2019 BMW Championship Primer: History, TV, Field, Odds

Justin Thomas BMW Championship
Justin Thomas tees off on the 10th hole during day one of the BMW Championship on Sep 14, 2017, at Conway Farms GC in Lake Forest, IL. Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With 55 of the 125-player postseason field now eliminated, following last weekend’s Northern Trust event in New Jersey, the PGA Tour’s postseason circus moves to the mid-west for the annual BMW Championship at historic Medinah Country Club, just outside of Chicago (IL).

The BMW – the second of three FedExCup Playoff legs, will feature the top-70 positioned players in the standings, with only 30 receiving a ticket to East Lake next week.

The first leg of the 2019 FedExCup Playoffs gave us Patrick Reed returning to his role as “Captain America,” and winning at a golf course aptly named after the Statue of Liberty with breathtaking views of America’s most famous skyline.

This week, Keegan Bradley will return (barely at No. 66) to defend his 2018 title – although he was victorious at Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania, so he forfeits any home-field edge. Joining Bradley, and Reed, will be 68 additional elite Tour players (67 if Tiger Woods pulls out) – with many seeking to cement a spot in the big-money finale next week in Atlanta.

The Skinny

Tournament: BMW Championship
Dates: Aug. 15-18, 2019
Where: Medinah, IL
Course: Medinah CC
Distance: Par 36-36-72, Yards 7613
Architect: Tom Bendelow (1924)
Format: 72 holes, stroke-play, no cut
Field: Top 70 in FedExCup
Purse: $9,250,000
Winning Share: $1,665,00
FedExCup Points: 2,000
2018 Champion: Keegan Bradley

TV & Online Coverage

Rd 1: Th 03-7 pm (GOLF)
Rd 2: Fr 03-7 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sa 12-3 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sa 03-6 pm (NBC)
Rd 4: Su 12-2 pm (GOLF)
Rd 4: Su 02-6 pm (NBC)

Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Justin Rose BMW Championship
Justin Rose putts on the 17th green during the final round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms GC on Sep. 17, 2017 in Lake Forest, Ill. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Depending on how it is viewed, the BMW Championship could be considered to have a relatively short history, or a long, illustrious one.

The event we know today as the BMW Championship was an original FedExCup event started in 2007, the same year as the first postseason, and rotates between several Chicago-area courses.

Tiger Woods won the inaugural edition, and then took the championship again two years later in an eight-stroke shellacking at Cog Hill. In 2016, Dustin Johnson won his second BMW, which tied Tiger for the most wins in event history. Other top-ranked stars who own BMW trophies include Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, and Jason Day.

However, before it was the merciless third second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs, the BMW Championship was a regular PGA Tour stop known as the Western Open, and that tournament – once considered a major before the advent of official majors – has roots that go all the way back to 1899, making it the third-longest continuously running event on the PGA Tour, with only the U.S. Open and the Open Championship going back further.

For most of its history, the Western Open was an elite event that included such notable winners as Willie Anderson, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods, who holds the distinction of winning before and after it became a playoff event, and re-titled as the BMW Championship.

2018 Winner

Keegan Bradley emerged victorious from a playoff against Justin Rose at the BMW Championship to claim his fourth career PGA Tour title, and first in over six years.

Reaching 20-under for the week, Bradley, a former PGA Champion, won for the first time since the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Other Recent Winners

2017: Marc Leishman -23 (Conway Farms, IL)
2016: Dustin Johnson -23 (Crooked Stick, IN)
2015: Jason Day -22 (Conway Farms, IL)
2014: Billy Horschel -14 (Cherry Hills, CO)
2013: Zach Johnson -16 (Conway Farms, IL)
2012: Rory McIlroy -20 (Crooked Stick, IN)
2011: Justin Rose -13 (Cog Hill, IL)

Tournament Records

Score: 261 Marc Leishman (Conway Farms, 2017)
To Par: -23 Leishman (2017), Dustin Johnson (Crooked Stick, 2016)
Round: 59 Jim Furyk (Conway Farms, Rd 2, 2013)
Wins: 2 Dustin Johnson (2010, 2016)

FedExCup Primer

Jordan Spieth BMW Championship
Jordan Spieth tees off on the 16th hole during the second round of the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick GC in Carmel, IN. Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As lucrative and prestigious as the BMW Championship is on its own, all 70 players in the field are salivating even more at the thought of what could be next: the top 30 of the FedExCup standings.

