Picks and tips: Lean on bombers at BMW

·7 min read

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There are just two weeks left in the PGA Tour's postseason, and things are officially heating up as the BMW Championship heads to a new venue.

This is the first time Caves Valley Golf Club has ever hosted the Tour's best, and this week that means the top 69 in the points race with only the top 30 advancing to the Tour Championship. There's also one last Ryder Cup automatic qualifying spot up for grabs, so players arrive to Maryland with varying degrees of motivation.

The Tom Fazio design can stretch to more than 7,500 yards, and early reports indicate that there will be plenty of room to miss off the tee (for more course intel, check out reporting from Patrick McDonald who will be on-site for NBC Sports EDGE all week). The odds are tilted heavily in favor of world No. 1 Jon Rahm, who nearly went wire-to-wire last week at Liberty National. But it could create a scenario where there is some value on others down the board, including a certain four-time major winner who has thrived on similar courses:

To Win (odds via PointsBet Sportsbook)

Rory McIlroy (+2800): When asked for a Caves Valley course comparison, the venue that keeps coming up with multiple players is Quail Hollow. That should spell good things for McIlroy, who won there for the third time this year and has feasted on the Charlotte layout like no other. His price this week is pretty eye-popping, given we essentially have a WGC-sized field to handicap, but it speaks to his relative lack of recent success. That includes last week's Northern Trust, where he was sluggish through the first two rounds en route to a T-43 finish.

But there have been brief flashes of brilliance, as there seemingly always is with McIlroy, and now he finds a course that should suit his eye and allow him some margin of error off the tee. His putting stats last week were better than his overall result might indicate, and there will be a pressing need to be more accurate with his approaches. But after seeing him at half or even a third of this price for several starts this summer, I'm willing to take a stab on a player with considerable upside who is guaranteed four rounds to get things on track as he looks to remain on the inside of the top-30 bubble.

Viktor Hovland (+3300): When last we saw the Norwegian, he was putting with a wedge for most of the final round at Liberty National after breaking his putter in anger. Promising stuff! But the three prior rounds were actually solid, and now Hovland has a chance to shine with his tee-to-green game. Although he's in the middle of the pack in terms of SG: Off-the-Tee metrics when looking at the full field, if you dial in on just courses over 7,300 yards in the Edge Driver tool you find that he's actually among the top drivers in the field: fifth in the field behind the likes of Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy. His iron play is equally strong when the courses get longer, and with the wet conditions and low scores expected this week it could accentuate his skill set.

Hovland had a middling week in Memphis and one bad round in New Jersey that sank his result in the playoff opener. But otherwise he has been somewhat underrated since getting a win at the BMW International Open in June. As a result, bettors are focusing elsewhere this week. But a long course with some room off the tee could create a recipe for success for one of the top players in the world who already has two Tour wins under his belt.

Sam Burns (+5000): A big ballpark that favors Off-the-Tee leaders could spell success for Burns, who got his maiden triumph this year at Innisbrook and nearly added another a couple weeks ago in Memphis. He followed with a T-21 finish last week that included a Saturday 64, and while he has been discussed as a possible Ryder Cup pick in recent weeks that ship has probably sailed - that is, unless he pulls a rabbit out of his hat this week in Maryland.

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Burns is in a go-for-broke spot this week with plenty of upside. At No. 12 in the points race, he's locked in for Atlanta but would need a big result to get a significant edge in the "starting strokes" for next week. At the same time, his chances for Whistling Straits likely hinge on him getting into contention and possibly winning. With no cut in play he can dial up the aggressive lines, which means that while this is a somewhat high-variance pick it's also one that could land given Burns' recent pedigree and length off the tee.

Top-10 Finishes (odds via PointsBet)

Patrick Cantlay (+220): Cantlay is one of six players still mathematically alive for the sixth and final automatic qualifying spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, although he'll need to win this week to pass Tony Finau and others on the points list. Still, a top-10 seems well within reach for a player who barely missed that mark (T-11) a week ago. Cantlay struggled at times on the Liberty National greens but still put together four straight rounds in the 60s, a feat that would likely get him inside the top-10 threshold this time around. Over the last 40 rounds he ranks fourth in SG: Tee-to-Green, behind only Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm. A winner earlier this year at Muirfield Village, he knows what it takes to handle a big ballpark with deep bunkers around the greens. He's among the best on Tour with irons in hand, especially from long range, and the Ryder Cup should provide just enough extra incentive to get him into contention.

Max Homa (+900): Another player whose interest is piqued with a Quail Hollow comparison. Homa broke through for his first Tour title there in 2019, and after adding another win this year at Riviera he enters this week as the bubble boy at No. 30 in the points race. There's significant incentive to making the Tour Championship, including spots in three of the four majors next year, and that fact won't be lost on Homa. But this is a tasty price (down from an opener of +1000) given the small field size. Homa wouldn't have far to climb to cash this ticket, and with top-10s this year at courses like Bay Hill, Innisbrook and Muirfield Village he has plenty of game to get it done and secure his trip to Atlanta in the process.

Harry Higgs (+1500): This is a bit of a flier on one of the biggest prices in the top-10 market, but at this stage of the postseason I'm drawn to players who are content simply to have made it this far and aren't sweating the make-or-break drama of life on the bubble. Higgs barely snuck into this week's field thanks to a T-16 finish at Liberty National, and that came on the heels of a T-15 showing at Wyndham. In between he had a starring role (and lost a few bucks) in a much-anticipated money game with Phil Mickelson, Joel Dahmen and Keith Mitchell. He partnered with Mitchell, who also followed that match with a strong showing in Jersey. I like Higgs' carefree nature and go-for-broke style, one that sometimes can yield missed cuts with frequency. But this week he's guaranteed four rounds, is playing with some momentum and knows he'll need to finish well inside the top 10 to have any chance at East Lake. So he'll keep his foot on the gas even in the event of a slow start and is a player whose top-10 ticket won't turn into confetti just because he's sitting T-30 through the first two rounds.

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