Altitude, new course present 'great conundrum' at BMW


CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – Short week.

Unfamiliar golf course.

Altitude adjustments.

The challenges getting ready for the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs are greater than usual this year with the BMW Championship being played for the first time at Cherry Hills Country Club.

With Monday’s Deutsche Bank finish, preparation time is short going to a new course on the BMW rotation. With the course at 5,380 feet, players and caddies have to factor in altitude when making club selections. Typically, the ball flies about 10 percent farther at this elevation, though that isn’t a uniform standard.

All of this makes players feel like they’re cramming for an exam.

“There’s a lot to do to get ready, but everybody’s in the same boat,” said Ryan Moore, 34th in FedEx Cup points. “It’s not like there’s anyone with a ton of experience on this course, maybe a hand full of guys who have played it a few times.”

With precision iron play required to smallish greens, winning and losing could come down to having the exact yardages figured out. With the altitude, and with all the uphill and downhill holes, club selection grows more complicated.

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“It’s huge,” Moore said. “Obviously, hitting it the right distance is important to all of us. Everybody has their own way of doing it. Some guys have formulas, but we’ll all figure it out one way or another.”

Graeme McDowell, 53rd in FedEx Cup points, said it can be head scratching.

“There are a lot of numbers flying around this week,” McDowell said. “Could be 3, 4, 5 percent in the morning, up to 8, 9, 10 percent in the afternoon. Downhill, wind, you could start off with a number like 250 and end up with a number like 200, by the time you take 10 percent, and the downhill, and the downwind, and a bit of release and that. So, the first number you have to kind of throw out and commit to your shots and realize that it's not a straightforward sort of equation.

“It's a great conundrum.”

The cross country trip from Boston, the new yardage challenges, makes for a more physically and mentally demanding week.

“Got in super late Monday night, had a lot going on with the Ryder Cup, played nine holes, was exhausted,” said Keegan Bradley, 28th in FedEx Cup points. “I hit shots, trying to get this altitude down. It's going to be a challenge for a lot of guys, because a lot of guys are just going to come in today, play the pro-am and go straight into tomorrow. There could be some shots that you see guys hit that fly greens or come up way short. It's definitely a challenge for us to come in here on a short week, especially with the altitude.”