Tournament: The BMW Championship, August 27-30, 2020
Course: Olympia Fields Country Club (North Course), par-70, 7,366 yards. Just south of Chicago, and about 10 miles from the Indiana line.
Purse: $9,500,000 (with $1,710,000 to the winner along with 1500 FedEx Cup points)
Defending Champ: Just like last week, it depends. This BMW Championship was hosted at nearby Medinah CC last season, where Justin Thomas scorched the Second City. The last PGA related tournament at Olympia Fields was the US Open in 2003, where Jim Furyk captured his sole major title. Bryson DeChambeau sat atop the US Amateur here in 2015.
Fun Fact: The first club president of Olympia Fields was none other than Amos Alonzo Stagg, who coached football at University of Chicago for 40 years. This checks out.
TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 12 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-7 p.m. (NBC). So if you’re tired of Amanda Balionis interviews (I’m not), Jim Nantz toeing the line, and Nick Faldo weirdly disinterested dialog, you’re in luck as the peacock golf team takes over the next two weeks.
‘Dawgs in the Field: Six. Bubba Watson, Russell Henley, Brian Harman, Kevin Kisner, Brendon Todd, Harris English.
We’ve reached the second leg of the Playoffs, and the field is only the top 70 players on the points list. Last week was the beginning of the playoffs with 125 in the field (two withdrew prior to teeing off), and there was lots of position jostling based on last week’s results. I’ll get to that in the moment, but we’ll visit the course first.
This is a bomber’s paradise. Basically the same yardage as TPC Boston, but one less par 5. So a par 70 at almost 7,400 yards is, in a word, huge. And this is the North Course, as opposed to the easier and only slightly lesser-known South Course. At one point, Olympia Fields had 4 courses, but management had some unfortunate margin calls and the course sold off a good chunk of land to pay off debt. They changed course No. 4 to the “North” course, and cobbled together the contiguous property of the remaining holes to create a new “South” course. Make no mistake, the North Course is one of the best in the country - a classic design with Butterfield Creek making it’s presence known frequently, and gently rolling terrain (this is Chicago after all, you ain’t gonna get a lot of drop offs).
Back to the aforementioned field jostling. Everyone knew they had to be in the top 70 on the points list to advance this far. But strange things happen, And 6 players played their way out of the top 70 last week to be replaced by 6 others who played their way in. Georgia’s own Russell Henley is one of those guys. Henley started last week in 101st place. Not only did he need a top 10 finish against the best players in the world to advance at The Northern Trust, he ended up needing birdie on the last hole to do so. He hit his 2nd shot into the bunker on the par 5 18th hole Sunday, but a clutch sandy meant birdie and now he’s playing this week from the 61st position (and over $277,000 in prize money).
Brian Harman started last week in 69th spot... tenuous at best. A final round 64 moved him up 23 spots on the tourney leaderboard, and 23 spots in the FedEx Cup points list, all the way up to 46th. He cleared $230k for the effort.
Bubba Watson was sitting pretty in the top 10 after the 3rd round, yet a poor last nine holes left Bubba on the brink. But it was enough to move on, and moved from 66th spot to the 58th position. $117k+ probably helped shorten his memory of that double-bogey at 16.
Kevin Kisner was consistently in the tournament top 10 every round last week. And his T8 finish moved him from a comfortable 40th position up to a pretty-dang good 17th spot this week. The tie for fourth netted Kiz $427,500 on the week.
Brendon Todd had a meh week in Boston, especially considering how good he’s played this summer. A Sunday 74 dropped him 30 spots to finish in 64th place in the tournament. And that moved Todd from 9th on the points list down to 13th - not an absolute lock to move on to the Tour Championship (top 30 after this week), but better than most.
And now for Harris English. No wins this season, but huge improvements in results week in and week out. There was even a recent expose’ that you can check out here on English’s career. Opening with rounds of 64-66-66, English was in 2nd place and the final pairing Sunday, trailing by 5. A final round 69 is not too bad, but nothing would catch Dustin Johnson, who followed up a 2nd round 60 with weekend rounds of 64-63. Yikes. Still and yet, English held onto solo 2nd place, picked up a check for $1,035,500 (yikes again), and more importantly moved up to 6th place in FedEx points. He’s pretty much assured of making the Tour Championship, and has more than a puncher’s chance of the $15 million end of the year prize.
Keith Mitchell made the cut last week, but his T61 finish kept him out of the top 70 in points (moved down from 105 to 112). Sepp Straka started last week 71st in FedEx points, obviously needing a good week to sneak up a couple of spots. Missing the cut doomed that scenario, so he too ended his season.
So good results all in all last week: 3 in the top 10, 4 in the top 11, 5 in the top 20, and 7 made the cut. Plus over $2.1 million in prize money. Plus 6 move on to more big money this week, and a chance to stay in the top 30 and advance to East Lake, site of next week’s Tour Championship. Turn on, tune in, and drop some cheers for our ‘Dawgs chasing little white balls. And as always...