One down. Two to go. The second leg of the 2019 FedExCup Playoffs moves from New Jersey to Chicago for the 13th annual BMW Championship. It will mark the debut of historic Medinah Country Club as the host venue for the tournament in its current formation.
Medinah had previously hosted the old Western Open three times before it transitioned to a FedExCup Playoff event, the last edition contested in 1966 when Billy Casper won his second of four Western Open titles in a nine-year span.
The field this week will feature the top-70 positioned players in the points standings, headlined by co-favorites Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy. On Sunday evening, the season will conclude for some 40 players, as only the top-30 move on to Atlanta for the Tour Championship and its nearly $65 million pot.
While there are many players to like this week, including world No. 10 Justin Thomas, the following 10 players are those who Joel Cook likes the best this week – in what should be an extremely competitive event:
10. Louis Oosthuizen
The 2010 Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen enters the BMW in good form, highlighted by three straight top-20s, including a T6 at last week’s Northern Trust. The 36-year old South African has consistently posted in the money throughout all of 2019, with just a single missed cut (way back in March at Bay Hill), and he seems to perform best on the bigger stages.
Currently ranked 23rd in the world, Oosthuizen has recorded four top 10s and two additional top 20s in his 11 most recent starts.
World Rank: 23
FedExCup Rank: 28
Last Six: 6, 20, 20, 46, 36, 7
9. Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay posted a T12 at last week’s opening leg of the playoffs. It was the third top-15 in his last four starts, and just added to his season’s stellar resume which includes a win (Memorial) and several top 10s.
Now ranked No. 9 in the world, and 7th in the FedExCup race, the California native is already guaranteed a spot in the East Lake field next week, so look for another strong start from Cantlay as he prepares for the big-money finale in Atlanta.
World Rank: 9
FedExCup Rank: 7
Last Six: 12, 12, 41, 15, 21, 1
8. Dustin Johnson
He is No. 2 in the World Rankings, No. 5 in Scoring Average, No. 8 in the FedExCup Standings, and claimed one of the four WGC events this season. Yet, despite all that, it’s been a down year for Dustin Johnson.
A lot of the negativity is due to his recent form, as he’s not posted a single top 10 in his six most recent starts. It marks the first time since the beginning of the 2013 season that he’s gone this long without a top 10.
He looked to have emerged from that slump when he jumped out to a 63-67 start, giving him the 36-hole lead at last week’s The Northern Trust, but poor weekend rounds saw him plummet down the board to a T24 finish.
World Rank: 2
FedExCup Rank: 8
Last Six: 24, 20, 51, MC, 35, 20
7. Tony Finau
Victory No. 1 in a non-opposite field event feels imminent for world No. 14 Tony Finau, right? Well, we (and everyone else) have been saying that for two years now – including last week (copy/paste).
At some point, though, he’s gotta come through so don’t be surprised if this is the breakthrough week for the Utah native. Just kidding. Who knows!
Ranked 12th in the FedExCup standings, Finau opened with a 65 last week in New Jersey but followed it with three straight mediocre rounds to finish T30. He posted a T8 last year at the BMW, one of three top-10s in the playoffs.
World Rank: 14
FedExCup Rank: 12
Last Six: 30, 27, 3, 23, MC, MC
6. Justin Rose
Last week in New Jersey was just another day in the office for world No. 4 Justin Rose as he finished T10 and positioned himself nicely to defend his 2018 FedExCup title.
The 39-year old Englishman will enter the BMW in the form we’ve come to expect (10-11-20-3-13), and has been made one of the top-5 betting favorites this week.
Rose finished solo runner up last year, losing in a playoff to Keegan Bradley.
World Rank: 4
FedExCup Rank: 12
Last Six: 10, 11, 20, 3, 13, 58
5. Patrick Reed
The 2019 campaign started nice enough for then reigning Masters champ Patrick Reed, as he posted six-straight top-25s to start the season, including four top-15s. But the streaky Reed went into a funk when the calendar flipped to March, and proceeded to reel off 10 consecutive starts without a top-25 finish, including three of season’s majors.
The 29-year old Texas native finally saw his game click again in late June when he finished T5 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. This jump-started a six start stretch that saw Reed never finish outside the top-25, and culminating with his 7th career victory at last week’s Northern Trust.
