BMW Championship Betting Preview

The 17th tee at Conway Farms. (Courtesy: lefty42 at Toronto Golf Nuts)

The 17th tee at Conway Farms. (Courtesy: lefty42 at Toronto Golf Nuts)

The PGA Tour heads to a new course this week for the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, as Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Illinois plays host to the 2013 BMW Championship.
 
2013 BMW Championship Fact Sheet

  • Course: Conway Farms Golf Club
  • Location: Lake Forest, Illinois
  • Yardage: 7,149 yards, par 71
  • Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Friday – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)
  • Sunday – 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 1:30 PM to 6:00 PM ET (NBC)

Key Storyline This Week
 
The continuation of the FedEx Cup is the big storyline, as there’s only two events left before the $10 million first place prize is claimed. With his win two weeks ago, Henrik Stenson overtook Tiger Woods for the number one spot, something which would have seemed crazy about a month ago, but Stenson’s consistent play has kept him near the top of the rankings all season and that win was enough to get him over the hump. Canadian Graham DeLaet was the other big mover from the Deutsche Bank, as he jumped into 5th place, making him by far the most anonymous player inside the upper ranks. When he tees off on Thursday, he’ll be paired with Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson.
 
With only 70 players in the field, the entry list is long on talent and good form. Only the top-30 will be advancing to next week’s Tour Championship, so some big names will need to play well to get into the final event of the 2013 season. The scenarios suggest that the guys inside the top-19 right now are likely to advance, but the below list is just some of the guys who will need to play well this week to move on:

  • Webb Simpson
  • Dustin Johnson
  • Sergio Garcia
  • Zach Johnson
  • Charl Schwartzel
  • Lee Westwood
  • Rickie Fowler
  • Bubba Watson
  • Rory McIlroy
  • Graeme McDowell
  • Ian Poulter
  • Luke Donald
  • Angel Cabrera
  • Ernie Els

Conway Farms Golf Club
 
As mentioned above, Conway Farms is completely new to the PGA Tour schedule, so it’s pretty difficult to get a read on how the course is going to play. The Tom Fazio design was opened in August of 1991, and at points can apparently play like two completely different courses. Many holes are tree-lined, giving it the feel of a standard American golf course, but others are completely open and contain tons of fescue, which will make it seem like the players are teeing it up at an Open Championship venue. Two drivable par-4’s are on the layout, and the par-5’s should all be reachable in two shots, save for maybe the 600-yard 8th, and that includes the 570-yard 18th, which could lead to some drama in the closing stages of Sunday’s final round.
 
Thoughts On The Favourites

  • Tiger Woods: Finished tied for 65th at the Deutsche Bank and lost that number one spot to Stenson in the FedEx Cup, but he remains the favourite for the obvious reason that he’s the best player in the field. Keep in mind that Tiger is a severe creature of habit, and he rarely wins on courses that he sees for the first time, at least recently.
  • Henrik Stenson: Coming off of the win at the Deutsche Bank, Stenson is probably the hottest player in the game right now, as the victory gave him his fifth top-3 finish in six events. Pulling off back-to-back wins is insanely difficult though, so expecting Stenson to do that would be a tall task, especially considering that he’s never played the course.
  • Adam Scott: Scott was never a factor two weeks ago at the Deutsche Bank after winning the Barclays, but that’s not a huge surprise. For as much talent as Scott has, he’s not the most consistent player out there. I would expect a slight bounce back here though, as the thought process is that the players will be able to score here this week, and few can go as low as Scott.
  • Phil Mickelson: Speaking of inconsistency, Mickelson was and still is the king of it. His spot in the Tour Championship next week is pretty much secure, so I don’t think he has to worry too much about that, so his all-out mentality shouldn’t change much. He could win this week or finish last, and realistically, neither would surprise me.
  • Justin Rose: Rose has had one round above 72 since the Open Championship, and that came in his uncharacteristic blow up 77 in the third round of the PGA, so he’s in a good spot at the moment. Few players can adjust to a course quicker than Rose, so I don’t think the lack of time at Conway is going to pose a problem. It’s also worth noting that he won his last tournament in the Illinois area, which was this event two years ago at Cog Hill.

Suggested Plays
 
Justin Rose (Best Odds 21-1 at BETDAQ)
Taking Rose for all of the reasons mentioned above. I think he’s ready for his first win since triumphing at Merion.
 
Rory McIlroy (Best Odds 22-1 at Stan James)
I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but he’s playing much better in recent weeks and for the first time all year, he’s seemingly flying under the radar. He needs to play well to move on to the Tour Championship, so that might push him a little bit. Remember that outside of Tiger, there’s no one in the field who has more talent.
 
Sergio Garcia (Best Odds 43-1 at BETDAQ)
Sergio played well at the Deutsche Bank before a Sunday blow up cost him the win, but he still ended up in a tie for 4th place, so there is some good form here. Much like Rose, Sergio is usually very quick to adjust to new courses and there are very few players out there who are smarter with course management than him. At around 40-1, there’s tremendous value here.
 
Luke Donald (Best Odds 51-1 at Betfair)
The tough season for Donald continued yesterday, as he made the tough decision to fire his long-time coach and friend Pat Goss, replacing him with Chuck Cook. Goss and Donald go back to Donald’s days at Northwestern, and Goss has been the only coach the former world number one has had since turning pro. Cook was actually referred by Sean Foley, who Donald approached originally, but Foley said that he didn’t think he had the time with the rest of his clients all needing attention as well.
 
So, why Donald this week considering all that is going on? Conway Farms is his home course, and he knows it better than anyone in the field this week, so I’m willing to take a chance at this kind of price. It’s not a guarantee that it’ll work out, as we saw with Phil Mickelson at the Barclays a few weeks ago, but we’re getting good value here on a player who is simply too good to keep playing like this.
 
Ian Poulter (Best Odds 52-1 at BETDAQ)
We almost cashed on Poulter a couple of weeks ago at the Deutsche Bank, and his play vaulted him into this tournament, but he’ll need another good week to get into the Tour Championship. He’s a streaky player, so I’m hoping his good form carries over, but I am slightly concerned about the extra week off in between tournaments.
 
Charles Howell III (Best Odds 270-1 at BETDAQ)
Howell’s my dartboard pick of the week, and it’s really just based on his ability at this kind of price. Howell will always be one of the better ball strikers in the field, so at 270-1, he’s definitely worth a shot.

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