first time since his 2016 Puerto Rico Open victory?

Patrick Cantlay
He's proven he can take it low in a shootout with a 19-under win at the 2019 Memorial and 23-under win at the 2020-21 ZOZO. He's also won in tougher scoring environments (-9 at the 2017 Shriners and -13 at the 2021 Memorial). One common link between all those wins is bentgrass greens. Coming off a T11 last week he may not be the first name people flock too, but he certainly brings a lot of upside to the table.

Ranking the Field

1. Jon Rahm
2. Xander Schauffele
3. Jordan Spieth
4. Paul Casey
5. Justin Thomas
6. Collin Morikawa
7. Viktor Hovland
8. Cameron Smith
9. Daniel Berger
10. Scottie Scheffler
11. Bryson DeChambeau
12. Brooks Koepka
13. Abraham Ancer
14. Dustin Johnson
15. Patrick Cantlay
16. Tony Finau
17. Rory McIlroy
18. Webb Simpson
19. Harris English
20. Hideki Matsuyama