Pro Golf Weekly

BMW Championship Primer – History, TV, Field, Odds

Not that anything about the four-week FedExCup Playoffs is easy, but with 44% of the 125-player postseason field now eliminated, the carnage gets turned up this week, as 57% (40 of 70) of the best golfers in the world will be suffocated from title contention at the 70-player BMW Championship.

BMW Championship
Marc Leishman reacts after winning the BMW Championship at Conway Farms GC on Sep. 17, 2017 in Lake Forest, Ill. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The first half of the 2018 FedExCup Playoffs gave us the Bryson DeChambeau Show, as the 24-year old American star captured the first two legs of the second-season, winning both The Northern Trust and the Dell Technologies with relative ease.

The next stop is in Pennsylvania for the BMW Championship, where 69 elite players will attempt to derail DeChambeau’s coronation. It’s also the last chance to impress Jim Furyk for the final U.S. Ryder Cup opening.


Tournament: BMW Championship
Dates: Sep. 6 – 9, 2018
Where: Newton Square, PA
Course: Aronimink Golf Club
Distance: Par 35-35-70, Yards 7,237
Architect: Donald Ross (1928)
Format: 70 players, 72 holes, stroke play, no cut
Purse: $9,000,000
Winning Share: $1,620,00
FedExCup Points: 2,000
Defending Champion: Marc Leishman
Marquee Players: Leishman, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson, Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau


Round 1: Thu. 3-7:00 PM (GOLF)
Round 2: Fri. 3-7:00 PM (GOLF)
Round 3: Sat. 1-3:00 PM (GOLF); 3-6:00 PM (NBC)
Round 4: Sun. 12-2:00 PM (GOLF); 2-6:00 PM (NBC)
Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


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

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

The event we know today as the BMW Championship was an original FedExCup event started in 2007, the same year as the first playoffs, and has rotated 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 leg of the FedExCup Playoffs, the BMW Championship was a regular PGA Tour stop known as the Western Open, and that tournament 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.


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


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


The defending champion of the BMW Championship is Marc Leishman.

Marc Leishman BMW Championship
Marc Leishman of Australia reacts after winning the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club on Sep. 17, 2017 in Lake Forest, Ill. Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Contested at Conway Farms Golf Club, the Aussie opened with rounds of 62 and 63 and then cruised to a record-setting five-stroke victory, finishing the weekend with 68-67 en route to a 23-under par.

Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler shared second place at 18 under.

1 Marc Leishman -23
2 Justin Rose -18
2 Rickie Fowler -18
4 Jason Day -16
5 Jon Rahm -15
5 Matt Kuchar -15

STORYLINE: FedExCup Movement

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.

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

Everyone wants to be in that top 30 at the conclusion of this tournament, meaning that they have a spot in the field at East Lake for the Tour Championship – the daunting final leg of the $10 million 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 2018 majors, regardless of how well they actually play in the postseason finale. And then factoring the money involved? Nobody in this field is going to need extra motivation at Aronimink Golf Club.

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

No. 25 – Tiger Woods (1,342)
No. 26 – Rickie Fowler (1,302)
No. 27 – Jordan Spieth (1,299)
No. 28 – Hideki Matsuyama (1,271)
No. 29 – Emiliano Grillo (1,252)
No. 30 – Gary Woodland (1,205)

None of these five can afford a poor week. If they don’t produce like Championship-caliber golfers, there are plenty of others in the field who would love their place.

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

No. 31 – Chez Reavie (1,184)
No. 32 – Brandt Snedeker (1,174)
No. 33 – C.T. Pan (1,170)
No. 34 – Pat Perez (1,167)
No. 35 – Andrew Landry (1,145)

These players need at least a moderately strong week 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 reset for the Tour Championship, and anyone in the top five after the BMW controls their own destiny. A win at East Lake for any of those five means an automatic FedExCup championship.

Bryson DeChambeau Dell Technologies Championship
Bryson DeChambeau hits from the 1st tee during the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship on Sep. 3, 2018 at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass. Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Everyone wants to be in that top 30, but everyone really, really wants to be in that top five. Currently, this is the top five:

No. 1 – Bryson DeChambeau (5,617)
No. 2 – Dustin Johnson (3,289)
No. 3 – Justin Rose (3,191)
No. 4 – Tony Finau (3,169)
No. 5 – Justin Thomas (3,084)

Despite DeChambeau’s massive lead, the points will be reset after this week, and so he will enter East Lake with just a 200 point lead (2,000 for No. 1, 1,800 for No. 2, 1,520 for No. 3 and so on).

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.


Joel Cook

Joel Cook is Pro Golf Weekly's Lead Writer. He is a member of the Golf Writer's Association of America.

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