TheBMW Championship FedExCup Playoffs Event No. 3 (of 4)
Crooked Stick Golf Club
Yards: 7,497 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bentgrass with Poa annua; 4,500 square feet on average.
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass and fescue at 3”
Course Architect: Pete Dye (1964); Redesign: Pete Dye (2011)
Winner’s Share: $1,440,000 and 2500 FedExCup points.
Defending Champion: Justin Rose defeated John Senden by two shots to become the first European to win a FedExCup Playoff event. Gamers, please take note that any history at this event is null and void as the BMW was played at Cog Hill #4 four of the last five years. The other tournament was held at Bellerive outside of St. Louis.
Date: September 6-9
Field: 72 holes; No cut
Notes: The top 70 golfers will be looking to secure a top 30 finish to advance to The TOUR Championship in two weeks at East Lake Golf Club. If there are any WD’s, there will NOT be any replacements.
This is the first TOUR event at Crooked Stick since the 1991 PGA Championship that was won by the infamous John Daly from the ninth-alternate position.
The last major event to take place on this course was the 2009 U.S. Senior Open won at 20-under-par 268 by Fred Funk. I’ve found reading the articles about this event very informative when looking at how the course played and could play this week after a very wet weekend in Indianapolis.
This is the fifth Pete Dye course that the TOUR has played this year. Crooked Stick joins TPC Sawgrass, TPC Louisiana, Harbour Town and Kiawah Island in this list.
Dustin Johnson, Kevin Stadler, Louis Oosthuizen and Brandt Snedeker are the only players to have hit the top 10 in the first two FedExCup Playoff events.
Rory McIlroy joins Justin Rose as the only Europeans to win a FedExCup Playoff event.
“Young” Guns versus “Middle” Guns versus “Old” Guns
In 39 events on TOUR in 2012 the “Young” continue to increase the lead thanks to victories in the past weeks by Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Nick Watney and now McIlroy again. The “Young” guns have locked it up at the top as they now lead 20-16-3.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy Thrice (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29), Ted Potter, Jr. (28), Scott Stallings (27), Keegan Bradley (26), Sergio Garcia (32) and Nick Watney (32) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35), Zach Johnson TWICE (36), Scott Piercy (33) and J.J. Henry (37) have been victorious.
Steve Stricker (44), Phil Mickelson (41) and Ernie Els (42) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012. At least 33% of their wins are majors! Phil Mickelson was the best “old” guy finish this week at T4.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
Pete Dye has dominated the news recently as the premium course designer was front-and-center at the PGA Championship at his Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in early August and again this week at his original masterpiece, Crooked Stick Golf Club just north of Indianapolis. Dye’s vision for this course was a combination of the great Scottish links course features integrated into a Midwestern cornfield.
This links-style course makes for interesting golf as Dye incorporates blind shots, pot bunkers, sand traps and mounding to challenge the best players. Dye’s courses will give you a break, and Crooked Stick is no different, as his landing areas from the teeing area are generous. His generosity stops there. Dog legs both right and left will come into play as will fairway bunkers. False-fronts and two-tiered greens will also make this a truly second-shot course and will favor the solid iron players this week. Another interesting side-note to the course set up is that it plays in and out of the wind as no two holes in a row will play in the same direction tee to green. Players will have to have patience and the ability to work the golf ball both ways as the smallish-greens will provide protection from the generous landing areas. Four par-fives will increase scoring and so will the weather conditions if it remains soft. Crooked Stick can play firm and fast but the soaking that the course took over the weekend and the forecast for rain on Friday and Saturday (as of Tuesday morning) could keep scores low again this week.
My qualifications for this course won’t be much different than Kiawah Island. I prefer length over accuracy off the tee because of the large landing areas. Ball-strikers who are long should prosper this week and the smallish greens will not put a huge premium on putting this week. And Pete Dye will remind those who miss GIR that a solid short game is also a key to avoid bogeys this week.
I was at the Tuesday practice round in 1991 at the PGA and was standing behind No. 17 green. From the massively deep pot bunker, ball after ball flew out and would stop two to three feet from the hole. There must have been two dozen balls within a six-foot circle around the cup. The bunker is around 15 feet deep and the pin was on the short side. I was in complete awe. Any guess who was in that bunker practicing that afternoon? I’ll have the answer below.
