Stat attack!: BMW Championship preview

By John AntoniniSeptember 2, 2014, 11:50 pm

Cherry Hills Golf Club in Colorado is about to host the second-oldest PGA Tour event on a course that hasn’t hosted the best players in the world since the 1985 PGA Championship.

Very few of the 69 players in the current field have played a competitive round at Cherry Hills, which makes handicapping the BMW Championship (formerly known as the Western Open, which began in 1899) a riskier business than usual.

Long thought of as a “second-shot” golf course, where accurate approach shots can make or break a round, Cherry Hills also plays at altitude, which could lead to longer ball flight and more aggressive play.

Phil Mickelson might not be among the longest hitters on the PGA Tour any more, but the veteran is still one of its most aggressive players, ranking 34th in going for the green, 28th in scrambling and 29th in scoring. We mention Lefty because he won the 1990 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills, but the amount of local knowledge he can take from 24 years ago is minimal at best.

And it reminds us that Mickelson hasn’t won a PGA Tour event this year, putting his tour-best streak of 10 straight years with a victory in jeopardy.

Longest active streak of consecutive years with a PGA Tour victory

 No. of years with a win Player Years
 10 Phil Mickelson 2004-2013
 7 Dustin Johnson 2008-2014
 5 Justin Rose 2010-2014
 4 Bill Haas 2010-2013
 3 Matt Kuchar 2012-2014
 3 Zach Johnson 2012-2014

Bill Haas is also in jeopardy of ending his streak, although at 17th on the FedEx Cup standings, this likely won’t be his last appearance of the season. He’ll still have the Tour Championship at East Lake (where he won in 2011) to extend his streak to five seasons.

Mickelson, at 56th in points, is likely not going to Georgia unless he has a high finish at Cherry Hills.

Phil Mickelson’s record at the BMW Championship in the Playoff era

 Year Finish Scores Course
 2013 T-33 70-74-68-71—283 Conway Farms
 2012 T-2 69-67-64-70—270 Crooked Stick
 2011 T-56 72-73-71-75—291 Cog Hill
 2010 T-8 72-71-70-67—280 Cog Hill
 2009 T-30 71-69-70-76—286 Cog Hill
 2008 T-17 68-65-71-70—274 Bellerive 

It’s worth noting that Mickelson was T-2 at Crooked Stick, another new BMW venue that isn’t normally used for PGA Tour events. And, in addition to his win at altitude at the 1990 U.S. Amateur, Mickelson has won two PGA Tour events in Colorado - the 1993 and 1997 International -which was held at Castle Pines. He was second at the International in 1998 and 2000, and had seven top 10s in 14 starts at what was the Tour’s annual Stableford event.

Here’s a look at other players in this week’s field who fared well at the International before it disappeared from the schedule in 2006.

How selected players in the BMW field fared at the PGA Tour’s International: 1991-2006

 Player International record
 Ernie Els 15 starts, 15 cuts made; 9 top 10s, with a win in 2000
 Jim Furyk 5 starts, 4 cuts made; 1 to 10 (T-7 in 1997)
 Charles Howell III

7 starts, 4 cuts made; 4 top-20 finishes with a best of fifth in 2005

 Phil Mickelson

14 starts, 11 cuts made; 7 top 10s, with two wins and two seconds

 Bubba Watson 1 start, 1 cut made; T6 in 2006

Although the International’s champions were often long hitters – think Els, Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Davis Love III for example – there were some shorter hitters who won, notably Brad Faxon, Lee Janzen and Dean Wilson, who won the last event in 2006.

Granted a stroke-play playoff event has a different atmosphere than a modified Stableford event midway through the long season, but the point remains: A long hitter only has an advantage in altitude if he controls his ball flight and avoids danger.

The BMW Championship has been the third event of the PGA Tour playoffs since the FedEx Cup was formed in 2007. In that time no player ranked outside the top half of the 70 players who make up the field has won. Justin Rose, 34th in 2011, was the highest seed to win.

FedEx Cup ranking of the BMW Championship winner

 Year Player FedEx rank Deutsche Bank finish
 2013 Zach Johnson 27 T-27
 2012 Rory McIlroy 1 1
 2011 Justin Rose 34 T-68
 2010 Dustin Johnson 16 T-57
 2009 Tiger Woods 2 T-11
 2008 Camilo Villegas 25 T-3
 2007 Tiger Woods 3 T-2

Although the BMW champ has tended to play well at the Deutsche Bank, with four of the seven champions finishing in the top 11 at Boston. Only Rory McIlroy won both events. In fact the Deutsche Bank winner has not fared particularly well in his playoff follow-up. In additon to McIlroy, who was a world-beater in 2012, only Webb Simpson in 2011 managed better than a top-30 finish the week after his win.

How the Deutsche Bank winner fared at the BMW Championship

 Year Deutsche Bank winner BMW finish
 2013 Henrik Stenson T-33
 2012 Rory McIlroy 1
 2011 Webb Simpson 5
 2010 Charley Hoffman T-30
 2009 Steve Stricker T-53
 2008 Vijay Singh T-44
 2007 Phil Mickelson Did not play

That doesn’t bode particularly well for Chris Kirk’s chances at Cherry Hills, but the Boston champ already has two wins this PGA Tour season.

One final thought: Jim Furyk lost in the third round of the 1990 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills (to David Eger). Morgan Hoffmann and Cameron Tringale played for the U.S. in the 2009 Palmer Cup at Cherry Hills (won by Europe, 13-11), and Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama played in the 2012 U.S. Amateur at the course (Matsuyama didn’t make match play, Spieth lost in Round 1). With Mickelson, this is about the extent of the BMW field’s competitive history at Cherry Hills.

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.