This week’s BMW Championship, the third leg of the very lucrative FedExCup Playoffs, may not be a major, but the strength of the field in Pennsylvania is comparable to one.
Contested this year at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square (PA), the field will include 42 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings, highlighted by every player ranked in the top 25.
The first two legs of the postseason turned out to be a one-man show, as Bryson DeChambeau captured the opening two events with relative ease. Will the the 24-year old American be able to keep that momentum going this week when the BMW Championship gets underway? Well, he’s among our top 15, so maybe, but there are 14 other players we like this week as well.
15. Adam Scott
The Aussie followed up his third-place finish at the PGA Championship with a T5 at The Northern Trust, and despite a T49 last week in Boston, he finished strong with a 66 on Monday.
His shot-making of late has been vintage Scott, which should benefit him at Aronimink, a classic Donald Ross design. He’s hit over 70% of his greens in three-straight starts, and will need to do the same or better in Philadelphia. At 48th in the FedExCup standings, Scott is going to need about a top-10 finish to make it to East Lake.
World Rank: 39
FedExCup Rank: 48
Last Six: 49, 5, 3, 57, 17, MC
14. Tommy Fleetwood
Perhaps Europe’s answer to prime Adam Scott, Tommy Fleetwood has never seen a green he could not hit. His pristine iron game was the biggest reason he finished first atop the European Tour’s 2017 Race to Dubai Standings, and why he has been a top-20 machine worldwide over the past two years.
The 27-year-old has yet to notch his first win on U.S. soil, as he cannot quite seem to put four rounds together, but he has been close on some big stages, and if not for Brooks Koepka, we might be talking about Fleetwood as a back-to-back U.S. Open winner.
The suave Brit has a plethora of low rounds on big stages, with examples including a final-round 63 at the U.S. Open, a second round 65 at The Open Championship, and a first round 63 at the WGC-Bridgestone, and once he becomes seasoned enough to avoid that one bad round, if he is not there already, watch out; a breakthrough feels imminent.
World Rank: 12
FedExCup Rank: 20
Last Six: 24, 14, 6, 12, MC, 59
13. Tyrrell Hatton
The fiery Englishman – one of eight players who qualified for Europe’s Ryder Cup team – entered the postseason off a T10 at the PGA Championship, and then proceeded to post a pair of top 20s.
In Boston he shot a low-round 63, marking his third straight start with a low-round score (63 Dell, 64 No Trust, 64 PGA).
If his putter stays hot, he will have the all-around game to thrive at Aronimink. At No. 54 in the standings, though, he’s going to need a top-10 finish to make the next leg of the playoffs. Given his streakiness, and motivation, it may be an excellent time to jump on the Brit.
World Rank: 25
FedExCup Rank: 54
Last Six: 12, 20, 10, 28, 51, 9
12. Jason Day
Day shot 76-73 and missed the cut in Boston, and was never really in the mix at The Northern Trust, despite a T20 finish. At 10th in the current FedExCup standings, he will need a win or second-place finish to reach the top 5.
Day’s approach game has been off-and-on, and it says a lot about the rest of his game that he has been competitive even when his irons are not in elite form. We know he is a shot-maker at his best, and with two wins on the season, he knows what to do if he plays well early. He won this event in 2015 at Conway Farms, and finished 4th in 2017 at Crooked Stick but will his suspect approach game hold up at Aronimink with its classic design and smaller Donald Ross greens? At 20-1, the oddsmakers made him one of the favorites.
World Rank: 11
FedExCup Rank: 10
Last Six: MC, 20, 19, 10, 17, 12
11. Tiger Woods
A T40-T24 playoff stretch has taken a little of the momentum away that he had built with three top-10s in four events coming into the playoffs. That included a T6 at The Open Championship, and a solo runner-up finish at the PGA Championship.
Playing in his first FedExCup Playoff since 2013, Tiger easily made the BMW Championship. At No. 25 in the standings, he stands an excellent chance of making the Tour Championship, but that is by no means a sure thing. He will likely need at least a decent showing in Philadelphia to lock up his position at East Lake.