Cream of the Crop
Dustin Johnson: The relief of making the 2012 Ryder Cup team will not bother him one way or the other and that’s why I like him and like him on the team. He knew the pressure was on the last two weeks and he responded with T3 and T4. His length and improved short game will help him keep up his run of top 10 finishes again this week. If the course plays soft, he will have more of an advantage with his length. Plus, his confidence will be at an all-time high as he played himself into a Ryder Cup spot. He’s hot and happy and that’s why I think he’ll go on to win this week.
Rory McIlroy: Coming off two wins in three events makes it impossible to not have McIlroy number one this week. He probably won’t win three out of four but that’s where he projects right now. After finishing T75 in putting at The Barclays (T24) he finished T2 in putting last week to win the DBC. He’s not distracted by having to see his girlfriend in the final stages of the U.S. Open (she lost in the first round). He’s not distracted by the Ryder Cup picks. His only distraction will be maintaining his world No. 1 status, his FedExCup Playoffs points lead all the while continuing to lead the European Tour Race to Dubai. Nothing much seems to bother him except an up-and-down putter. If he wins again week, it will be time to measure for a new crown…
Tiger Woods: Showed flashes of brilliance in his bogey-free final round 66 while at the same time showing the fallacies that have kept him from more than three wins in 2012. Woods, if not the best player in the world, is in the top two and he was the only other player to even sniff where Louis Oosthuizen and McIlroy were heading last week. The rest of the field was trying to win the first flight. Woods still struggled to find the green with shots inside of 150 yards but was still T2 GIR. Woods didn’t lose last weekend; he was beaten. I believe he’ll be up for the challenge this week.
Jeff Overton: Last week I had him in the “Five Who May Surprise” category based on his ties to Indiana and his penchant for having to chase a score when he needs one and he didn’t let me down. Overton might have played Crooked Stick the most out of any players in this week’s 70-man field and that advantage could be crucial as he looks to move into the top 30 from his current position of No. 40. The crowds will be behind him and this will be his “Ryder Cup” or “Fifth Major” as he tries to chase down his first-career TOUR victory. He showed last week playing with Johnson on Saturday and Mickelson on Sunday that the big boys won’t bother him.
Jason Dufner: Dufner had a chance to knock the rust off last week after sitting out The Barclays and finished T18 after stumbling home on Sunday with 74. He finished T18 with THREE doubles last week so he’s wasn’t that far off. He led the field in pars and was T11 in GIR so Dufner should be raring to go this week. He won at Zurich at Pete Dye’s TPC Louisiana in May.
Louis Oosthuizen: Another week where great ball-striking is required and another week of Oosthuizen on the list. I’m a little nervous about his shoulder/pectoral “injury” that was giving him problems on the weekend but he’s playing awfully well “hurt” to ignore! He made three bogeys last week and was first in GIR and if his putting holds up, another top 10 is surely not out of the question. Don’t forget, after his playoff loss to Bubba Watson at the Masters, Oosthuizen flew half-way around the world to win in South-East Asia the following weekend. I’m not sure what “resilient” is in Afrikaner but he’s show that trait before..
Adam Scott: Even though Scott was spotted test-driving a “normal” putter on the putting green at Crooked Stick Tuesday, it looks like he’ll be sticking with the long putter that hasn’t helped him into the winner’s circle yet in 2012. His ball-striking is his meal ticket and this week shouldn’t be any different. The question for Scott will be can he replicate his 66 on Sunday where he holed just 26 putts to gain momentum coming into this week. Remember, 26 putts is a great thing and Scott also finished T11 at Kiawah Island so he’s not adverse to Pete Dye courses.
Lee Westwood: Two tournaments after firing his replacement caddy and short-game coach, Westwood looks like the Westwood of old as he finished T5 at The Barclays and a very solid T13 last week at the DBC. Last week it was his putter that made him jump up the leaderboard as his irons and driving struggled. This week, I would assume we would see the normal, first-class ball striking from the Englishman and if his putter just seldom cooperates, he should be lurking on the weekend.
Bubba Watson: I, like many others, was surprised to see Watson hit a roadblock last week on a course that I thought would suit his game perfectly. Well, it happens but I believe the resilient Watson will rebound this week as the length and second shots of Crooked Stick should fit right into his wheelhouse. Watson seems to play better when the bright lights aren’t shining in his direction and after a MC last week, he’ll play the role of silent assassin again just like he did the week after the U.S. Open.
