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The BMW Championship Preview
Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, IN is the site for the penultimate stop in the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs, the BMW Championship. Crooked Stick last hosted this event back in 2012, when Rory McIlroy carved up a rain soaked track in impressive fashion. This was the only time CSGC hosted this event, so there isn't much course history to look over this week. For that reason, I will be looking more at recent form and skill sets that will suit this very long course. There aren't any cuts to worry about this week, as all golfers will play four rounds if they don't withdraw for any reason. The top 30 players in FEC points after this weekend will qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake. Crooked Stick is one of seven Pete Dye designed courses on the PGA Tour this season, and he had some help from his wife Alice on what they consider their most precious design. I'll discuss the par 5's in the key stats section, but there are also a ton of long par 3's and 4's, so players with a strong long iron game and length will be at a huge advantage.
Key Stats For Crooked Stick
Crooked Stick Golf Club is a beast from the tips, measuring just under 7,600 yards, and with the recent wet conditions in the area recently, it's going to play that much longer. For that reason, I'm targeting the bombers and looking at driving distance (DD) as my first key stat. Back in 2012, Rory McIlroy was the champion, with fellow bombers Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott coming T6. Seven players that finished T10 or better also finished that season inside the top 40 in DD. With the spacious fairways, were going to see a lot of guys just grip it and rip it this week. The winning score for Rory in 2012 was -20, and I expect the wet, easy conditions to yield low scores again, so I want players who are going to rack up birdies, and maybe an eagle or two. Birdie or better percentage (BoB%) would be the one stat of them all I would single out as the most important this week. With the no cut, finishing position won't be as important this week as piling up birdies. Every player inside the top 10 but two in 2012 also finished that season inside the top 25 in BoB%, with five inside the top 10. Finally, with four par 5's on the course, two of which reachable in two for even the shorter hitters, par 5 scoring (P5S) was the final key stat I honed in on. Seven players who finished T10 or better back in 2012 also finished that season inside the top 25 in P5S. Some secondary stats that also stuck out to me were strokes gained approach and strokes gained tee to green.
Top Pin Seekers
Rory McIlroy - DK Salary $11,900 - When the course is long and wet, fire up Rory with confidence. I don't expect him to gain 5.301 strokes with the putter like he did last week, but he won't have to putt the lights out to be in contention this week. He has three top 5's in his last five starts, including the win last week, so he's in peak form heading into the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup. He's ranked 1st in both P5S & BoB%, and 10th in DD,. along with being the best player on Bentgrass since 2014. His ownership will be around 20% this week, as I expect Jason Day to actually have lower ownership than both Rory and Dustin Johnson.
Dustin Johnson - DK Salary $11,300 - DJ just continues to put on a stripe show every week, and he should be able to attack this course with his driver. He gained almost six strokes off the tee on the field last week, and if he repeats that this week, he will most definitely be in the mix again on Sunday. He has a ridiculous seven top 10's in his last nine starts, and came 6th here back in 2012. He's 1st in DD, 2nd in BoB%, & 10th in P5S. To top that off, he's also 6th in eagle average, 2nd in strokes gained off the tee, and 27th in strokes gained approach. Fire DJ up with confidence this week.
Jordan Spieth - DK Salary $10,500 - I can't stop going to the Spieth well now, as I still think he's going to win one of these last two events. He needs to clean up his game off the tee, but if he can find something on the range this week, I expect him to pair up a great ball striking round with a hot putting round sooner than later. Eight of his last twelve competitive rounds have been in the 60's, and he's 37th in strokes gained off the tee on the season despite his recent struggles. He's also ranked in the top in P5S & BoB%, so I will be banking on a good ball striking week mixed with some of the great putting that has him ranked 3rd in strokes gained putting.
Adam Scott - DK Salary $10,200 - Like last week, Scott comes in at a very reasonable price at a course that is tailor made for this game. He came 6th here in 2012, and is ranked in the top 15 in all three key stats. He's also ranked 1st in strokes gained approach, and gained a ridiculous 5.585 strokes on approach last week. He has back to back 4th place finishes, and if you're playing cash games this week, this is a good place to start.
Middle Tee Plays
Hideki Matsuyama - DK Salary $9,100 - We have a lot of familiar faces in the middle tee plays this week, starting off with the tee to green master. The stats for Hideki are impressive as usual, 4th in strokes gained off the tee and 7th in strokes gained approach, both of which will suit him well at Crooked Stick. He's ranked 7th in BoB%, and is in good form with a 3rd, 4th and 15th in his last four starts.
Rickie Fowler - DK Salary $8,900 - Great price for Rickie, who is a very good player on bentgrass, and is ranked in the top 35 in all three key stats. His tee to green game is on point, ranked 16th in strokes gained off the tee and 41st in strokes gained approach.
Bubba Watson - DK Salary $8,600 - Bubba has been very frustrating lately, but for this price and no cut, I can't not play him. Before the missed cut last week he had three straight top 25's, but his putting has been crushing him. All of the other stats look good, but the 163rd in strokes gained putting has been a glaring weakness. He's in the top 5 in strokes gained off the tee, DD & P5S, and 27th in BoB%. He's also done very well on par 72 and Pete Dye layouts, and 6th in eagle average, so this is the week to get back on the Bubba train.
Paul Casey - DK Salary $8,300 - Casey didn't have a great Sunday holding the lead at the Deutsche Bank, letting Rory slip by him while finishing in 2nd. Casey's game looks really good right now in all facets, and he's got one of the better track records on Pete Dye courses. He's in the top 25 in strokes gained off the tee and approach, and is in good form.
Matt Kuchar - DK Salary $8,200 - The Pete Dye goat might be running out of gas after playing a ton of golf this season. He's still ranked in the top 50 in BoB% & P5S, and only Jason Day has gained more strokes on the field at Pete Dye tracks since 2013.
GPP Dart Board Dreams
Tony Finau - DK Salary $7,600 - Not much to say here, other than it's a bombers track on bentgrass, a green light for Finau always. He's in great form with three straight top 25's, and is ranked in the top 25 in DD & P5S. Great for cash games and tournaments.
Branden Grace - DK Salary $7,400 - Grcae has been a very frustrating player lately, crushing it tee to green but not scoring well. I liked that I saw Sunday as he closed with a 66, and started holing some putts. He's long enough off the tee, and is ranked in the top 40 in strokes gained off the tee and approach. This is just too cheap a price for a guy that can win anywhere.
Charl Schwartzel - DK Salary $7,300 - Auto cash games play, and a scary fade in tournaments as he will be highly owned and in a great position to do well. 7th in strokes gained approach and solid all around game. Priced way too low for his talent.
Justin Thomas - DK Salary $7,300 - Great price, crushes par 5's, and has a great track record on Pete Dye tracks. Two top 10's in his last four starts, and ranked in the top 40 in all three key stats. 18th in strokes gained approach
Ryan Palmer - DK Salary $6,800 - Lost 5.33 strokes on the greens last week, which is atrocious, but not surprising at all. Ranked in the top 15 in all three key stats, and 7th in strokes gained off the tee. If he ever has a hot putting week a top 10 is a mortal lock, and for this price, I'm in this week. Not to mention, he's the top value play on the Colossus Optimizer.
Kevin Na - DK Salary $6,800 - It looks as though Na, will be back this week, and this price is just flat out disrespectful! 4th in strokes gained approach and 20th in BoB%. In great form, and just had a baby so there could be a narrative to talk ourselves into.