Event and Course Preview: BMW Championship

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Event and Course Preview: BMW Championship

What a week it was for our pick, Will Zalatoris, at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational. The 25-year-old captured his first career victory in dramatic fashion, edging out Sepp Straka in a three hole playoff. The win catapulted Zalatoris to the top of the FedEx Points Standings, putting him in an excellent position heading into the final two events of the season. 68 of the top 70 players in the FedEx Standings will tee it up this week in the BMW Championship with the goal of improving their position before the Tour Championship in East Lake.

Course Preview

The BMW Championship heads to Delaware this year with the Wilmington Country Club setting up as the host of the final stop before the PGA Tour Championship. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1959 and had renovations done by Andrew Green in 2021. Many of the renovations involved reconstructing the bunkers, adding championship tee boxes, and changing the intermediate rough grass to long fescue. The club features two different courses, North and South, and will intertwine the two courses to balance the setup and fit in hospitality tents on key holes.

The course will be set up as a par 71 track measuring just over 7,500 yards, making it the longest par 71 course that golfers have seen this season. The average green size at Wilmington CC is 8,100 square feet, ranking inside the top 5 of largest green complexes players have seen this season. The green surfaces are made of bentgrass and will roll a 12.5 on the stimpmeter, faster than the Tour average.

  • Course Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr. (1959), Andrew Green (2021)

  • Par: 71 (Four Par 3s, Eleven Par 4s, Three Par 5s)

  • Distance: 7,534 Yards - Ranks in the top 3 longest courses on Tour

  • Greens Surface: Bentgrass

  • Greens Speed: Stimpmeter of 12.5

  • Average Green Size: 8100 Yards - Ranks 2nd in largest green sizes on Tour

  • Number of Holes With Water Hazards: 4

  • Sand Bunkers: 91

  • Rough Length: 4 inches Bluegrass / Fescue

Course Setup

Three of the par 3s measure over 200 yards long with the other hole measuring 170 yards. Eight of the eleven par 4s measure between 390-450 yards. The 6th and 16th holes may potentially be drivable par 4s depending on which tee box is used. The 5th, 8th, and 9th holes will likely be three of the most difficult holes on the course, as they are all just a shade below 500 yards long. The three par 5s measure 582 yards, 634 yards, and 649 yards respectively, so long iron play and proximity from 200+ yards will certainly come into play. I expect the front nine to play much more difficult than the back nine since it features the three long par 4s and the back nine has two of the three par 5s. Don’t tilt too early if your golfers get off to a rough start on the front nine.

Key Stats

Since this is the first time Wilmington CC will host a professional event, there isn’t any historical data to go off of. Luckily, there is a great flyover video of the course on YouTube that gives a great look at what we can expect.

  • Good Drives Gained

  • SG: Approach

  • Sand Save %

  • 3 Putt Avoidance

  • SG: Putting on Bentgrass

When looking at the flyover video of the South Course, I first noticed that many of the fairways looked relatively narrow and are protected by sand bunkers in the landing areas for most golfers. In addition to that, the penalyzing rough grass has grown to four inches long. There are a few doglegs on the South Course as well, so setting up the proper angle to the green will be crucial.

Top 5 Players in Good Drives Gained
Scottie Scheffler
Tony Finau
Joohyung Kim
Corey Conners
Chez Reavie
DFS Values: Mito Pereira (6th), Troy Merritt (7th), Taylor Moore (8th).

SG: Approach is a bread and butter stat for most courses and I don’t think Wilmington CC will be any different. Nearly all of the greens are surrounded by sand bunkers, and the four water hazards are by the greens and will impact some iron shots. Wilmington CC is one of the longer courses on Tour, so I do expect great proximity from 175-200+ yards to be crucial.

Top 5 Players in SG: Approach
Russell Henley
Tony Finau
Brendan Steele
Rory McIlroy
Will Zalatoris
DFS Values: Scott Stallings (6th), Mito Pereira (8th), Harold Varner III (9th).

I do think Sand Save Percentage will come into play at Wilmington CC. Nearly every hole has a couple of fairway bunkers that protect the landing zones off the tee and three to four bunkers that defend each green. Let’s take a look at who is the best in the sand.

Top 5 Players in Sand Save %
Alex Noren
Matt Kuchar
Denny McCarthy
JT Poston
Taylor Pendrith
DFS Values: Lucas Herbert (6th), Keith Mitchell (13th), Andrew Putnam (15th).

Since the greens are some of the biggest on TOUR, I expect lag putting and three putt avoidance to be important. I will also be looking at SG: Putting from 25+ Feet.

Top 5 Players in 3 Putt Avoidance
Tony Finau
Hideki Matsuyama
Keegan Bradley
Christiaan Bezuidenhout
Tyrell Hatton
DFS Values: Russell Henley (6th), KH Lee (8th), Alex Noren (9th).

I don’t typically look at putting stats this much, but I do want to view who raises their baseline when putting on bentgrass greens.

Top 5 Players in SG: Putting on Bentgrass
Patrick Cantlay
Christiaan Bezuidenhout
Rory McIlroy
Alex Noren
Seamus Power
DFS Values: Maverick McNealy (7th), Taylor Pendrith (9th), Keegan Bradley (10th).

Check out Pat James’ Stat Model article for a more in-depth breakdown of the main stats to look at this week.

Tournament History

The 2021 BMW Championship was held at Caves Valley, a course right outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Patrick Cantlay defeated Bryson DeChambeau in a two-man playoff with both golfers reaching -27 for the event. Both Cantlay and DeChambeau were electric with their putter, ranking 1st and 2nd in SG: Putting respectively. The playoff was decided on the sixth playoff hole, when Cantlay sunk a 17-foot birdie for the win. Cantlay’s victory was one of four on the season, including his win at East Lake the following week for the 2021 PGA Tour Championship.