Brandt Snedeker: His 65-67 last weekend cemented his status as a 2012 Ryder Cup team member and that confidence boost should help him continue his fine run of play this week at Crooked Stick. I’m not leaving off a guy who has finished solo second and solo sixth in the first two playoffs for any reason. Quite a few were on him last week and quite a few more should be backing him as well this week as he has found a nice groove after stinking up the joint (by his standards) after a T3 finish at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Being picked to the Ryder Cup team won’t buoy his chances this week; it will just reinforce his belief of what he was doing.
Five That Could Surprise:
Current FedExCup Playoff rank in parentheses
Bob Estes (62): Estes found himself at five-under after birdying five of his first seven holes last Sunday but he closed with a 38 on the back to finish T42. The vaunted veteran has been in plenty of win-or-go-home tournaments in his life so I wouldn’t expect the pressure to get to him. He did play the 1982 Junior Am here so he has that going for him, which is nice!
S.Y. Noh (38): Another week, another cut made for the young South Korean. Last week, he fired out of the gates with an opening round 62 to lead the tournament. He backed it up with 71-75 which saw him slip down the leaderboard until his 68 on the weekend pushed him back to T13 and another top 25, his 12th of 2012. Not bad for a 21-year old!
Robert Garrigus (31): Well, he has the length part of the game covered and his GIR has superb as well so that mantra fits this week at Crooked Stick. Garrigus, like Westwood, has been all putts and no irons or no putts and all irons. Being on the bubble at No. 31, I think Garrigus will be up to the challenge.
Vijay Singh (49): He’s made eight cuts on the bounce. He’s been in the mix in six of eight of those starts early in the round. Another long putter, another long shot but Vijay has been just close enough for me to believe he could have a big finish and make The TOUR Championship in two weeks at East Lake.
Ryan Moore (35): His last three starts are T37 (Wyndham), T24 Barclays and T10 last week at DBC. Three of his last 12 rounds are over-par. Sneaky…
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: BMW Championship (Glass Picks)
Group 1: Dustin Johnson
Group 2: Justin Rose
Group 3: Jeff Overton
Group 4: J.B. Holmes
*The player in the bunker that August afternoon was none other than Seve Ballesteros. I’ll never forget that display for the rest of my life.
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
Full Disclosure: I am NOT Ned! He’s smarter and better looking!
Steve Stricker-- He rebounded from the T54 at the Barclays with a T13 last week at the Deutsche Bank. I'm picking him based on his play throughout the season and his strong history in the FedExCup Playoffs.
Phil Mickelson-- Mickelson played well in the spring, but was mired in a deep slump in the summer. He broke out of the slump last week with a T4 finish and I think he will continue to play well in the last two Playoff events.
Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald
Dustin Johnson-- I've used all of my starts up with Tiger Woods, so I'm going to try to use a hot player instead of him. Dustin Johnson turn hot at the right time of year with a T3 at The Barclays and a T4 at the Deutsche Bank and he should like the Crooked Stick course.
Lee Westwood- He came into the Playoffs with his last top 10 result being the U.S. Open, but he has turned it up an notch and has looked good the last two weeks (T5 The Barclays, T13 the Deutsche Bank)
Bubba Watson-- Normally, I would put Rory McIlroy in this spot, but I used my last start on him last week. Watson was a surprise cut last week at TPC Boston, but played well in the events before that and he doesn't have to worry about a cut at the BMW.
Brandt Snedeker-- Snedeker found his form in the Playoffs and the second place at the Barclays with last week's sixth place at TPC Boston earned him a selection on this year's Ryder Cup team.
Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Bo Van Pelt, Justin Rose, Geoff Ogilvy
Jason Dufner-- Dufner has played so well this year that something like his final round of 3-over-par 74 at the Deutsche Bank is shocking. I expect him to rebound this week and again to be near the top of the leaderboard.
Louis Oosthuizen-- He looked on his way to a victory last week at the Deutsche Bank, but a muscle pull in his chest led to a couple of wild shots. I'm assuming the minor pull won't come into play this week and he'll continue his hot play from the last couple of months.
Jeff Overton, Padraig Harrington, John Senden, Bud Cauley
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: BMW Championship (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Rory McIlroy
Group 2: Phil Mickelson
Group 3: Jeff Overton
Group 4: Kevin Stadler
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with TheGolfNewsNet.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON ET. They will be breaking down the field at the BMW Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.