Olympia Fields Country Club, the host of this week’s BMW Championship, the second event of the FedExCup Playoffs, proved itself a worthy venue for elite tournaments, with just five players in the field finishing under-par. The Chicago area course yielded a winning score a whopping 21 strokes higher than last year’s in this same event.
But it was no match for the two best golfers in the world on a Sunday.
On the first playoff hole of an epic playoff matchup, world No. 2 Jon Rahm emphatically sunk a mammoth 66’5” birdie putt to beat world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Johnson, coming off an 11-stroke victory at last week’s first playoff event, hit a 43 foot birdie putt of his own on the 18th green to force the playoff. Even though DJ had not made a putt anywhere near that long all week, Rahm said afterwards that he was not surprised it went in. Given his recent moment, Rahm remarked that he knew Johnson would make a good run at the putt, if not outright making it.
Johnson has been undeniably amazing as of late, and for his efforts, he will be starting next week’s Tour Championship on top of the leaderboard, at 10-under-par, but Rahm’s game has been absurdly great as well. Coming off a strong weekend at The Northern Trust, the 25-year-old Spaniard struggled in round one, shooting a 5-over 75. After two rounds, he sat at 6-over for the week, with only three birdies through 36 holes. He still won.
Rahm shot a field-low 4-under 66 on Saturday to surge into contention. He then followed it up with an even better round on Sunday, shooting a field-low bogey-free 6-under 64. That Sunday round was lower to par than anyone else was for the entire tournament.
Rahm’s winning score was 4-under, a very considerable difference from the 25-under winning score by Justin Thomas at last year’s BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club. Coming into this year’s edition, the last five BMW winners finished no worse than 20-under. Olympia, hosting its first Tour event since the 2003 U.S. Open, really put down the clamps on an unsuspecting field.
At 2-over through 54 holes, Rahm started the final day in sixth place, three strokes back of Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama. With birdies on 1 and 4, Rahm moved up the leaderboard quickly, as Sunday became mostly a four-way battle between Rahm, Johnson, Matsuyama, and 21-year-old Chilean star Joaquin Niemann, who played his first eight holes in 4-under.
Down the stretch, Niemann faded and Matsuyama failed to make a move. Rahm asserted himself as the leader with four back-nine birdies: Nos. 10, 12, 15, and 16. When he posted at 4-under for the week, Johnson needed a birdie on the final hole to tie. DJ calmly sunk the 43-foot birdie putt, giving himself considerable momentum for the playoff at the playoffs.
Rahm did not allow himself to be phased, nailing his winding 66-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole. Rahm erupted into a full fist-pump. Johnson was unable to make magic happen again, as his 32-foot birdie attempt slid inches right of the hole, ending the tournament.
Rahm’s victory was the fifth of his PGA Tour career, but first in a FedExCup Playoff event. After carding six bogeys in the opening round, Rahm had only one over the entire weekend, at No. 5 on Saturday, which only happened because he was penalized after absent-mindedly picking up his ball before marking it. Interestingly enough, Rahm’s other 2020 season victory, a three-stroke win at last month’s The Memorial Tournament, was also marked by a penalty stroke for a rules violation.
Rahm and Johnson finished two strokes ahead of Niemann and Matsuyama. The only other player to finish the week under par was Tony Finau, who finished at 1-under after a stellar Sunday round.
As a result of the win, Rahm moved from ninth to second in the FedExCup Standings, and will begin next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club at 8-under-par, two strokes behind Johnson.
Final Top-10 Finishers
Pos-Player-To Par (Today)
1. Jon Rahm -4 (-6)
2. Dustin Johnson -4 (-3)
3. Joaquin Niemann -2 (-3)
3. Hideki Matsuyama -2 (-1)
5. Tony Finau -1 (-5)
6. Jason Kokrak E (-4)
6. Matthew Fitzpatrick E (-3)
8. Brendon Todd +1 (-1)
8. Sebastian Munoz +1 (-1)
10. Lanto Griffin +2 (-1)
10. Mackenzie Hughes +2 (+1)
12. Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy +3
16. Matthew Wolff, Paul Casey, Tyrrell Hatton, Bubba Watson +4
20. Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa +5
25. Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger, Kevin Kisner, Adam Scott +6
33. Gary Woodland, Billy Horschel +7
40. Ryan Palmer, Viktor Hovland, Patrick Reed +8
50. Bryson DeChambeau +10
51. Tiger Woods, Kevin Na +11
59. Matt Kuchar +13
64. Jason Day +14
65. Cameron Champ +15
69. Marc Leishman +30
How Jon Rahm Won The BMW Championship
Resilience was Rahm’s key to victory. He was already eight strokes out of the lead after his opening round 75, and he admirably fought his way back to the top.
