2020 BMW Championship Primer: History, TV, Field, Odds

Justin Thomas Wins BMW Championship
Justin Thomas celebrates on the 18th green after winning the BMW Championship at Medinah CC No. 3 on Aug 18, 2019 in Medinah, IL. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

With 55 of the 125-player postseason field now eliminated, following last weekend’s Northern Trust event at TPC Boston, the PGA Tour’s postseason circus moves to the mid-west for the annual BMW Championship at historic Olympia Fields Country Club, just outside of Chicago.

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 2020 FedExCup Playoffs gave us a blowout in Boston by Dustin Johnson, who won The Northern Trust by 11 shots.

This week, Justin Thomas will return to defend his 2019 title – although he was victorious at Medinah Country Club, so he forfeits any home-field edge. Joining Thomas, and Johnson, will be 68 additional elite Tour players, with many seeking to cement a spot in the big-money finale next week in Atlanta.

The Skinny

Tournament: BMW Championship
Dates: Aug. 27-30, 2020
Where: Olympia Fields, IL
Course: Olympia Fields CC
Distance: Par 35-35-70, Yards 7343
Architect: Willie Park Jr. (1924)
Format: 72 holes, stroke-play, no cut
Field: Top 70 in FedExCup
Purse: $9,500,000
Winning Share: $1,710,00
FedExCup Points: 1,500
2019 Champion: Justin Thomas

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 and other regions, primarily located in middle America.

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, Jason Day, and Justin Thomas.

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.

Recent Winners

2019: Justin Thomas -25 (Medinah CC, IL)
2018: Keegan Bradley -20 (Aronimink GC, PA)
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: 260 – Keegan Bradley (Aronimink GC, 2018)
To Par: -25 – Justin Thomas (Medinah CC, 2019)
Round: 59 – Jim Furyk (Conway Farms, Rd 2, 2013)
Wins: 2 – Dustin Johnson (2010, 2016), Tiger Woods (2007, 2009)

Rewind: 2019 BMW Champion

Justin Thomas Wins BMW Championship
Justin Thomas celebrates on the 18th green after winning the BMW Championship at Medinah CC No. 3 on Aug 18, 2019 in Medinah, IL. Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images

With a 4-under 68 on Sunday, Justin Thomas did more than required to convert his six-stroke 54-hole lead into a win at the BMW Championship – the second leg of the revamped FedExCup Playoffs.

Thomas finished with a tournament-record 25-under par for the week to claim a three-stroke victory over Patrick Cantlay at famed Medinah Country Club, just outside of Chicago.

For Thomas – who was having a down year by his lofty standards, it was his maiden win of the 2019 season, but 10th of his career. He joined Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth as the only players to reach double-digit PGA Tour wins before or by the age of 26.

Top-5 Leaders

Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Justin Thomas -25 (-4)
2. Patrick Cantlay -22 (-7)
3. Hideki Matsuyama -20 (-9)
4. Tony Finau -17 (-2)
5. Brandt Snedeker -16 (-4)
5. Jon Rahm -16 (-3)

FedExCup Primer

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy prepares to play his shot from the first tee during the final round of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club on September 20, 2015 in Lake Forest, Ill. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

As lucrative and prestigious as the BMW Championship is on its own (with its $9.5 million purse), 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 2021 majors, regardless of how well they actually play in the postseason finale. When you factor in the purse of $60 million, where the first place finisher walks away with $15 million total, and the last-place guy is guaranteed $395,000 (even if he shoots four-straight rounds in the 80s), nobody in this field is going to need extra motivation at Medinah Country Club.

Cameron Champ
Cameron Champ walks passed geese on the 18th fairway during the third round of the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park on Aug 8, 2020 in San Francisco, CA. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

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

Inside the Top-30 Bubble

No. 25 – Cameron Champ (951)
No. 26 – Cameron Smith (936)
No. 27 – Adam Long (934)
No. 28 – Kevin Streelman (923
No. 29 – Tony Finau (907)
No. 30 – Billy Horschel (893)

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 – Joaquin Niemann (878)
No. 32 – Tyler Duncan (806)
No. 33 – Matthew Wolff (771)
No. 33 – Mark Hubbard (771)
No. 35 – Byeong Hun An (765)

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)

Current Top 5

No. 1 – Dustin Johnson (2,571)
No. 2 – Justin Thomas (2,479)
No. 3 – Webb Simpson (2,163)
No. 4 – Daniel Berger (1,917)
No. 5 – Collin Morikawa (1,902)

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

Dustin Johnson THE NORTHERN TRUST at TPC Boston
Dustin Johnson and his caddie walk off the 13th green during the third round of THE NORTHERN TRUST at TPC Boston on Aug 22, 2020 in Norton, Mass. Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

The favorite at Olympia Fields, at 8-1, is Dustin Johnson, who lapped the field last week by 11 strokes in Boston. The 36-year old was on another level at TPC Boston, and this could pose problems for other top contenders, as DJ – like most top golfers, is known to be streaky, but his hot streaks tend to last longer and are more pronounced (e.g. wins).

Next is Jon Rahm, who finished T6 last week, but was bumped from the world No. 1 spot by DJ. The 25-year old Spaniard is offered at 10-1. Defending champion Justin Thomas is at 12-1 alongside Bryson DeChambeau. Thomas has posted his worst two results of the 2020 season with T49 and T37. Prior to these poor(ish) starts, Thomas had never posted two consecutive results outside the top 10. DeChambeau, meanwhile, enters off his second missed-cut in four starts.

At 18-1, Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele round out the top-5 betting favorites. McIlroy has been horrific since the reboot, while Schauffele has been consistently solid.

Top-5 Betting Favorites

1. Dustin Johnson (8-1)
1. Jon Rahm (10-1)
3. Justin Thomas (12-1)
4. Bryson DeChambeau (12-1)
5. Rory McIlroy (18-1)
5. Xander Schauffele (18-1)

Full Field

Olympia Fields CC | Olympia Fields, IL | Aug. 27-30, 2020


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