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Culp's Corner

BMW Championship Preview

by Josh Culp
Updated On: August 12, 2019, 11:31 am ET

The FedExCup Playoffs move from New Jersey to Chicago this week as the top 70 in the FedExCup prep for the BMW Championship. 

It's kind of amazing that a big market like Chicago doesn't have a regular stop on the schedule but this week's event is where they get the most love. Courses like Cog Hill and Conway Farms are regular stops for this event and now Medinah Country Club will host this year. 

The field is maxed out at 70 golfers, the top 70 in the FEC standings. No invites, no alternates. There will be no cut line to sweat this week with all 70 golfers getting four guaranteed rounds, barring any WDs. 

The Course

Medinah Country Club's Course No. 3 plays the role of host venue this week. We've seen it play host to five major championships over the years, most recent being the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships. Both of them were won by Tiger Woods. It also hosted the 2012 Ryder Cup which saw Team Europe win 14.5 to 13.5 over Team USA. 

The first thing that everyone will notice this week is the yardage. The scorecard reads 7,613 yards and it plays as a par 72. As we'll hear in the quotes section below, it actually plays a little shorter than the yardage would indicate. It has more less-than-driver tendencies than you would imagine for a course of this length. 

A lot of that yardage is taken up by three of the par 5s which stretch out past 575 yards (two of them are 605+). As for the par 4s, most of them (5) fall in the 410 to 450 range (mid-range). Those par 5s become three-shot wedge holes for most but for the par 4s most golfers will be putting mid-irons into their hands this week. A nice break from all the wedge-heavy courses we see over the summer. 

For anyone that watched the 2012 Ryder Cup they probably remember this course being generous off the tee with wide fairways and not much rough. That was a course setup decision made by the Americans that week but for the BMW Championship the rough is prepped at 4 inches if you miss the first cut which is very playable but only a yard-and-a-half wide. 

Sounds extremely tough so how will the golfers score? Well, it's summer in the Midwest which means humidity which means the greens will need to be heavily watered. I would expect the greens to be pretty receptive to help keep the scoring somewhat low. That will be especially true in the first round or two when the course is trying to recover from pre-tournament rain. More on that in the weather section. 

For hazards, golfers will see three water hazards that come into play on 3-to-5 holes. The fairways are tree-lined which can cause some havoc, as well. To me that sounds like a lot of bogeys but not a lot of doubles or worse. If I had to peg a field scoring average I would guess it falls somewhere in the 71.25 to 72 range by week's end (easier than that to start the week but tougher over the weekend). 

The greens average just 4,800 square feet which is definitely on the small side of the spectrum. Those bentgrass greens will be prepped to run at 11.5 to 12 feet on the stimp which is right around TOUR average. 


Course Quotes

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

Luke Donald: "I think with the way the holes dogleg, some of them, it takes driver out of your hand on some holes. I think I used a driver maybe six or seven times today. For a course that’s 7,500, there’s a lot of par 4s out there, you’re not hitting driver, you’re hitting 3 wood or 2 iron the way the holes angle. I really don’t think length is a huge factor. "

Jim Furyk: "You know, the fairways were chasing a little bit. The golf course didn’t seem overly long even though on the card it says 7,560."

Tiger Woods: "I’m not going to hit that many drivers because it won’t really allow me to. Most of the holes are doglegged. Obviously I’d have to take driver up over the top of these tall trees, and it doesn’t make any sense. Yeah, I’m going to use it a few times, definitely.

But overall, just like it was back in ’99, I hit just a bunch of 2 irons and a bunch of 3 woods here. Just because that’s the way the golf course allowed you to play. You play to a lot of the corners and obviously fire from there. If you try to take on a lot of the corners or shape the ball around the corner, yeah, you can, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do."

Geoff Ogilvy"Here it’s probably keep it out of the rough. Fairway bunkers are probably a good spot to be in a lot of situations. There’s a lot of overhanging trees, a lot of holes where you can be on the fairways like you can hit the left hand side of 16 and be on the fairway and have no shot. You want to just work out what sides of what fairways to be on and go from there because there’s a lot of spots off the tee that you get up there and they’re not very good, and there’s a lot of spots that appear bad that are actually pretty good spots. That’s what I look for, just to make the second shot as easy as possible, and that generally makes the rest of the hole play easier. Sometimes that’s a long drive; sometimes that’s a short one. "

Lucas Glover: "The majority of the length comes from the long par 3s, and the long par 5s. And then the long par 4s always seem like you’re landing it on a downslope; for instance, No. 12, that’s like 475 or something and it runs, and you hit the fairway, I can’t seem to do that. If you get it on that left side it runs down."

Overview: I chose to ignore most of the quotes from the 2012 Ryder Cup because they mostly talked about the lack of rough. That won't be the case this week as the rough is prepped at 4 inches or longer. The highight was golfers talking about the length not being a big deal and also taking less club off a lot of the par 4s. 

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: 

Torrey Pines (The Farmers)
Riviera (Genesis Open)
Firestone (previously WGC)
Innisbrook's Copperhead Course (Valspar)
TPC Twin Cities (3M Open)
Quail Hollow (Wells Fargo)

The primary target this week was finding courses that aligned from par-adjusted yardage. When you combine that with visuals, Innisbrook really stood out for me, but of course those greens are overseeded bermuda while we have creeping bentgrass this week. You're rarely going to find correlated courses that check every box but this combination of courses should give us a good feel for the type of players that should succeed this week. 


The Weather

Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high near 79 degrees. Winds at 4 to 10 MPH. 

Friday: Partly sunny with a high near 81 degrees. Winds at 5 to 9 MPH. 

It looks like we are avoiding extreme heat this week but the course may be soaked in the lead-up with plenty of rain in the early-week forecast. Look for the easiest scoring conditions to be on Thursday and gradually get harder as the course firms up. 

Josh Culp
Josh Culp joined Rotoworld in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.