So after a week off, the 70 players who progressed to the third stage of the FedEx Cup play-offs will return to action, at the BMW Championship, hosted for the first time by Conway Farms Golf Club, in Lake Forest, Illinois. The golf club itself has only hosted a few events in the past, so there is little to go by in terms of course form this week. So far the Tom Fazio designed course has hosted the 2008 US Sectional Qualifier and the 2012 Mid-Amateur Championship, but apart from that it’s been limited to Junior and NCCA events, so the club itself will be keen to make a good first impression here this week.
To recap recent events, the latest of the play-off champions is Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who won the Deutsche Bank Championship last time out. Stenson has been playing incredible golf over the past few months, and this was nothing more than he deserved. Coming into this week, not only are players playing for survival, in order to make the season-ending Tour Championship field, but some are playing for the chance to just finish their season on a positive note. Notable players without a win in 2013 include two-time major champion, and World N0.2 Rory Mcilroy, former World No.1 Luke Donald, 2012 Masters Champion Bubba Watson, and 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley, and all four will be looking to put that right this week. One player in particular will be hoping for a big week, and that’s Luke Donald as he plays at his home course this week. Donald is a member here at Conway Farms and is permanently based in Chicago, so not only should he feel right at home, but he also has the edge over the field, when it comes to course knowledge.
There are of course others who can look back at the season and be disappointed with how they’ve performed, but this is of course another chance for them to prove just how good of a player they are, and we all know that one good event can give you the confidence to continue. Ending the 2013 season on a high note is not only important to look back on, but momentum is also key, as the 2014 season starts on October 10th at the Frys.com Open. Players should always have enough enthusiasm to win, but all these factors only add to that, and the prize money, well that’s just another matter. In summary this week as important as the players battle to make the 30-man field at East Lake next week. Let’s look at how the course shapes up, and who may be suited to win here at Conway Farms Golf Club.
The Course: Conway Farms Golf Club, Par 71, 7,216 yards. Although there are no real clues as to what to expect this week, we can draw on comments from others, as well as a course guide posted on the club’s official website. Here’s the link to the hole-hole guide http://www.conwayfarmsgolfclub.org/The-Course/Hole-1-259.html this should give you a rough idea of the layout and design. More significant in my opinion is quotes from players who have first hand experience of the course. Mark Wilson, who won’t be playing this week said “Whenever I play there, the wind’s blowing and it makes it pretty tough.” As mentioned previously Luke Donald is a member here and he had this to say “If you’re in the fescue, you’re probably not going to find your ball, but like any golf course, hit fairways, hit greens and make putts. That’s usually a pretty good recipe for success.” Obviously we all know that if you can find the fairway, hit greens and make putts you can win a golf tournament, we don’t need Luke Donald to tell us that, however the fact he didn’t focus on one specific aspect suggests that an all-round good game may well get you the win here, rather than just one big factor. I found Mark Wilson’s quote more helpful, as it suggests that if the wind gets up, players who play well in those conditions may well have an advantage. Further confirmation of this is the quote from the golf club’s official website that reads ” The Tom Fazio award-wining course sits on 209 acres in Lake Forest, Illinois and is designed around the traditions of Scottish links golf.” Good links players can often deal with windy conditions so looking at form on links golf may not be a bad idea.
This is as tough as it gets in terms of finding a winner, with no course form to go by it’s difficult to find someone who has a better chance than most, unlike other weeks where you can often find players who consistently play well at the venue in question. With that in mind, current form could be more significant than ever, as players will have to carry over the positive mentality ahead of a fresh challenge. Players based in the Illinois area will look to perform well in their own backyard, and may settle quicker than others. I have decided to rule out, out-of-form players, as we whereas we’ve seen in the past a course can bring the best out of a player even in a slump, it’s unlikely that’s going to happen a course where they’ve never played before. To cut it short, in-form players should be at the forefront of your mind this week, and big prices may not seem as appealing as they would on different stops on the PGA schedule. With all of the above in mind, here are my picks for the 2013 BMW Championship.
Jordan Spieth 30/1 (BoylesSports) 2pts e/w: Jordan Spieth fits the bill yet again this week. Confidence is high, his game is in great shape, and he’s most certainly keeping up good form. After a less than impressive third round at the Deutsche Bank, Speith managed to bounce back with a final round of -9 to play his way into the top-5 once again! His last three events finished as followed, 2nd at the Wyndham Championship, T19 Barclays and T4 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, and this is good for anybody, let alone a 20-year old playing in his first season. Spieth has already won this year, and that on top of all his other good play has not gone unnoticed. U.S.A’s President’s Cup captain Fred Couples picked Spieth as one of his wildcard selections alongside Webb Simpson, showing just how good this guy is. Jim Furyk has a superb President’s Cup record, and has also been in fine form himself, so for Spieth to be picked ahead of him, shows just how much faith people have in his game. This is up there with the best rookie seasons of all time, and it’s hard to see that coming to an end here at the BMW Championship.