World Rank: 26
FedExCup Rank: 25
Last Six: 24, 40, 2, 31, 6, 4
10. Hideki Matsuyama
Matsuyama closed Boston with rounds of 67 and 65 to post a T4 – his best finish in eight months (T4 at Kapalua in early January). Along with Jordan Spieth, the Japanese star has undoubtedly been among the Tour’s most disappointing players this season.
After three wins and three runner-ups in the 2017 season, Matsuyama got off to another strong start with a T5 (CIMB) and T4 (Sentry) in his first three starts of 2018, but his third top 10 didn’t come until last weeks’s T4 in Boston.
He has shown some recent signs of coming back around, however, as a T35 performance at the PGA Championship included three rounds in the 60s. He followed that up with three-straight top 15s (T11 Wyndham Championship, T15 The Northern Trust, T4 Boston) – his best stretch of the season.
At 28th in the FedExCup Standings, Matsuyama is one of the players on the bubble for East Lake, so he should be very motivated this week.
World Rank: 18
FedExCup Rank: 28
Last Six: 4, 15, 11, 35, 39, MC
9. Phil Mickelson
Phil opened the Dell Technologies Championship with a pair of 72s to make the cut right on the number, but closed with rounds of 67 and 63 to jump all the way up to T12 – his second-straight top 15.
His back-to-back top 15s also likely locked up a Captain’s Pick for the Ryder Cup, not that he wasn’t going to be a pick anyway; it just removed all doubt. Phil has been streaky this year, and this feels like an excellent time for another positive streak as he heads into East Lake and then Paris, France.
World Rank: 24
FedExCup Rank: 9
Last Six: 12, 15, MC, 24, 24, MC
8. Rory McIlroy
Despite a win at Bay Hill this year, it’s been another relatively disappointing season for Rory McIlory. Such is the life of a man who won his fourth major title at the age of 25, but may celebrate his 30th birthday with the same four trophies.
Coming off an essentially lost 2017 season, McIlroy has flashed his old dominance at times in 2018, particularly when a fourth round sprint catalyzed an emphatic victory at the aforementioned Arnold Palmer Invitational, but largely, it has felt like one step forward and two steps back.
He made the final pairing at The Masters, but with the career Grand Slam on the line, he executed a round so uninspiring that it almost looked like it was on purpose. He also squandered late leads in two elite European Tour events.
Rory did the same thing last month in Akron, reaching 11-under-par and the final Sunday pairing at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational alongside Justin Thomas. But as he did with Patrick Reed at Augusta in April, Rory fell well off the pace of the American star – with four bogeys in a six-hole stretch – and eventually finished at 3-over 73 to drop into sixth place.
Still, despite some un-Roryesque moments in 2018, he’s still Rory. Right?
World Rank: 8
FedExCup Rank: 24
Last Six: 12, 50, 6, 2, 28, 12
7. Tony Finau
Victory No. 1 in a non-opposite field event feels imminent for Finau, who was extremely impressive in the major season, and similarly in the playoffs (T4, 2).
A game with stunningly few weaknesses has led to ten top 10s on the season, with six of those coming in the elite-field events (Majors, WGCs, or Playoffs).
As the rumored favorite to be Jim Furyk’s fourth and final Ryder Cup captain’s pick, Finau should have some extra motivation this week in PA. With no history of team play, Finau will need to rely heavily on recent form to get to make his case for Paris.
World Rank: 17
FedExCup Rank: 4
Last Six: 4, 2, 42, 10, 37, 9
6. Jordan Spieth
The 25-year-old three-time major champion was on top of the world at this time last season. The then world No. 2 had just won his third major championship in historic fashion, and had opened the playoffs with a pair of second-place finishes. He would go on to post T7s in the final two postseason events and end the year with a top 10 in Australia and a T3 at Tiger’s event in the Bahamas.
All seemed right with the world when Spieth showed up in Hawaii and finished with a pair of top 20s (9, T18). But a missed-cut in Phoenix seemed to be a harbinger of things to come. He missed another payday a few weeks later at the Valspar, but seemed to be turning things around with a T3 in Houston and a 3rd place finish at The Masters, highlighted by a vintage Spieth charge on Sunday.
