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‘Dawgs on Tour: 25 or 6 to 4

Deutsche Bank Championship - Final Round
Okay, this isn’t Kirk winning the BMW, but he did win a Playoff event (the Deutsche Bank in 2014).
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Tournament: BMW Championship, August 17-20, 2023

Course: Olympia Fields Country Club (North Course), par 70, 7,366 yards. In Olympia Fields, IL which is a small suburb on the south end of Chicago.

Purse: $20 million in total, $3.6 million to the winner. Same as last week, same as the elevated designated signature events.

Defending Champ: Patrick Cantlay. And he’s a 2-time defending champ too. I kinda know how he feels. Anywhoo, The UCLA Bruin jumped to the top of the leaderboard Saturday, and held off Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, and Scott Stallings to successfully defend his 2021 title.

Fun Fact: Olympia Fields clubhouse is 110,000 square feet and the men’s locker room is over 10,000. This was really the home of golf in Chicago, founded early in the 20th century and at one time featured 4 courses. The newest 18, the North, remains the same and is what will be tested this week. Heck, there’s even a Chicago Transit Authority station specifically for the course to downtown Chicago.

TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 2 -6 p.m. (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1 -3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 -6 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, 12 -2 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2-6 p.m. (CBS). Slightly more airtime on Th/Fr than normal due to the big stars in the spotlight and being a post-season event.

‘Dawgs in the Field: 6. Brendon Todd, Sepp Straka, Russell Henley, Brian Harman, Chris Kirk, Harris English.

We’ve got an old-school parkland course this week. Short by today’s standards (playing as a par 70 for the pros), but tight and tree-lined. The fairways and greens are similar, but smaller, than Sedgefield (Wyndham) played 2 weeks ago. It isn’t flat per se, but there isn’t much in elevation changes. Instead, gentle rolling terrain gives some of the character.

Why they don’t have a regular pro tournament in the country’s 3rd largest market is beyond me. The Western Open in the Chicago area was one of the oldest tournaments in the US and held prestige through the golf world. But somehow the PGA Tour turned its back on the Windy City. Though technically, this is what the Western Open has become - a playoff event only held in Chicago every few years (last in 2020, won by Jon Rahm).

It is a solid, old-school track, but the story this week will be about who moves on. As the 2nd leg in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the field is the top 50 in points accumulated during the current season plus the boosted points awarded last week. And to play in next week’s Tour Championship, you need to be ranked in the top 30. So 40% of this week’s field will end their season.

And if you’re keeping track, a similar thing happened last week. Only the top 70 in points were eligible and played in Memphis at the St. Jude, 10% of those being former Georgia Bulldogs. The top 50 advanced to this week in Chicago. Alas, Cashmere Keith Mitchell is not among them. He started at #59 on the list, finished T43 for the tournament, and dropped to #64. So he’s back on St. Simons resting up and catching up on fall camp practice notes.

Harris English was #43 so he couldn’t exactly sit on his lawn chair last week. But it appeared he was doing just that, hanging around even par after 3 rounds and mired deep on the leaderboard. It took every shot of a 3 under 67 Sunday, a T52 result, to sneak in under the line and make it to this week at #49.

Brendon Todd didn’t have quite as much pressure, beginning Memphis in the #39 slot. He was actually top 25 until Sunday, when a 2 over 72 pushed him all the way down to T43. And that means he enters Chicago at #44.

Chris Kirk was at #28, tied for 16th place last week, and actually slid a spot to #29. That shows you how volatile the playoffs are when they quadruple the points awarded.

Sepp Straka didn’t have a care in the world, being #16 in the rankings. Well, he played like that the first 3 days and was hanging around last place. He woke up Sunday and fired a 65. He was so far back that only moved him to T63 in the tournament. And that finish dropped him 9 slots to #24 for this week.

Russell Henley shot all 4 rounds in the 60’s, methodically marching his way up the leaderboard, all the way to a T6 finish. He was already at #20 in points, and all those extra points moved him to #15 - pretty much a lock for East Lake. (They project you need just over 1,500 FedEx Cup points to make East Lake this season, and he’s already at 1,618).

Brian Harman played it safe, but steady. His T31 finish in Memphis was middle of the road, but it dropped him 3 spots to #9 going into this week. He’s also pretty much a lock for the Tour Championship, but if you want the big bucks, you need to play well.

Last week Georgia had 10% of the playoff field. This week it’s 12%. If everyone holds serve, and either English or Kirk slip into the top 30, there could be as much as 16% or 20% of one of the most grueling qualifying systems in golf. And that’s a Bulldog point of pride. As always...