Leg two of the FedExCup Playoffs, the BMW Championship, takes the PGA TOUR to Baltimore for the first time since 1964. While locals will be relishing the return, fantasy players are rolling their eyes. The other way of reframing the opening sentence is that gamers have zero course form to peruse. More on that shortly as the opening jolt of apparent bad news can be tempered somewhat. The constant this week in relation to past BMWs is that once again the field size is just 70 having been cut to 125 after THE NORTHERN TRUST which was forced into a Monday finish due to bad weather.
This is the last-chance saloon for those wanting to make the season-ending TOUR Championship at East Lake. Some have already punched their tickets but there are plenty scrambling to get inside the top 30 who will head to Atlanta. After the latest format tinker, there’s every incentive for the leading players to qualify in as high a position as possible. The FedExCup points leader after the BMW will begin the TOUR Championship at 10-under, No.2 at 8-under, No.3 at 7-under, No.4 at 6-under, No.5 at 5-under, 6-10th at 4-under, 11-15th at 2-under, 16-20th at 1-under and 26-30th at Evens. Right now, the man who occupies top spot is Tony Finau after his long wait for a win ended at THE NORTHERN TRUST.
Caves Valley Golf Club
First, the basics. Cave Valley Golf Club is a 7,542-yard par 72 with Bentgrass greens that opened in 1991. It’s a Tom Fazio design that has had a recent renovation: the outcome was more length, some new bunkers, a little extra rough in places and the two nines being switched. Those who know it have described Caves Valley as a ‘big property’.
Is length a key factor this week therefore? This is where we can dig up that past course form. Caves Valley staged the 2002 U.S. Senior Open (Don Pooley pipping Tom Watson) but, of more relevance, is its staging of the 2017 Constellation Senior PLAYERS Championship. That event was won by big-hitting Scott McCarron (-18), with Bernhard Langer taking second spot alongside Brandt Jobe. A check of the Driving Distance stats from that season shows McCarron in third and Jobe fourth. Even Langer was 24th for DD in 2017.
After the stormy weather in New Jersey caused huge disruption, the forecast for Caves Valley Golf Club in Owing Mills is far more agreeable. We have plenty of sun each day and, typically, temperatures build as the golfing day goes on, hitting the mid-90s in mid-to-late afternoon. Winds look minimal.
Past Champions at the BMW
Obviously, there are no past winners of this event at Caves Valley which rather dilutes this section of the preview. But the Seniors win for McCarron at least offers some guidance.
Looking at BMW history, Illinois has staged nine of the 14 editions, starting with a win for Tiger Woods at Cog Hill in 2007. In terms of some location form, the nearest BMW to Caves Valley came when the tournament took place at Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania. Keegan Bradley won that one after defeating Justin Rose in a playoff.
As for the caliber of champion, 11 of the 14 winners of this event have won a major. Note that four of those hadn’t won one at the time, including Jon Rahm last year. Scores of 20-25 under had won the previous five editions before Rahm ousted Dustin Johnson in a playoff last year after both had shot just 4-under in ultra-tough conditions at Olympia Fields in Illinois.
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Jon Rahm ($11,700) Rahm had a golden chance to win at Liberty National but couldn’t convert when two clear on the final nine. “I haven’t been able to digest it. My (new) son put a smile on my face so at least I’m not in a terrible mood,” was Rahm’s knee-jerk take after settling for tied third. In the cold light of day, let’s note that the Spaniard was over par on just four holes for the week and is fresher than most after taking a month off before pegging it up at THE NORTHERN TRUST. In short, keep him onside.
Tony Finau ($9,800) At last! Five years on from his first PGA TOUR win, Finau has another and I’m more than happy to ride the hot horse. Given the Monday finish, Finau won’t have time to process his achievement and auto-pilot golf may serve him perfectly. The course looks a good fit and a brief study of FedExCup Playoffs history shows that back-to-back wins are far from uncommon.
Patrick Cantlay ($9,200) Cantlay brings consistency combined with a realistic shot at the jackpot. A par 72 with Bentgrass greens is right in Cantlay’s wheelhouse and there’s every reason to expect he makes it five top-15s in his last six starts on American turf. The Californian has seven straight rounds in the 60s after shooting four sub-70 laps for T11 at THE NORTHERN TRUST.