Graeme DeLaet 40/1 (General) 2pts e/w: Did I say in-form players? Well apart from possibly Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods, this man has been putting together an absolutely superb season, finishing in the top-10 no fewer than seven times. What’s even more alarming is that DeLaet sits 5th in the FedEx Cup Playoff Points without a win, with Steve Stricker the only other person inside the top-10 (8th) without a victory. Not only has he played really well throughout the year, but his last two efforts, both in this FedEx Cup run, have resulted in a T2 and 3rd place finish. To me he is as deserving as any now in 2013, to go on and get his win, and the confidence he can take from recent weeks, as well as the good news that he did enough to propel himself into the International President’s Cup might just be enough to get him over that winning line. For me at 40/1 he is absolutely superb value considering his current form, similar to that of Billy Horschel’s before he got his win at the Zurich Classic earlier in the year. He’s never won on the PGA Tour and considering the way he’s currently playing this may just be his best chance of doing so. As he’s currently sitting 3rd in Greens in Regulation and 28th in Driving Accuracy, he now tops the rankings in Ball Striking and these are all just more positive things going around in the Canadian’s head as well as his game.
Luke Donald 40/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w: Luke Donald is one of the players, as mentioned above who will, without a doubt be disappointed with his 2013 season. He has had seven wins worldwide since 2011, and you have to go back to 2009 for a year where Donald went without a victory, so he’d love to keep it that way by winning in Illinois this week. This is as mentioned Donald’s home course, and as a member he will be wanting to step up and show the rest of the field how it’s done at Conway Farms, en route to a well need victory. Yes he’s not in the best of form, which contradicts what I mentioned when looking for a winner, but at 40/1 I thought he was a fair price considering his course knowledge, compared to the rest of the field and the positive signs he showed last time out. He finished the Deutsche Bank strongly and although he wasn’t in contention it was good to play the weekend well, giving him confidence ahead of this week. I really do feel that, given the obvious quality Donald has as a player, he can take the home advantage into his stride and get the win he will so desperately be looking for. If this was at a different venue, it’s unlikely Donald would feature in my plans, but I just feel it’s the perfect course at the perfect time for him and I’m happy to take a chance at 40/1. Another note, if you want to read into the quote from the club’s website saying the course is based on “the traditions of Scottish links golf” then it’s worth noting that Donald is a previous winner of the Scottish Open.
Nick Watney 110/1 (Bet365) 0.5 pts e/w: I have been avoiding Nick Watney week in/week out for a large portion of this season, as he’s clearly been struggling, but after parting ways with former coach Butch Harmon and joining up with Todd Anderson he has enjoyed two very solid weeks, back-to-back at both the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank, his last two events. It’s not clear whether Watney was struggling because of Harmon directly, or whether he just needed to make a change, but since he has, he’s played well again, and for a 5-time PGA Tour winner I’m happy to back him at 110/1. Watney is very much a player who can win from anywhere, as he did in these play-offs 12 months ago, last time at the Barclays, and considering his recent change in form his 110/1 price seems fair. T9 at the Barclays, plus his T35 last time out at the Deutsche Bank would suggest he’s on the ascendency and this might be the time to get on him. He finished in the top-10 with a -8 score three weeks ago, he then shot -9 a week later and although that was only good enough for 35th he’s still making good scores and I’m hoping that continues here in Illinois. He has made the Tour Championship field in his last three attempts and he will be looking to do so again, needing to rise four spots in the rankings to do so. For whatever reason Watney seems to come alive in stages and he’ll be hoping to continue that here at Conway Farms.
KLM Open Tips
Joost Luiten 20/1 (General) 3pts win:
I’ve gone for the home boy this week Joost Luiten as he plays his National Open. The Dutchman already has a win to his name this season, and will also have fond memories of this course. When playing here as an amateur back in 2007, Luiten finished 2nd, 1 shot behind eventual winner Ross Fisher. Since then Luiten has turned pro, won two events as well as finishing in the top-10 four times, just this season. If he can build on what he did at Kennemer Golf & Country Club back in 07′ there’s no reason why he can’t win. Yes he’s 20/1 but for good reason, he’s near the top of the market each week on Tour, and playing in front of his home crowd may just spur him on to get his 2nd win of the year, and the third of his career.
Marc Warren 66/1 (General) 1pt e/w:
Many thought that Marc Warren’s season could turn from good to absolutely superb after finishing T12 at the PGA Championship, however since then he’s missed three straight cuts, not what he would of had in mind. This current form reflects in his price and I’m simply taking a chance that Warren can come out the other side of current form and once again find whatever he found, when finishing T4 at this course in 2007. At 66/1 in this field he was worth a second look considering that good past showing and I’m going to take a chance on him here at the KLM Open.
JB Hansen 125/1 (Bet365, BetVictor, Ladbrokes, WilliamHill) 0.5pts e/w:
A speculative pick at a reasonable price for me this week, in the form of JB Hansen, and I’m basing it on his good performances at both the Scottish Open and the Russian Open. Apart from those two events, which came back-to-back, Hansen has missed the cut in his other four starts, but I do feel this could be a course that suits. As the course has a links type feel, it could prompt him back into form and hopefully he draws some confidence from the Scottish Open.
Total Points Staked this week: 18
Profit/Loss for 2013: + 34.5
Looking at the leaderboard going into the weekend last week at the European Masters, we could of been in for a really exciting week, with Miguel Angel Jimenez, and Brett Rumford both playing themselves right into contention, however it was not to be. Jimenez was really disappointing especially, considering his love for the course, and I fully expected him to kick on over the weekend. This week we are back in America and therefore have two tournaments too find a winner in, and it would be nice if we could find one in both. We really are overdue a winner, and although Jimenez finishing T5 last week softened the blow we still finished in the red last week and it’s something that needs to change. I am fully confident as ever of finding a winner before the 2013 season is up, and this week would be a great time to do it.