Those who finish in the top 30 at the conclusion of this week’s tournament get a spot in the field at East Lake for the Tour Championship – the final leg of the FedExCup Playoffs.

Simply making that field is a big deal in terms of exemptions for next season, as every East Lake participant has a spot in all four 2019 majors, regardless of how well they actually play in the postseason finale. When you factor in the purse ($10 million) and bonus money ($54 million) – where the first place finisher walks away with $16.6 million total, and the last place guy is guaranteed a half-million dollar haul (even if he shoots four-straight rounds in the 80s), nobody in this field is going to need extra motivation at Medinah Country Club.

At the moment, these are the last five players projected to make the East Lake field:

Inside the Top-30 Bubble

No. 25 – Shane Lowry (1,162)
No. 26 – Sungjae Im (1,161)
No. 27 – Corey Conners (1,126)
No. 28 – Louis Oosthuizen (1,109)
No. 29 – Harold Varner III (1,108)
No. 30 – Andrew Putnam (1,100)

None of these five can afford a poor week. If they don’t finish in say the top 30 of the final leaderboard, their season will likely end.

On the other side of the bubble, these are the first five projected out:

Outside the Top-30 Bubble

No. 31 – Ryan Palmer (1,096)
No. 32 – Jason Kokrak (1,082)
No. 33 – Hideki Matsuyama (1,061)
No. 33 – Francesco Molinari (1,061)
No. 35 – Scott Piercy (1,038)

These players need at least a moderately strong week (top 20?) at the BMW. They are not guaranteed anything right now, but they do have a bigger margin of error than those ranked further down.

Perhaps even more intense is the battle at the top of the standings. FedExCup points no longer reset, but they no longer carry over either. For the Tour Championship, the new format will be a handicap- or strokes-based system, officially called FedExCup Starting Strokes.

Each player will start the tournament with a score (relative to par) corresponding to his position in the FedExCup standings at the conclusion of the BMW Championship. First place will be 10-under, second-place will be 8-under, third-place will be 7-under, and so on, down to Nos. 26-30 who start at even-par.

FedExCup Starting Strokes

1. (-10)
2. (-8)
3. (-7)
4. (-6)
5. (-5)
6-10. (-4)
11-15. (-3)
16-20. (-2)
21-25. (-1)
26-30. (E)

According to the PGA Tour, the change was implemented to end the confusion for fans (and players) trying to track both the tournament leaderboard and the FedExCup points race. Starting this year, the Tour Championship winner will be crowned the FedExCup champion as well.

Current Top 5

No. 1 – Brooks Koepka (2,930)
No. 2 – Patrick Reed (2,774)
No. 3 – Rory McIlroy (2,670)
No. 4 – Matt Kuchar (2,313)
No. 5 – Jon Rahm (2,097)

It cannot be overstated: everyone in this field has something big to play for. Nobody will be haphazardly going through the motions for a paycheck.

Field & Odds

Brooks Koepka Wins WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
Brooks Koepka raises his putter to fans while walking onto the 18th green during the final round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind on July 28, 2019 in Memphis, Tennessee. Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

The co-favorites this week, at 8-1, are the two Tour players who’ve outclassed the competition this season: Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, both four-time major champions. Koepka, who won three times this season, including his fourth major at the PGA, is the prohibitive favorite to win his second-consecutive Player of the Year award, while Rory owns two wins on the season, and could have had a few more (seven top-6 finishes).

The top duo are followed by red-hot Jon Rahm, who finished T3 last week – his fifth top-10 finish in his last six starts, four of which were top-3s. The young Spaniard is offered at 10-1.

Dustin Johnson (14-1), Justin Rose (16-1) and Justin Thomas (16-1) round out the top-5 favorites.

Top-5 Betting Favorites

1. Brooks Koepka (8-1)
1. Rory McIlroy (8-1)
3. Jon Rahm (10-1)
4. Dustin Johnson (14-1)
5. Justin Rose (16-1)
5. Justin Thomas (16-1)

Full Field


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