But then came his worst six-start stretch as a pro (41-21-32-MC-MC-42) leading into the defense of his 2017 Open Championship. Despite that recent dreadful form, Spieth flashed his elite shot-making prowess to take a 54-hole co-lead into Sunday.
That final round, however, was a complete disaster; he did not card a single birdie, could not make a putt to save his life, and as a result, he fell to a disappointing T9.
He is, however, entering Philly under-the-radar, and off three-consecutive top 25s (12-25-12). At 27th in the standings, Spieth should be exceptionally motivated this week, especially given his tenacious desire to silence the critics who are wondering what has gone wrong with golf’s “Golden Child.”
Aronimink is a shot-maker’s course that should suit Spieth’s A game.
World Rank: 10
FedExCup Rank: 27
Last Six: 12, 25, 12, 60, 9, 42
5. Bryson DeChambeau
Could DeChambeau go 3-for-3 over the first three weeks of the FedExCup Playoffs? He was dominant at Ridgewood and Boston, and emphatically answered questions about the state of his game, while locking up a spot on the Ryder Cup team in the process.
The leader in the FedExCup Standings, DeChambeau is very self-motivated and extremely unlikely to dial back the intensity this week. DeChambeau is clearly healthy and always plays like he has something to prove. He somehow remains overlooked, making him a great bet again.
World Rank: 7
FedExCup Rank: 1
Last Six: 1, 1, MC, 30, 13, 51
4. Justin Rose
Hands-down the most consistent golfer on the planet over the past 12 months, with four victories, among his 19 top 10s in just 26 starts worldwide, including three second-place finishes, two of which have come in his four most recent starts (T2 Open Championship, 2nd Dell Tech Championship).
Those willing to take the gamble on Rose won’t be getting any kind of discount as the bookies are clearly well aware of his recent form, and have offered the Englishman as the second favorite at 12-1.
World Rank: 4
FedExCup Rank: 3
Last Six: 2, MC, 19, 2, 9, 10
3. Brooks Koepka
The two-time 2018 major winner and near lock for PGA Tour Player of the Year, Koepka currently has a hold on the sixth spot in the FedExCup standings, which he’ll need to improve on if he wants to control his own destiny at East Lake.
The world No. 2 opened the playoffs with two impressive, albeit somewhat under-the-radar, performances (T12 Dell, T8 No. Trust). Bottomline, there is very little to not like about his game right now.
World Rank: 2
FedExCup Rank: 6
Last Six: 12, 8, 1, 5, MC, 39
2. Justin Thomas
The defending champion of the FedExCup, Thomas is coming into P.A. off a T24, but before that he’d finished with three straight top 8 finishes, including a win at the WGC-Bridgestone.
Aronimink, similar to Firestone (Win) and Bellerive (T6), is a shotmaker’s courses, which will reward Thomas’ unmatched strength when dialed in with his irons.
At 5th in the FedExCup standings, JT will need a solid showing this week to maintain his hold on one of the top 5 spots heading into East Lake. A win would put him in prime position to capture his second-straight Cup and $10 mil bonus check.
World Rank: 3
FedExCup Rank: 5
Last Six: 24, 8, 6, 1, MC, 8
1. Dustin Johnson
Now second to DeChambeau in the FedExCup Standings, the World No. 1 has posted two strong, albeit underwhelming, finishes (T7, T11), both marred by poor third rounds.
A short track like Aronimink doesn’t hurt DJ, but it does take away his biggest advantage over the field – length off the tee.
If he can avoid that one poor round, which he’s failed to do lately, he should be in the hunt come Sunday afternoon.
Finally, while Koepka is the betting favorite to win the PGA Tour POY award, a fourth win by either DJ (or JT or DeChambeau) – along with the FedExCup title, and it would become a real debate (two majors versus four titles and FedExCup). So add in that extra motivation as well when placing your bet on the favorite DJ (9-1).
World Rank: 1
FedExCup Rank: 2
Last Six: 11, 27, 3, 1, MC, 3