Sweden’s Henrik Stenson had been coming so very close to victory, but was just falling one or two strokes short. He finally broke through at the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston last weekend in a tournament chock full of low scores. Stenson shot 66 over his final two rounds, and ended up 22-under par. He also took over the top spot in the FedEx Cup standings, sending Tiger Woods to No. 2. Steve Stricker, who punched his ticket to the Presidents Cup last weekend, managed to finish 20-under par, and did not shoot worse than 68 in the entire event.
Canada’s Graham DeLaet posted a 62 Sunday, and was still no better than third, while Jordan Spieth also hammered out a 62 in Monday’s championship round, and he could get no closer than five strokes from the top spot. Spain’s Sergio Garcia was probably the biggest Fantasy disappointment, leading after the second and third rounds, only to blow up with a 73 to tumble all the way down to a tie for fourth place.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s BMW Championship, seven golfers played their way into the all-important Top 70 with solid performances in Boston. Ian Poulter really helped himself with a strong showing, going from 77th in the points to 52nd, and a spot at the table at the BMW. Brendan Steele and Ernie Els qualified by the slimmest of margins. Steele was previously 89th, and he slides in at 69th in the points. Room for error was even more razor thin for Els, who was 91st before checking it right on the line at 70th.
This week the field will go from 70 to 30 for the all-important Players Championship in Atlanta, which determines the FedEx Cup championship.
BMW Championship, Lake Forest, Ill.
Purse – $8 million
Winner Share – $1,440,000.00
FedEx Cup Points – Top 30 advance in playoffs
Course – Conway Farms GC, Lake Forest, Ill.
Thursday, Sept. 12 – Golf Channel – 2-5pm ET
Friday, Sept. 13 – Golf Channel – 2-5pm ET
Saturday, Sept. 14 – Golf Channel – 12-2pm ET, NBC – 2-5pm ET
Sunday, Sept. 15 – Golf Channel – 10:30am-12:30pm ET, NBC – 1-5pm ET
Conway Farms outside of Chicago is a beautiful course with plenty of trees. Like TPC Boston last weekend, and Liberty National the week before, you would never imagine in a million years that the hustle and bustle of a major metropolis is less than 45 minutes away.
The first hole has plenty of trees running up and down each side of the early portion of the hole. At 385 yards, it isn’t particularly daunting, and the green is rather spacious, providing plenty of birdie opportunities for those who show off their accuracy.
Things get substantially more difficult, however. The 192-yard Par 3 at No. 2 looks simple if you just view the yardage. However, there are several bunkers and deep rough surrounding this hole, so any errant shots can turn a sure birdie or par in a hurry. The next Par 3 at No. 5 features a green surrounded on three sides by water, and a thick rough runs alongside.
The Par 5 No. 8 hole will be a birdie or par opportunity for the heavy hitters, but a trip into the British Open-like bunker could make for quite an adventure, and a very negative score. Golfers can recover at No. 9, as it isn’t particularly challenging at 400 yards. Birdies should be plentiful at the final link before the turn.
On the back nine, the No. 13 hole will provide some of the most challenges. First off, it is a dogleg left. And there are plenty of deep bunkers, including two which hug the green. A dropped shot in here will be crushing for even the best at sand saves.
The No. 15 hole is a Par 4, but it is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. At 331 yards, the big boppers can actually drive the green, or at least attempt to do so. However, a bunker on the right side will pose problems, as will a very thick rough. As usual, accuracy is the best course of action.
No. 17 will be a very entertaining hole for the gallery, as well as those watching on television. At 205 yards, it isn’t the length that is the problem, but it is a downhill tee shot with bunkers protecting the front right and back left of the green. There will be birdie chances here, but also chances of bogey to kill tournament hopes.
The last hole wends up a hill, but even at 568 yards these guys can reach it in two for an eagle opportunity. There is a creek along the right side which juts across the fairway around the 350-yard mark. A large oak tree also stands guard on the right side, and could potentially interrupt tee shots with its long branches and still thick September leaves. Don’t go too far left, however, as a bunker looks to suck up errant tee shots. The green isn’t particularly challenging, but it will be a pressure cooker anyway, particularly on Sunday, with so much at stake.