Jason Kokrak ($7,800) He’s now missed back-to-back cuts after crashing out early at the Wyndham and Liberty National but it’s only just over a month ago that he was posting T-26 at the Open and late May that he landed his second win of the campaign. Kokrak fits the profile this week: a big hitter (20th DD) who putts well (8th SG: Putting). At 17th in the FedExCup standings, he knows a push is needed to give himself a better starting position in Atlanta.
Charley Hoffman ($7,000) One of the bubble boys. The Hof is 29th in the FedExCup standings so has almost no wriggle room with only the top 30 punching their tickets to the season closer. A big hitter, who can roll his rock, he’s been given an ideal course on which to cement his position. Middle rounds of 65-65 at Liberty National confirm his game is in a good place and he’s had bunch of top 20s this season so snap him up. A great pick to balance a lineup.
Brooks Koepka ($10,200) Of the elite players, the one I want to swerve most is Koepka. He’s had to settle for T-54 at St. Jude (former winner there) and T-31 at THE NORTHERN TRUST on his last two starts and lost strokes with the putter on both occasions. His approach play is also a grade or two down from usual and this FedExCup money-grab just doesn’t appear to float his boat as much as the majors do.
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Justin Thomas ($10,600) JT is in strong position (5th) ahead of the Atlanta re-draw but he’s still carrying a sense of disappointment over his performances this year. The good news is that the search for better is fueling a late-season push and, though far from perfect, last week’s T-5 at Liberty National contained some good signs. Note, he won his major (2017 PGA Championship) at Fazio’s Quail Hollow so there could be another angle there. We’re making an intelligent guess but this Fazio track certainly looks a good fit.
Scottie Scheffler ($8,900) I’ll continue to play the big hitters and take Scheffler. The Texan shot a 60 in the Playoffs last season and he’s sprinkled this campaign with a series of points-scoring highs, including a trio of top-10s in the majors. He’s slipped below the $9,000 salary mark due probably to a modest T-43 at THE NORTHERN TRUST but that was just his second finish outside the top 15 in seven starts. Abraham Ancer got it done recently so maybe it’s time for Scheffler’s first win.
Abraham Ancer ($8,700) Speaking of Ancer… he may be going a little unloved this week, with a perception that he’s had his big moment in the sun and is now breathing out (T-64 at Liberty National). But although TPC Southwind (scene of his St. Jude win) clearly suited him, he’s capable of scoring well here too. The Mexican cracked the top four on his only other previous start in Maryland (Quicken Loans National) and his latest 11 starts show a win and four other top-10s.
Lee Westwood ($6,800) Westwood is one of those on the outside looking in and needs to jump 16 spots in the FedExCup standings to join the party. But he’s capable of it. Those back-to-back second places in Florida were a while ago now but his tee-to-green numbers went up a notch at Liberty National (middle rounds of 65-68) and, even if he can’t quite crack the top 30, the Englishman can prove a useful addition at sub-$7,000.
Stewart Cink ($6,600) Cink hasn’t reached the dizzy heights of his runaway victory at Hilton Head in recent months. But he’s been steady enough and stepped it up with T-21 at The NORTHERN TRUST. He’s a two-time winner this season, ranks 30th in Driving Distance and comes in with a hot putter: he was 2nd for SG: Putting last week on similar Bentgrass greens. The 48-year-old is 19th in the FedExCup race so what’s not to like at the price?
Bryson DeChambeau ($9,300) We can only go off the numbers and, bottom line, DeChambeau has just one top-15 in his last nine starts. That’s not the form of an elite player and while guessing why (spat with Brooks? poor putting? weight loss?) is an interesting parlor game, it’s ultimately not important to fantasy players. Bryson isn’t justifying these sorts of salaries right now.
Big hitting tends to do well on most PGA TOUR courses and that should be the case here. It’s a lengthy track and McCarron’s win at Caves Valley in 2017 offers a nice back-up clue. Current form has to be the other main weapon at our disposal but don’t fall into the trap of making it too short-term. Anyone can have a bad week.
Other Player Options For The BMW Championship
• Hideki Matsuyama hasn’t shot over 70 in his last five events and claimed a second and a third in August.
• Corey Conners banked T-8 last week to make it three top-15s in four starts. His ball-striking numbers are hard to ignore.
• Keegan Bradley is 32nd in the FedExCup so two places shy of advancing. Add T-11 at Liberty National to that incentive.
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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