The BMW Championship preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
Round three of the play offs heads to Crooked Stick, scene of John Daly’s remarkable 1991 PGA Championship win, after a shortened three day gap following Rory’s dramatic win at the Barclays on Monday.
We always felt Rory would trot up when he got his putting sorted and despite being four over through three holes on day one he posted 19 under for his final 69 holes. The problem we have now is that he’s flying and could easily win the BMW but he’s not a backable price. Main rivals, Jordan, Jason and Dustbin, were just off at the Barclays, to the extent they were there or there abouts, while never remotely threatening, but it would hardly surprise to see one of them step up and click at Crooked Stick. Dustbin seems to be timing his run to peak at Eastlake having had a three week break prior to the play offs so he could be the one. Day seems to have lost confidence in his long game and is refreshingly frank about it and Jordan now seems to be just generally struggling and Crooked Stick certainly seems to favour the bigger hitters. Again though, none of the prices appeal.
Rory won this event here – at Crooked Stick – in 2012, so allied to his recent form would seem the obvious pick – while Jason defends this event.
Crooked Stick is a bog standard par 72 – refreshing – running at 7,500+ yards. A Pete Dye design with typical Dye characteristics – no linear holes and the ability to move it both ways off the tee. Apparently he lives just off one of the holes so he and his wife as a design partnership must feel some special affinity with the place.
The main story though will centre on those of the 69 (Stenson pulled out) who will be whittled down to just 30 for the Tour Championship at East Lake. Daniel Berger – second in this event last year, albeit six back from a rampant Day, is 31st in the standings. Another player we have sided with this season, Brooks Kopeka is 30th. Aside from the players share of another $8.5m this week and the reward of a place in the stupidly lucrative Tour Championship and Fed Ex pot there is also the perhaps more important prize of entry into all the 2017 majors. The beauty of the Fed Ex is the continuous climax off the same narrative and the bubble action can arguably be more exciting than the winners tussle.
Oh, and lest we forget there is also the US Ryder Cup team still to be resolved with Davis Love allegedly allowing the automatic selections a say in his picks. That’ll be interesting.
Jimmy the F..ks wannabe, Ryno is flying with great current form and some course form to boot. Yes he’s not long and Crooked Stick does favour the longer hitter but he is good, hitting 67% of fairways and 66% of greens all season long. Throw this in with a nearly 0.4 strokes gained putting figure and it’s easy to see why he’s posted a win and eight top tens this season. Having won a month ago at the John Deere Classic Moore followed this with a lowly 53rd at the Wyndham and has then come alive in the play offs with a seventh at The Barclays and eighth at the Deutsche Bank. Twelfth in the Fed Ex rankings he has the added incentive of possibly getting a Captains Pick for the Ryder Cup – but would probably have to win here. Consider this for a man in form. Since returning from the UK after the Open Championship Moore has posted 16 of his last 24 rounds in the 60’s. Better, he likes it around Crooked Stick with a 13 under total in 2012 hitting 72% of fairways and 76% of greens while only averaging 288 off the tee. If he putts he contends.
Back to form with a bang following two missed cuts after his PGA win Walker was becoming known as a late developer who would win early (in Hawaii) and then fade. Inconsistent yes but when on song he can roll his potato as Wayne Riley says. Walker does struggle with his driving so don’t expect him to be playing from the fairway that often and there is a chance he is never in the mix but he has proven that can miss fairways and still hit greens. He can also post some great strokes gained putting stats. He opened the BMW at Crooked Stick in 2012 with 67 but then lost the plot finishing 64th. Walker however is a late developer and had yet to even win on the tour in 2012, only breaking his duck in 2014, so is a vastly different animal these days. We’ll take the view that the confidence gained from the major win and last weeks performance will stand him in good stead and he’ll be in the mix.
Yet to win in 2016 and coming off a missed cut at the Duetsche Bank hardly make for inspiration so why Milky? Try third in seasonal scoring average at 69.384 and a strokes gained putting figure of 0.753 (2nd). Crooked Stick’s small greens place an emphasis on scrambling and Milky ranks 5th in this category with most of those ahead of him much shorter off the tee. Eight of the top ten at Crooked Stick in 2012 were in the 290+ class. He was runner up to Rory in 2012 just 2 shots back and he’s Milky Phil – 5 majors, 42 PGA Tour wins and he takes it past parallel at 46. The man most likely to win a major in his 50’s he has plenty of gas in the tank. He got into some crazy trouble last week, which he is inclined to do, but he is also a master at bouncing back.
You have to love Rickie not least because of his enduring loyalty to his friends on tour. If a mates in contention Rickie hangs around to wish him the best, which in an individual sport like golf seems anathema. Sure Tiger never did it and there’s an argument you need to be self centred and single-minded but Rickie is just not that person. He did lose it at The Barlcays after some stellar play and was a man to avoid last week. Given a week to recover I see no reason he won’t head to Crooked Stick with a bounce in his step as his underlying credentials are really solid. He averages 69.937 this season, over 300 off the tee and hits 69% of fairways plus has a positive strokes gained putting figure of 0.206. The key is of course is that he can really putt when’s he’s on. Rickie did play this event at Crooked Stick on 2012 but much like Walker he was not the player he is now so we can forgive him his 41st place finish.