Power Rankings: BMW Championship
4 Min Read
Written by Rob Bolton @RobBoltonGolf
And then there were 50.
The FedExCup Playoffs forges forward to Chicagoland for the BMW Championship, the second in the series of three season-ending competitions to determine the winner of the FedExCup. The North Course at Olympia Fields Country Club situated 25 miles south of the city hosts for the second time (2020).
How Olympia Fields will test, what’s on the line and more can be found below the ranking of projected contenders.
Rickie Fowler, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton and Collin Morikawa will be among the notables reviewed in Golfbet Insider. For a read of my Power Rankings for the FedExCup Playoffs, click/tap here.
They can feel the finish from here, and for 24 in the field at the BMW Championship, it’s a familiar experience after having gone through the same just three years ago. Indeed, one shy of one-half of this week’s field pegged it at Olympia Fields in 2020. The top 30 in the FedExCup at the conclusion of the tournament advance to the season-ending TOUR Championship in Atlanta.
It’d be difficult to identify a better match of the slogan of a title sponsor with the prerequisite to prevail on the stock par 70, because one must be an ultimate driving machine just to contend. That said, sheer driving pleasure – inside the ropes – will serve purely in a retroactive capacity in the sense that splitting fairways is the intended outcome, but the expectation for it is tempered. Olympia Fields was the stingiest in fairways hit in all of the 2019-20 season, allowing for an average of just 6.74 (of 14) on average per round.
Given that the course can stretch to 7,366 yards, the full bag will be needed. When precision from tee to green is at a premium, distance plays up, but Olympia Fields is no bomber’s paradise. When it hosted 69 golfers in 2020 (Webb Simpson qualified but rested), the average distance of all drives was a very average 299.3 yards. Meanwhile, both greens in regulation (10.41 per round) and proximity to the hole (38’5”) ranked inside the toughest top 10 among all courses. The greens average just over 5,200 square feet, considerably less than the typical TOUR stop.
With a scoring average of 71.815 in 2020, Olympia Fields was the second-hardest par 70, just behind PGA National’s Champion Course, then host of The Honda Classic. Jon Rahm outlasted Dustin Johnson in a playoff for which “only” 4-under 276 was required to qualify. They were among just five guys who beat par across 72 holes.
All rough, which is all bluegrass, is trimmed to two inches, and the combination Bentgrass-Poa greens are ready to push to 12 feet on the Stimpmeter. Despite considerable rain in recent weeks during what’s been an uncharacteristically severe season in the region, putts project to challenge that distance this week. A mostly dry pattern will take hold midweek and extend throughout. There’s a chance for rain on Thursday but it’s not going to be an all-day event. Daytime highs gradually will rise into the upper 80s by Sunday. As usual, winds will be much more unpredictable, but they’ll influence club selection most during the opening round.
Oh, about that finish line… The par-4 18th stood up for an average of +0.326 strokes to par in 2020, making it the third-most challenging closing hole among 41 that season. It slotted just behind the iconic closer at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge, host of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. So, walking off with an aggregate par for the week on 18 will have meant beating the field.
Once the dust settles, not only with the field of 30 be set for the TOUR Championship, but all of those qualifiers will earn exemptions into the 2024 editions of the Masters, the U.S. Open and The Open Championship. Also, for advancing to the finale, each will be equipped with a two-year membership extension through 2025 if not already eligible. Of course, the 20 who fall short won’t be too unhappy, for they’ve already secured exemptions into all eight Signature Events next year.
There’s also the not-so-insignificant matter of eligibility for the Ryder Cup. The BMW Championship is the last tournament before the top six in Ryder Cup points automatically qualify for the United States squad.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
WEDNESDAY: Golfbet Insider
SUNDAY: Payouts and Points, Qualifiers, Reshuffle
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.
Rob Bolton is a Golfbet columnist for the PGA TOUR. The Chicagoland native has been playing fantasy golf since 1994, so he was just waiting for the Internet to catch up with him. Follow Rob Bolton on Twitter.