For whatever reason, even after he won The PGA Championship, people seem to forget about Dufner. He had a bit of a backslide at The Barclays, if you want to call a tie for 37th place terribly disappointing, but he has managed three Top 10 finishes in his past four events, and he has been 46th or better in 11 of his past 13 events, with six finishes of 26th or better during the span. Perhaps a return to the Midwest for the Ohio native will help Dufner, too.
I haven’t used Woods anywhere for Fantasy except at Torrey Pines and Firestone. And to suggest using Tiger is usually silly. As it the readers don’t know he is good. However, since his dominant performance at Firestone, he has been very human. He had a runner-up at The Barclays, but was 40th at Oak Hill and he tumbled to 65th by carding 72 and 73 on the final two rounds at TPC Boston, earning an un-Tiger-like $16,720 for his showing. When he awoke Tuesday morning, he found himself second in the FedEx Cup standings, and that is certain to light a fire under the ultimate competitor. Look for a Top 5 showing by Woods at Conway Farms. He will be Fantasy gold.
DeLaet is either on, or he is really off. For whatever reason, he was 83rd or worse from July 18 to Aug. 11 in each of his three events. A light bulb went off at The Barclays, finishing in a tie with Tiger for runner-up, and he carried over the momentum to Boston for a third-place showing. He has been 30th or better in eight of his past 11 events, and he has five Top 10s during the span.
Els is likely just happy to be here, sneaking in to the 70th and final spot in this weekend’s field by the skin of his teeth. He should play free and easy at Conway Farms. He has been rather up and down , alternating Top 20 showings with absolute bombs lately. If you believe in trends, a missed cut is coming his way. Don’t look for that to happen, though. He isn’t a particularly big hitter, but he is smart and accurate. That will serve him well this weekend.
Furyk looked to be in really good shape in Boston last weekend after a 63 Sunday had him positioned rather nicely. However, his game fell apart in Monday’s championship round, as he posted an abysmal 73 to slide down to 27th place. It ended a streak of four straight Top 10 finishes. Still, don’t give up on Furyk. His temperament, accuracy and finesse will help him rebound nicely, and he will be there challenging on the weekend when others might simply wilt and blow away.
I am a believer that guys generally are more comfortable playing near their home. Stricker hails from nearby Edgerton, Wisc., and he has generally performed well in tournaments in the vicinity of his home area. He tied for 10th at the John Deere Classic, and has owned that tournament over the years. Like Dufner, he is a Midwesterner who will be in his comfort zone with the coolish weather, oak tree-lined holes and a gallery certain to be very favorable toward him. He has not finished worse than 13th over his past five events, so he has that going for him. He has already qualified for the Presidents Cup, but don’t expect that to mean he lets off the gas peddle. Stricker ranks second in scoring average, and he ranks fourth on the PGA Tour among birdies leaders and second in Greens in Regulation (GIR).
Scott doesn’t struggle. Only once this season has he had two poor showings in back-to-back weeks, and that was back in late June. The other two times he finished 30th or worse in an event, he bounced back the next week with Top 3 finishes, including a win at The Masters. I am not saying Scott is going to win the BMW, but a Top 10 showing is a very distinct possibility. It wasn’t like he was that awful last week, but a 72 in the final round derailed Scott and sent him hurtling down the leaderboard. Scott ranks fourth in scoring average, so don’t expect many 70-plus scores this weekend.
Spieth turned in a runner-up finish at the Wyndham Championship in a playoff loss, and he hasn’t looked back. He tied for 19th at The Barclays, and was a solid fourth at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He ranks third in All-Around Ranking, and his long distance has vaulted him to third on the PGA Tour in eagles. There will be plenty of chances for long hitters like Spieth to shine, and he will likely do just that.
Lineups will be posted shortly. Check back later, as the providers have yet to launch their contests for the week.
*All stats up-to-date as of 09/03/13.
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