BMW Championship Fantasy Preview

As the FedExCup Playoffs wind down, it’s time to start looking ahead to the next crop of Web.com Tour graduates. That is always a fun time (the fall) as most of the graduates are just getting their feet wet. It gives us some new names to research and analyze.

Before I jump too far ahead, let’s step back and look at the BMW Championship. This is one of the events that switches venues from year to year, with Conway Farms returning to host duties this year (2013 and 2015). If you’re new to the game or just need a refresher, have a look at the Fantasy Golfanac to see how the course typically plays. Be sure to read the golfer quotes at the bottom, as they can paint a nice picture of what you need to succeed at Conway Farms.

Conway Farms is located in Lake Forest, Illinois. It’s a par 71 that plays right around 7,200 yards. Pretty short by raw yardage but don’t mistake that for a plodder’s course. Yes, there are six holes where the field averages less than 280 yards but there are also two par 3s over 215 yards, five par 4s over 450 yards, and three par 5s over 585 yards. Depending on how you grade out course setup, this could definitely fall on the longer side of courses, despite the 7,200 yard tag.

If we look at the last two times Conway Farms has hosted, we see two very different pictures based on what the weather provided in terms of scoring conditions. In 2013, it was cold and windy. Wedge play proved to be very important as we saw Jim Furyk and Brant Snedeker lead at halftime before Zach Johnson prevailed in the end. All three are elite with their wedges. Steve Stricker and Luke Donald (home course) also finished inside the top 10.

In 2015, it wasn’t quite as cold or windy but they did get pelted with rain. That led to preferred lies in Rounds 2 & 3, which lead to the field shooting scores more than a shot lower per round compared to 2013 and appears to have given the bombers an edge. The final top 10 included big hitters like Jason Day, Daniel Berger, Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, and Bubba Watson.

This year the early weather forecasts call for calm conditions in the mid 70s. I’m not going to tie my rope to one set of golfers based on statistics but it looks to be worth tossing in some “correlated lineups” in DraftKings and FanDuel. Try grouping some plodders together that can shine if it turns into a wedgefest again. After that toss in some bomber lineups. If the scoring conditions look like 2015 by week’s end, you’ll want as much distance in your lineups as possible.

Looking for correlated course this week, I ended up with The Old White TPC, East Lake, Muirfield Village, Firestone CC, and Quail Hollow. For a small sample size correlation, I will also look at Whistling Straits, another Midwest layout where Jason Day has shined.

Players to Watch

Rickie Fowler should be one to watch in Chicago
Rickie Fowler… Pretty Rickie has gained at least five strokes over the field in 15 of his last 17 starts on the PGA TOUR. He’s been locked in all year. He finished T39 in his Conway Farms debut (2013) but posted a T4 in 2015. I’m going to keep riding the hot hand and that makes Fowler the man to beat in my eyes.

Jason Day… He’s gained more than 25 strokes over the field in two starts at Conway Farms. That resulted in a T4 and a WIN. Neither look like a fluke, either, as he gained strokes in all SG sub-categories in both starts. I’m not leaning heavily on that course history element this week but I also like how his game has been rounding into shape over the past month.

Paul Casey… Much like Fowler, this is a case of riding the hot hand for the entire season. Keep it rolling.

Rory McIlroy … I just can’t quit Rory. He’s a spreadsheet darling, at least in the ways that I look at performance. Despite the disappointing results (by his lofty standards), his post-injury results have not been horrendous. He’s walking that fine line where he just needs his iron play to click. That’s a big if, but I’ve backed him this long, I’m not going to jump off now. Winner’s Circle Or Bust. Looking at correlated-course performance, Nobody has more wins on correlated layouts than McIlroy (4 wins). Also worth noting that Justin Rose has the most podium finishes on correlated courses (8) making him a nice play this week, especially if he stays under the radar.

Zach Johnson… Loves the Midwest so it’s no surprise to see he’s a past champ here. He needs the right scoring conditions to let him shine (needs the par 5s to play like three-shot holes so he can separate from the field with his wedge work). That can happen a few ways: weather or course setup. Both things are pretty unpredictable, which makes ZJ a middle-of-the-pack option with upside.

Kevin Chappell… Pretty awful in his 2013 Conway Farms debut (62nd) but returned in 2015 to post a top 25. We know he follows the Jason Day lineage in terms of course fit, and Day excels here. Could be riding high in anticipation of the Presidents Cup.

Xander Schauffele… Nearly all of his fridge-worthy performances have come on bentgrass greens. It’s still early in his career, but I’m going to keep backing him on courses that appear to fit his style. With The Old White TPC popping up as a correlated course, I will gladly go back to X since The Greenbrier was the site of his maiden victory. DraftKings did not get the memo here as they’ve literally made him a minimum-salary option. Hmmm.