Rahm’s 14 birdies for the week tied for fourth in the field, despite just carding three over his first two rounds. In his Sunday 64, Rahm finished at least +1.3 in all six strokes gained categories. Hitting 17 of 18 greens on Sunday moved him to second for the week in greens in regulation, all leading to his leading number in strokes gained: total.
Rahm’s Winning Numbers
Driving: 331.0 yards (6th)
Fairways: 31/56, 55.36% (13th)
Greens: 51/72, 70.83% (2nd)
Putts/GIR: 1.745 (6th)
Scores: 14 Birdies, 48 Pars, 10 Bogeys
SG: Off the Tee: 0.747 (7th)
SG: Approach to Green: 0.747 (9th)
SG: Around the Green: 0.352 (13th)
SG: Putting: 0.970 (6th)
SG: Tee to Green: 1.845 (6th)
SG: Total: 2.815 (1st)
What It Means For Rahm
Let it be known: Jon Rahm is a tough courses player. Statistically, Olympia Fields ranks as the fourth toughest course played on Tour this season. Rahm won. Rahm’s other Tour victory this season? The Memorial Tournament, held at Muirfield Village which ranked as the second most difficult.
When the course setup is difficult, Rahm thrives. That is a very positive sign for his chances at future majors, in particular, the U.S. Open, which will be held this upcoming month at Winged Foot. He is still looking for major No. 1, but he finished T13 or better in his last start in each of the four majors, including a T3 at last year’s U.S. Open.
Translation? Get some money down on those futures before Vegas gets wise to it, if they havn’t already.
One place Rahm has not had the best of luck lately is the world rankings. Twice in the past month-and-a-half, he has ascended to No. 1 in the OWGR, and both times he lost that position after his next start. Coming into the week, he had a path to his third No. 1 ranking, needing a victory and Dustin Johnson to finish worse than solo-second. Johnson finished solo-second.
2020 PGA Tour Season
Cuts Made: 13
Wins: 2 (Memorial, BMW Championship)
Addtl Top 10s: 5
Earnings: $5,959,819 (2nd)
FedEx Pts: 3,080 (2nd)
World Rank Before/After: 2/2
The FedExCup playoffs are famous for their tournament within the tournaments. The top 125 players on the final regular season FedExCup points list made the first round of the FedExCup playoffs, last week’s The Northern Trust. 55 players saw their seasons end at TPC Boston, with only the top 70 making this week’s field at Olympia. Of those 70 players, six of them had been outside the top 70 coming into round 1.
This week? Only the top 30 in the FedExCup standings qualified for the extremely lucrative Tour Championship at famed East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Only two players moved from outside the top 30 to inside: Niemann, who jumped from 31st to 18th after his T3, and Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes who moved from 36th to 28th after a T10 at the BMW. As those two players made the top 30, two moved out: Adam Long, who dropped from 27th to 31st after a T56, and Kevin Streelman, who dropped from 28th to 32nd after a T51 result. Streelman actually played his weekend 66-69, but was unable to make up the damage caused by a horrific 76-80 start.
Other notable players in the BMW field who were not able to qualify for the Tour Championship included Patrick Cantlay (34th), Adam Scott (41st), Gary Woodland (43rd), Bubba Watson (46th), Jason Day (57th), and Matt Kuchar (62nd). Most notable was two-time FedExCup Champion Tiger Woods, who finished the season at 63rd. Tiger failed to make any kind of charge at the BMW, shooting four rounds over par to finish +11, in a tie for 51st place).
Top-5 Heading to East Lake
1. Dustin -10
2. Jon Rahm -8
3. Justin Thomas -7
4. Webb Simpson -6
5. Collin Morikawa -5
Tony Finau came into the BMW Championship in a tenuous position at 29th in the FedExCup standings, requiring a good week to keep his season going. Finau was able to punch his ticket to East Lake largely off his Sunday round, a 5-under 65 that moved him 10 spots up the Sunday leaderboard from T15 to solo-fifth. It was Finau’s seventh top-10 finish of the season, and fourth since the Tour restart. A co-field high leaderboard jump of 27 spots came from a player who has received significant praise as of late: Tour rookie Scottie Scheffler.
