Why are scores so low at Medinah?
August 18, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- 67 oif the 69 players in the field at the BMW Championship are under par for the week. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)
MEDINAH, Ill. – On Thursday, Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak tied the course record at Medinah No. 3 with 7-under 65s.
On Friday, Hideki Matsuyama set the new course record with a 63.
On Saturday, Thomas answered back with a 61 to establish the current course record.
We’ll see if it lasts longer than 24 hours.
On a course that has major credentials and a reputation as a brawny brute in this City of Big Shoulders, this week’s PGA TOUR pros have spent the first 54 holes of the BMW Champioship treating Medinah like the local muni you sneak over to in order to boost your confidence.
Of the 69 players in the field, just two are over par for the week (Harold Varner III and Cameron Champ at 1 over). Of the 207 rounds shot thus far, just 28 are over par.
Meanwhile, Thomas leads at 21 under, six shots ahead of Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay. A total of 17 players are at 10 under or better.
Thomas is among the large group of players making their first pro starts at Medinah, which most recently hosted the 2012 Ryder Cup, along with the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships. It’s hosting the BMW Championship for the first time in the FedExCup era.
He’s not surprised the scores are so low.
“It doesn’t matter what golf course it is. You give us soft good greens and soft fairways, we’re going to tear it apart,” Thomas said after his 11-under 61 that included two back-nine eagles. “It’s just how it is.”
Indeed, the conditions this week have essentially left Medinah defenseless. Rainy weather has softened up the course, turning greens into dartboards. The wind on Friday came from a different direction than the first round, throwing a few players off, but for the most part, it has been a non-factor.
When Finau first stepped on the course Tuesday for his first practice round at Medinah, he never expected the birdiefest that has developed.
“I was almost convinced single digit was going to win,” Finau said his 68 on Saturday – his highest score of the week. “It’s a long golf course. I felt like it was going to firm out. Obviously hasn’t firmed out.
“If you would’ve told me somebody would shoot 61 this week, I would have told you that’s a joke.”
So is it strictly the easy conditions? Finau thinks yes.
“The fairways are wider because they’re not bouncing and the greens are bigger – it doesn’t matter the type of spin you put on it, it’s not going very far. Forward or backspin, they’re not going very far.
“When we have our number, we’re trying to hit our number. That’s no calculation …. There’s not that much running through our heads.”
When Tiger Woods won the 1999 PGA at Medinah, he finished at 11 under. Only one other player shot double-digits that week – Sergio Garcia.
When Woods won the PGA again at Medinah in 2006, he finished at 18 under. This time, five other players were at 10 under or better.
So it’s not like Medinah can’t yield a low score. Woods, though, it surprised it’s yielded so many this week.
“Amazing how many guys are under par on this golf course,” he said after his 67 on Saturday. “There isn’t one person over par. Who would’ve guessed that going into this week?
“We all thought this was one of the more tough and bigger ballparks, and the whole field is playing well. There’s normally a few guys that are struggling. Th entire field is playing well is something that we’re all pretty surprised at.
“These greens got a lot of movement to them, still on the quick side. The rough is hide. Can’t get to the green from the rough normally. Somehow guys are figuring out a way to all make birdies.”
And eagles. There have been 30 this week – 19 of those at the 536-yard par-5 fifth, which has played to a stroke average of 0.729 below par. If that number holds up, it would be the fifth easiest hole played this season on the PGA TOUR.
It also helps when you don’t even need a putter. Thomas holed out twice on Saturday, including from 180 yards for eagle at the 16th. Brandt Snedeker also had two hole-outs, both for birdies.
“You have to shoot 7, 8 (under) if you want to move up the leaderboard here,” Snedeker said.
It’ll likely take something better than that to catch Thomas on Sunday. But he knows he’ll need to keep firing at flags if conditions stay the same.
“We all have such great control over our golf ball and we know how far it’s going to go and when we’re hitting it well,” Thomas said. “We know how it’s going to react. When the fairways are that much bigger and you put us in the fairway, I mean, we’re just good.
“You know what I mean?”