Dustin Johnson… In 2015, scoring on the par 5s was crucial here at Conway Farms. All three of the par 5s are 585 yards or longer. Over the past two years, the golfers that have played these long par 5s the best are: Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm Sergio Garcia, Luke List, Ollie Schniederjans, Charl Schwartzel, Kevin Chappell, Justin Rose, and Mackenzie Hughes. That should help DJ rack up the fantasy points, regardless of finish position this week.

Jon Rahm… This is where I start talking crazy, and you can ignore this if you want. Over the past few months I’ve been looking at the potential of fading golfers if they don’t have a top 10 at any of the correlated courses I pick out. It’s done farely well at picking out some good fades. This week there are two very notable fades: Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay. On raw stats, Rahm would be inside my top 10 and Cantlay would be inside my top 25, but instead you won’t see them listed on my top 25 since I’m not going to be using them. With a small-field, no-cut event, it’s time to start getting picky when it comes to narrowing down your list of DFS targets.

My Top 25 for the 2017 BMW Championship

1. Rickie Fowler
2. Jason Day
3. Paul Casey
4. Jordan Spieth
5. Dustin Johnson
6. Rory McIlroy
7. Matt Kuchar
8. Henrik Stenson
9. Justin Thomas
10. Justin Rose
11. Patrick Reed
12. Hideki Matsuyama
13. Zach Johnson
14. Charl Schwartzel
15. Kevin Chappell
16. Daniel Berger
17. Louis Oosthuizen
18. Brooks Koepka
19. Kevin Na
20. Bill Haas
21. Marc Leishman
22. Ian Poulter
23. Charley Hoffman
24. Keegan Bradley
25. Xander Schauffele

This article has 24 comments

    • I like to drift away from golfers like JT after historic runs like this. He’s basically putting up 95th percentile performance in various stat categories recently but it’s hard to sustain that. I think it’s definitely a good time to start looking for the letdown.

      Reply
  1. Help me understand Matt Kuchar’s fit here. He’s a better Zach Johnson, especially this year, but his previous history here is so … weird. Shot a Sunday 75 to fall to 41 in 2015, and in ’13 mixed in a Saturday *61* to dress up what otherwise was a pig of a tournament (over par in his other 3 rounds). I would think he’s a great fit here but the performance doesn’t show it.

    Reply
    • Yeah I tried to dive into it just now and don’t see any major reason. Last time he doubled the 469-yard par 4 5th (+3 for the week) and was +2 on the par-4 16th.

      In 2013 he was +2 on these two holes as well.

      I think it’s a case of small sample size and some struggling on the longer holes. He would benefit from firm and fast conditions (if we hear that’s the case he’d get a boost in my eyes).

      Reply
  2. Good read as always. Curious about your rationale with Cantlay and no top 10’s at correlated courses. He’s never played East Lake or Firestone, his 1 start at Greenbrier was a T-23 in 2014, by far his best performance that year and his only start at Muirfield was T-35 and Quail Hollow was a major set-up this year. While his sample size in general isn’t large that doesn’t seem enough to automatically fade him unless there’s another variable in play.

    Reply
  3. Hi Josh,

    Great read as always! I’ve had a huge year betting golf and that’s thanks in part to you and your resources.

    My question for this week pertains to the stroked gained stat. Which ones should I focus on and which ones should I not focus on? If it’s possible to get a ranking (OTT, APP, ARG, PUTT, etc), that would be extremely helpful.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • OTT and APP are always the two I look at. After that Putting is generally relevant but also comes with a lot of variance. ARG I don’t really use that often but it can be alright at times.

      Rank:
      APP
      OTT

      SGP


      ARG

      Reply
        • APP = Strokes Gained Approaching-the-Green
          OTT = Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee

          The best is a combination of the two, which I call Strokes Gained Long, some call it Strokes Gained Ball-Striking. That is not a published stat but can be easily figured out by adding SG OTT with SG APP.

          Reply
  4. Thoughts on Matsuyama this week? Seemed like he had his ‘coming-back-to-Earth’ events over the last two after his hot streak from the US Open to the PGA. Time to get back on him as he’s had a good finish here in 2015? One and done other options include Reed, JT, Chappell, Schwartzel, and Berger. Thoughts? I’m in chasing mode as trying to make up $1M in earnings over the next two tourneys to catch second place (first has it wrapped up already).

    Reply
  5. Hey Josh. With the news that Colin is off the bag this week due to chemistry issues, does this change your thoughts on Jason at #2?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Yup he’s an interesting sleeper but there will be a lot of holes that take driver out of his hand.

      I’m don’t think weather will do him any favors this week with firm conditions making it tougher to hit fairways.

      That combination moves him down my ranks.

      Reply

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