Despite three bogeys in his final six holes, Scheffler shot a final-round 4-under 66 to move from T47 to T20. The 24-year-old contended at the PGA Championship earlier this month, and shot a second-round 59 at last week’s The Northern Trust.
If Sunday is any indication, Collin Morikawa may be feeling it again. The stellar 23-year-old missed the cut at last week’s The Northern Trust, in his first start since winning the PGA Championship, the only major played this season, and his second victory of the 2020 season as a whole. He still seemed in a funk on Thursday and Friday, following a 76 with a 73, but Morikawa is again showing signs of comfort, with Sunday being his second consecutive 2-under 68. At fifth place in the FedExCup standings, Morikawa will begin the Tour Championship at 5-under-par.
Marc Leishman was not TOO bad on Sunday, as a 3-over 73 was five strokes better than his next best round of the week, but he was so unbelievably terrible this week that we are mentioning him in this spot anyway. Leishman finished 69th in the 69-man field, and at +30, the worst score on Tour in more than four years, he was nine strokes behind second-to-last, and 15 strokes worse than the trio that tied for 67th.
The 36-year-old Aussie had just four birdies for the entire week, carded 26 bogeys (worst in the field), and ranked dead last in the field in scrambling, strokes gained: putting, and strokes gained: total, and 68th in strokes gained: approach-the-green, and strokes gained: tee-to-green. There is no sugarcoating it: Leishman was epically awful at Olympia Fields.
That all being said: Leishman is not a bad player. He is 21st in the world rankings, with four victories over the past four seasons, including one in January at Torrey Pines. He was also runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which played even more difficult to par than Olympia did.
At 25th in the FedExCup standings, Leishman still has a date at East Lake, something that can’t be said by Brooks Koepka, Tiger Woods, Patrick Cantlay, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, or Jordan Spieth, among others. But yeah, Leishman is going to have to figure something out before next week.
Another famous Aussie Adam Scott is leaving Olympia Fields frustrated as well. The man who finished sixth in last year’s FedExCup Standings was sitting at 38th coming into the BMW, needing a good week to move onto East Lake. Scott was tied for third place through 54 holes, two strokes back of Johnson and Matsuyama. He went birdie-free on Sunday, but was still in decent shape at 1-over through 14 holes, before collapsing down the stretch to the tune of a double bogey 7 on the par-5 15th, and bogeys on 16 and 18.
Scott’s 5-over 75 dropped him from T3 to T25, and at 41st in the FedExCup standings, his season is over.
Rory McIlroy has been in a tailspin, at least by his standards, since the COVID layoff. McIlroy played well early at the BMW though, holding the 36-hole co-lead, and giving hope that the reigning FedExCup Champion was getting ready to peak again.
Unfortunately for the four-time major winner, the weekend was not promising, as he followed a Saturday 73 with a 1-over 71 on Sunday, to finish T12. McIlroy finished T5 or better in all six of his starts prior to the layoff, including a victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Since play resumed, however, McIlroy has failed to record a top 10 in eight starts. He will enter the Tour Championship in 12th place, which starts him at 3-under-par.
WITB: Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm has won twice in his five most recent starts, including the Memorial and the BMW Championship. The world No. 2 – like Dustin Johnson last week, plays a full bag of Taylormade gear.
Rahm’s Golf Gear
Driver: TaylorMade SIM Max (10.5°)
3 Wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (15°)
Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max (19°)
Irons: TaylorMade P750 (4-PW)
Gap Wedge: TaylorMade Milled Grind 2 (52°)
Sand Wedge: TaylorMade Milled Grind 2 (56°)
Lob Wedge: TaylorMade Milled Grind 2 (60°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X Chalk
Ball: TaylorMade TP5
“Like The Legend of Bagger Vance”
“So, I was aiming at a spot maybe 40 feet away, at the top of that slope, and as it starts turning towards the pin, I’m like ‘this looks really, really, really good’, and it’s a little right, and then at the end it was going to turn left, it started getting on the line I visualized, if anybody has seen it, it kind of seemed like ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’, when you see that little path, and that’s kind of how I felt like, and that’s why I moved to see the line, and started tracking and tracking, I was hoping it would stay somewhat close, but with five feet to go, it was such a good line, I’m like ‘Oh my God, please go in’, and luckily, it hit the pin and went in.”
– Jon Rahm, on his 66’5” winning birdie putt