The win moved Reed from 50th to No. 2 in the FedExCup standings, behind only Brooks Koepka. The enigmatic star will enter Medinah as one of the top betting favorites, and absolutely nobody would be surprised if he pulled off back-to-back wins.
World Rank: 15
FedExCup Rank: 2
Last Six: 1, 22, 12, 10, 23, 5
4. Adam Scott
Adam Scott rode a final-round 65 to a solo fifth-place finish and is now ranked No. 17 in the world, after falling outside the top 75 during a stunning one-year slump.
It was the ninth (9) top 10 in his 20 most recent starts, including three-straight during an elite-event stretch which included the PGA (T8), the Memorial (2), and U.S. Open (T7).
Scott’s approach game is now fully back, as evidenced by his 5th-place ranking this season in strokes gained: approach-the-green, and 4th place in strokes gained: total. If he can improve his putting (he finished 41st last week in sg: putting), he could be a serious contender down the stretch.
He’s also shown the ability to get hot in the post-season before: in 2016, he played the four playoff events T4, 4, T4, T8, and in 2014 he went T15, T16, T8, T9. Don’t underestimate the 39-year-old Aussie.
World Rank: 17
FedExCup Rank: 14
Last Six: 5, 40, MC, 7, 2, 8
3. Brooks Koepka
Fittingly, World No. 1 Brooks Koepka leads the FedExCup standings after the first week of the FedExCup playoffs. While he awaits his second consecutive PGA Tour Player of the Year award, the four-time major champion will likely need considerably better than last week’s T30 at The Northern Trust if he wants to keep that top spot in the standings at East Lake.
Koepka finished T19 in this event a year ago, although he has no experience at Medinah.
World Rank: 1
FedExCup Rank: 1
Last Six: 30, 1, 4, 65, 57, 2
2. Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm, the 24-year old Spaniard, is the hottest golfer on the planet, including Brooks Koepka. The world No. 5 enters Medinah off six straight top-11s, including four top-3s, highlighted by his second career win at the Irish Open. For the third straight season (his only three) he once again won on both the PGA Tour and European Tour – the longest streak in history.
Rahm also enjoyed his best major championship season, finishing with three top 11s (T3, T9, T11). A win by Rahm in Chicago (or Atlanta) would surprise nobody. He’s expected to be a threat in all the big events for years to come.
World Rank: 5
FedExCup Rank: 5
Last Six: 3, 7, 11, 1, 2, 3
1. Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy finished T6 last week in New Jersey. It was the Northern Irishman’s 13th! top-10 in just 17 PGA Tour starts this season, two of which were victories, including a defining win at THE PLAYERS Championship.
However, as amazing as he has been at times, the world No. 3 was largely irrelevant during the major season, and shockingly missed the cut at The Open Championship, which was being played in his homeland. He then squandered the 54-hole co-lead at the following week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
A former FedExCup Champion, Rory will once again be among the most watched and feared players in the field this week. But what else is new!?
World Rank: 3
FedExCup Rank: 3
Last Six: 6, 4, MC, 34, 9, 1
Top Sleeper: Ian Poulter
This may seem a little lazy for a “sleeper”, but this is an elite field comprised of the top 70 players from the entire 40+ week season; all the unknowns have been weeded out by now.
After looking well past his prime for a few years, the 43-year-old Poulter is having his second straight solid season on Tour, again proving himself as a week-in, week-out threat. He recently bounced back from an awful four-start stretch that saw him miss the cut at the last three majors, with an 8th place finish at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and a T10 at last week’s The Northern Trust.
The Brit currently sits at No. 43 in the FedExCup Standings, needing another strong finish to break that top 30 who gets to advance to the playoff finale. The main reason to be optimistic about his chances?
The last time the Tour came to Medinah, Poulter was the star for the winning European squad at the 2012 Ryder Cup, going 4-0-0, and winning a pivotal singles match against Webb Simpson that set the early pace in his side’s one-point win. Poulter tends to be a confidence player, and those good memories, combined with his recent hot form should have him in great shape this week.
World Rank: 30
FedExCup Rank: 43
Last Six: 10, 8, MC, 14, 41, MC
Joel Cook contributed to this article, including the rankings and content.