Dustin Johnson at Northern Trust

Following a phenomenal, almost record-breaking performance by Dustin Johnson at the Northern Trust, this week we move onto the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields for the PGA Tour’s second play-off event.

 

The FedEx Cup’s top 70 players will be battling it out to make the Tour Championship, with only 30 players being able to advance to East Lake next week.

 

Johnson (8/1) has jumped straight to the top of the market after last week, while Jon Rahm (10/1) follows closely behind after posting a top 10 at TPC Boston.

 

Neither present much value, even when taking into account how incredibly well both players performed last week.

 

The reason being is that both players haven’t played this course in tournament golf before, like almost everyone in this field, which makes it hard to put either of them up.

 

Instead, I think Xander Schauffele (16/1) could be the man to beat this week on a tight par-70 with small greens and a good short game required.

 

After coming ever so close to winning on the first week back at Colonial, with a short missed putt on 17 deciding his fate there, the American has barely put a foot wrong.

 

No missed cuts and six top 25s in his next seven events following the Charles Schwab, Schauffele has played excellently.

However, that close call seems to have to knocked the wind out of his sails, finishing in the top 10 twice since Colonial but never really threatening to win.

 

His finishes this season don’t really do him justice either, with this undoubtedly being his most consistent and best ball-striking year on tour. Unfortunately it hasn’t coincided with a win yet, but there is almost certainly one just around the corner for the 26-year-old.

 

I see no better place to pick up that victory than Olympia Fields, with thick rough and an emphasis on accuracy both off the tee and into some small surfaces. A grind is to be expected this week, more so than last week anyway, and he has openly admitted how much he prefers that to a winning score of -20 or more.

 

When noticing that greens in regulation are going to be crucial this week with the thick rough, it’s also important to note that players are going to have to be at their best around these greens in the deep rough too.

 

The 26-year-old fits the bill there, ranking 14th in SG: around-the-green just last week at TPC Boston, while boasting a rank of 10th for the season.

 

Schauffele is excellent off the tee, rock-solid in his approach play and good around the greens. Altogether it makes him a prime candidate for this week in Illinois; avoid the silly mistakes and he could be winning his second play-off event come Sunday.

 

 

Viktor Hovland (35/1) has been working hard to follow in the footsteps of close friends Matt Wolff and Collin Morikawa in getting his first big win on the PGA Tour and has shown promising signs of that happening with his recent form.

 

However, having demonstrated some real issues on and around the greens, something even mentioned as a problematic part of his game by his coach Pete Cowen, I’m going to leave the Norwegian out.

 

Rather than the talented youngster, I’ll opt for a player at a slightly bigger price in Englishman Tyrrell Hatton (40/1).

 

15th in SG: tee-to-green and 28th in putting, the Englishman has performed brilliantly on the PGA Tour this season and fitted in seamlessly amongst his world class peers.

 

Winning on the PGA Tour at the Arnold Palmer earlier this year really felt like a breakthrough too, illustrating how far both his game and his mental strength has come.

 

Winning that event in what proved to be a real grind makes for a promising week in Illinois where it is likely to be somewhat similar.

 

Ideally Hatton would be hitting it much better off-the-tee heading into an event where driving accuracy is so integral, but his approach play and short game is too good to ignore at a track where the bombers have less of an advantage off the tee.

 

His return to professional golf has been spaced out, but I feel that gives him a slight advantage this week where many players will be desperate for a rest.

 

He returned especially well at Colonial and the Heritage (two events closely aligned in course strategy to here at Olympia) before going 69-MC at the St. Jude and the PGA.

 

Those two results obviously weren’t encouraging, but after a top-25 at TPC Boston last week, where he also finished 19th in SG: off-the-tee and 18th in putting, it signals his game looks to be coming back to where it was immediately after lockdown.

 

Demonstrating his ability to win in a stacked field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, I see no reason why he couldn’t do the same here and add to his PGA Tour tally.

 

My next pick is the runner-up to DJ last week, who put in a splendid performance only to finish 11 behind his fellow American.

 

Harris English (35/1) performed admirably at TPC Boston, where he ranked 4th in SG: tee-to-green, 3rd around-the-green and 16th in putting. 

 

What was notable was that two weeks ago English was right there after two days at the Wyndham, before he fell out of contention and ended up eventually slipping down to 23rd. That easily could have happened again last week, but this time he remained aggressive and reaped the rewards, illustrating how he learnt from his mistakes the week before.

 

Last week was no real surprise though, with his form post-lockdown being incredibly consistent.

 

After a missed cut at Colonial, he has yet to fall out of the top-25 of an event in six tries, with the icing on the cake coming at the Northern Trust.

 

His underlying stats don’t deflate his finishes for the season either. If anything, they actually suggest he’s arguably underperformed.

 

Sixth in SG: total, 16th in tee-to-green and 16th in putting, English’s stats across the board are extremely strong, and should have been rewarded with a win by now.

 

Those stats match up well with Olympia Fields too, being 12th in both greens in regulation percentage and scrambling, while ranking an even better ninth when scrambling from the rough.

 

He has more than demonstrated he has the game to win on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2013, and the BMW Championship presents a perfect opportunity to go one better than last week and beat a world class field.

 

After managing to get it right on the first week of picking a player for a top-10 finish in Alex Noren last week, I’m going to try and continue that winning trend in Illinois by choosing Joel Dahmen (10/1).

 

There was little value in comparison to last week in the top-10 market, understandably due to the limited field this week.

 

Matt Kuchar (11/2) was going to be my original choice and almost was at the Northern Trust before a last minute switch to Noren, but his price is very short for someone whose shown little form outside of last week.

 

Alternatively, as he managed to finish in the top-10 three weeks ago at the PGA Championship, I like Dahmen’s chances of replicating that finish again this week.

 

Speaking on the No Laying Up podcast recently, Dahmen detailed his like for firm and fast golf courses, and illustrated his success at the PGA Championship mostly revolved around his solid driving accuracy and the thick rough having more of an effect on the wayward, longer hitters.

 

With that in mind, I like his chances on a former US Open layout, and somewhere that will have similarly thick rough to TPC Harding Park.

 

His game has really stepped up this year, and what I find most impressive is that he was able to carry over his form from before the tour’s hiatus, posting three top-20s and a top-10 since golf’s return.

 

He may have missed the cut last week, but missing it one below the number was hardly a horror show, and it could have easily ended up in a top-25 finish if he was to have made the weekend.

 

Plus, he has shown that poor performances or missed cuts have very little effect on him now like they might have in the past.

 

He has shown lots of resilience and patience to make it to the position he is in currently, and I feel that bodes well for a return to form at a course which is more suitable to him than at a shootout, which it proved to be last week.

 

Dahmen is quite an underrated character on the PGA Tour and has real self-belief now, as his words on the No Laying Up podcast represent, which I think stands him in good stead moving forward in these FedEx Cup play-offs.

 

Xander Schauffele (16/1) – 2.5 pts e.w.

Harris English (35/1) – 1.5 pts e.w.

Tyrrell Hatton (40/1) – 1.5 pts e.w.

Joel Dahmen (10/1) top-10 – 2 pts

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