The First Tee – BMW Championship

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly August 12, 2019 19:47

The First Tee – BMW Championship

This Week

The BMW Championship is the middle leg of the FedEx Cup (friendly reminder they cut from four events to three this year) and is a 70-man, no-cut event taking place at Medinah C.C. Medinah has previously hosted the US Open (’40, ‘75, ’90), PGA Championship (’99, ’06), US Senior Open (’88) and the 2012 Ryder Cup. American golf fans may not want to revisit the Miracle at Medinah, so the less said about that, the better!

The Course

Medinah is a long par-72, listed at 7612 yards, and played tough in 2006 when it hosted the PGA Championship – Tiger won with -18 but the cut came at +1 and there were only eight double-digit scores below par. There are two par-5s that play outside 600 yards and seven of the 10 par-4s are listed between 440 and 509 yards, so distance both off the tee and with irons will be important; the shortest par-3 is 192 yards, so there’s no relief from the length there either.

While the course has changed since the last official (tracked) event, the 2006 numbers should demonstrate how sparse scoring is here – just 18.6% Birdie or Better %, and a 3.31 birdie/rd average. Part of this is due to the tough-to-find greens, as in 2006 and 1999 only 61.3% and 58.4% were hit respectively. Players that can score well – especially on longer tracks – should be at a premium, especially given the no-cut setup.

The course has tree-lined fairways but won’t hurt errant tee shots much, as the rough is minimal (listed at 2.5”) and thin (NOTE: there’s chatter that the rough has been grown out, but the GCSAA has it listed at 2.5” on the tournament fact sheet so that’s what I’m sticking with). The only worry here would be an unlucky lie behind a tree and water comes into play only on a couple holes, so most golfers will be able to uncork driver; the average distance here in 2006 was 288.7 and that was before the juiced ball revolution, so expect it to be even higher this week.

The fairways also have a ton of undulation which also means added roll off the tee shot, but can cause some poor lies on approach which will be a tough test on approach. Golfers will usually be hitting shots in the 150-175 yard range and could have some tough ins, as the course is set up with a lot of doglegs.

Golfers will be hitting into large bentgrass greens (6,000 sq. ft. on average) that should be pretty receptive and weather-softened thanks to some rain in the forecast pre-tournament. The greens themselves aren’t the trickiest but should play fast.

Comparable courses/events:

Torrey Pines South (Farmers Insurance) – Very similar in the length/par-72 setup, and there are often weird lies in the fairways at Torrey thanks to the kikuyu – should mimic the undulating fairways here. Also bentgrass greens.

Bethpage Black (PGA Championship) – Extremely long course although as a par-70 Bethpage plays longer. Fairly flat greens are common in both courses (BB has poa/bent though) and very hard approach shots.

Quail Hollow (Wells Fargo) – A long course in hot weather, fast greens that don’t get hit often.

 

STATS

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Off the Tee
  • Putting
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Approach Shots: 150-175 Yards
  • Par-4 Efficiency: 400-450 Yards
  • Driving Distance
  • Bogey Avoidance
  • Par-5 Scoring

Top-Tier Golfers

Webb Simpson ($9400): In no-cut events this year, Webb has finishes of 2, T39 and T8 and he hasn’t missed a cut since the Valspar in March; he finished T29 at Bethpage and T18 at Quail Hollow earlier this year but had a middling 2-2-0 performance at the Ryder Cup in 2012. He’s coming off a T18 last week and he’s racked up three runner-up finishes in his past six events (going back to the Canadian Open), so he’s clicking on all cylinders these days.

Webb’s not much of a player off the tee – in fact he ranks a putrid 91st with 0.84 strokes gained/round – and that’s mostly due to a lack of distance off the tee, because Webb is in the top-third of the Tour in terms of accuracy off the tee. While that could hurt him at such a long course, his play on approach shots outside 200 yards is fantastic (25th in prox / 26th relative to par) and he’s a combined -21 on approaches between 150-200, so his longer irons make up for it.

He ranks 14th from tee to green and continues to prove that his putting turnaround is no joke, as he’s 13th in SG: Putting and sixth in overall putting average. He sits 20th, first and 18th in par-3, -4 and -5 scoring respectively and offers good value at sub-10k.

Justin Rose ($10200): Rose is one of the few players in the field with history here outside of the Ryder Cup, as he played to a T41 finish in 2006 along with going 3-2-0 (1-0-0 in singles) in the 2012 RC. While the course is longer and not being played in autumn weather, it’s more than most have.

On the surface, Rose doesn’t jump off the page from a stats perspective, as he’s only 26th on tour from tee to green yet priced as if he’s top-5 in all categories. He makes up for that by being long off the tee and ranking 32nd and second on approach shots between 150-175 and 175-200 yards respectively.

One of the areas Rose stands out is his putter, which is part of how he’s managed to average at or below par on par-3s (3.00, T20), par-4s (3.98, T13) and par-5s (4.59, T61) while making birdie or better 23.77% of the time. The Brit has gained the second-most strokes (0.864/rd) on the greens and has the best one-putt percentage and best overall putting average on tour, and while that’s not always repeatable from week-to-week, his approach play should put him in enough positions to score – especially in a no-cut event where the fear of a big number on a hole isn’t as prevalent.

Others: Brooks Koepka ($11800); Dustin Johnson ($10700) is a stud in WGCs and the no-cut format usually

 

Value Golfer (below $8000)

Keegan Bradley ($6800): Not news: Keegan Bradley can’t putt to save his life. News: Keegan is priced below $7000 and has the 16th-best approach game on tour (36th T2G), is hitting 68.45% of greens in regulation, and he absolutely decimates par-3s (2.98 avg.)

His proximity to the hole is fantastic (12th, 34’2”) and he ranks 32nd, 58th and 10th on approach shots between 150-175 / 175-200 / Outside 200 Yards, but his score relative to par in those buckets suffers thanks to his poor putting. This is a cheap play with the idea that he’ll have four days to figure out the greens and maybe get hot with the putter, because he should consistently be in position to take those putts if nothing else.

Keegan went 3-1-0 for the States in the 2012 Ryder Cup and is coming off a T64 at the Northern Trust last week.

Si Woo Kim ($6500): A course where long irons are a factor means Si Woo is a possibility, even if his spring and summer go: T21 at Augusta, four straight MC, T41 at Memorial, six straight MC, 5th at Wyndham, 84th at the Northern Trust. He did manage at T29 at Torrey Pines back in January and pulled off a 69 at Bethpage before a second-round 77, so he’s shown he can score at comp. courses (didn’t play Quail this year).

You basically have to completely ignore any statistical merits if you want to roster the Korean, as he ranks 88th off the tee, 150th on approach, 18th around the green, 117th putting and 90th from tee to green – not ideal numbers. That being said, he still manages to make birdie or better 23.5% of the time (21st) and his average approach distance when making birdie is a huge 191.1 yards (average is in the ~178-180 range) which sets up well at a long track; he also ranks 53rd / 14th in Par-4/5 BoB% and 60th/26th in Par-4/5 Scoring. His real bugaboo is par-3s, but having two of them in the 190-195 range is right in his wheelhouse.

 

Others: Ian Poulter ($8000) has a T9 in 2006 and went 4-0-0 in the Ryder Cup so his price tag is a little juiced up before he’s one of the few with history here; Gary Woodland ($7900)

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey and good luck this week!

 

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly August 12, 2019 19:47

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