The last five winners of this tournament include:
  • 2021 - Patrick Cantlay (-27)

  • 2020 - Jon Rahm (-4)

  • 2019 - Justin Thomas (-25)

  • 2018 - Keegan Bradley (-20)

  • 2017 - Marc Leishman (-23)

What happened in 2020? Olympia Fields played incredibly difficult when it hosted the 2020 BMW Championship. Rahm’s score of four under par was the first time the winning score was in single digits since 2010 and is the highest score in the history of the event. Six of the past seven events have reached -20 or lower, so what can we expect this week?

Since the tournament is played at a different course each year there is not much use in looking at Strokes Gained data for each winner.

The Field

There have been 44 different PGA Tour events that have led to the final two events of the season. The top 70 players in the FedEx Cup Standings are headed to Delaware, with only the top 30 golfers receiving an invite to East Lake next week. Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, and Will Zalatoris are the most expensive golfers on DraftKings this week to no surprise, followed by Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and Collin Morikawa. Cameron Smith withdrew from the event on Monday morning due to discomfort in his hip.

The BMW Championship will be played as a no-cut event, so there won’t be an epic cut sweat on Friday. You won’t have to worry about “Missed Cut” potential this week, so don’t be afraid to take a chance on some fliers. Ownership will also be inflated due to the reduced field, so don’t be shocked to see golfers in the 20-30% range.

Essential Questions

Will Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth bounce back after missing the cut in Memphis?

These three were the only golfers priced above $9,000 in the FedEx St. Jude that didn’t play on the weekend. Let’s dig a little deeper into what led to their missed cut. Scottie Scheffler lost over 4 strokes putting in round one and lost strokes with his irons in round two due to finding water on the ninth hole. Rory also had a rough performance on the greens in round one and found water on the eighteenth hole in round two. McIlroy hit only 42% of fairways in the event, which is a bit worrisome. However, he was also just one stroke away from making the cut. Jordan Spieth unarguably had the worst two rounds out of the group, ranking nearly dead last in SG: T2G in round 2. Spieth lost strokes in all four major stat categories, something he hasn’t done since the Farmers Insurance Open. That being said, Spieth finished runner-up the following week at Pebble Beach.

Birdie or Better or Bogies Avoided? What can we expect the winning score to be this week?

It’s obviously much more difficult to handicap a golf course that we haven’t seen at the professional level before. By just looking at the stats, Wilmington CC looks like it could play very difficult. The course is one of the longest on Tour, the greens will run fast, the rough grass four inches long, and the greens are large and will have many undulations. On the flip side, there are only four water hazards here, so we likely won’t see as many large scores on some holes like we did last week. The three par 5s will all offer scoring opportunities for golfers even though they all measure over 580 yards. The rough grass will be long, but hitting out of bluegrass is a bit more predictable than the bermudagrass we saw in Memphis. I’ll guess that the winning score will be in the upper teens in this loaded field.

Early Betting and DFS Picks

Viktor Hovland

Viktor Hovland looked solid in his first appearance since the Open Championship, finishing 20th at the FedEx St. Jude. For as bad as Hovland has been around the greens this year, I don’t think he gets credit for how good of a putter he’s been. He ranks 9th in SG: Putting in this field and has gained strokes putting in eight of his last nine events. He’s also a much better putter on bentgrass compared to bermuda, ranking 19th in SG: Putting and 17th in Three Putt Avoidance on the bentgrass. I don’t expect Hovland to miss greens with how large they are and how sharp his irons are, so he shouldn’t have to scramble very often. I don’t think Hovland will continue to be overlooked since he has finished 4th and 20th in his last two starts, but the $9.2k price tag on the Norwegian in DFS is too low.

Cameron Young

Cameron Young ranked 2nd to Will Zalatoris in SG: Ball-Striking last week, gaining over nine strokes in the stat. He ranked 5th in SG: T2G, but was never in contention due to losing strokes Around the Greens as well as a terrible putting performance. However, he ended his weekend with some momentum by shooting a 66 in the final round. Young ranked 1st in SG: OTT and gained strokes putting in the final round, which had to boost his confidence on the greens before heading to WIlmington. The last time he lost strokes putting was his missed cut at the Scottish Open, which was followed by a 2nd at the Open and T2 at the Rocket Mortgage. I’m curious what DFS players will do with Young this week as he has a slight drop in his DraftKings price.

Cameron Davis

Another Cameron rounds out my DFS picks, who continues to be criminally underpriced. Davis has five straight finishes at T16 or better, gaining strokes ball-striking in all five events. His distance off the tee should give him an advantage this week on the longer course and bentgrass is by far his best surface to putt on. He currently sits 51st in the FedEx Point standings, so he needs a solid week to get an invite to East Lake. Over the last 24 rounds, Davis ranks 13th in Birdie or Better Gained and 5th in Bogies avoided. He also ranks 22nd in SG: Par 5’s 600-650 yards, so he should be able to take advantage of the three scoring holes. I do expect him to be highly owned, but once again his price tag just seems too low.

Early Tee Time Livestream - Monday @ 6 ET

Well, that does it for this week’s Event and Course Preview. For a more in-depth breakdown of the course, the field, DFS strategy, and my favorite picks this week be sure to check out the Early Tee Time livestream this Monday at 6 PM Eastern. Good luck everyone!

*All stats used are from FantasyNational and DataGolf

Hunter Vanness started his golf content by posting a player pool each week on Twitter, which eventually turned into a DFS cheatsheet, in addition to a weekly event preview. He is fascinated by the game theory part of PGA DFS and is continuing to dive into the data side of the game.

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