Not that Rory McIlroy likely gives a darn about what I think, but I am now squarely back in the McIlroy camp in terms of believing he is the future superstar on the PGA Tour. That seemed obvious after last year’s U.S. Open victory, a win at the Honda Classic back in March and taking over the world No. 1 ranking this spring.
But for a little over two months, starting at the Players Championship in May, McIlroy struggled big-time both on the PGA Tour and in Europe. He was missing cuts left and right and I started wondering if we were seeing the David Duval syndrome here. But the Northern Irishman has put to rest any doubt who the best player in the world is by winning the PGA Championship three starts ago and then taking last week’s Deutsche Bank Championship (unfortunately, I had McIlroy finishing outside the Top 10 in Boston).
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That win gave McIlroy, who didn’t compete in the 2011 playoffs, the FedEx Cup points lead, reaffirmed his No. 1 ranking and equaled McIlroy with Tiger Woods for a Tour-high three victories in 2012. But considering McIlroy leads Tiger 1-0 in majors, it looks likely that McIlroy will beat out Tiger for 2012 PGA Tour Player of the Year unless Woods dominates the FedEx Cup and McIlroy struggles the next two weeks.
The Top 70 in points after last week advanced to this week’s BMW Championship, the penultimate event of the playoffs. Nine players who started last week outside the Top 70 played their way in: Charl Schwartzel (he has an injury and could miss this week), D.A. Points, Matt Every, Troy Matteson, Chris Kirk, Jeff Overton, Charley Hoffman, Bryce Molder and Dicky Pride (the current bubble boy at No. 70). But that obviously means nine fell out of the Top 70 who were inside it: John Rollins, Ken Duke, Scott Stallings, Harris English, Josh Teater, Spencer Levin, Charles Howell III, Jonathan Byrd and Brian Davis. Sweden’s Jonas Blixt was the first man out at No. 71, finishing just nine points behind Pride after a T20 last week.
The player who was lowest in the FedEx Cup standings at the start of the playoffs who is still alive is David Hearn, who began at No. 108. The player who was highest on the points list and who is no longer around is Ken Duke – he began No. 42 but missed the cut at the first two playoff events. Charlie Wi and Ben Crane also have missed the cut in the first two events but they are still around. Wi is now 61st and Crane 67th.
The BMW Championship had been held at Cog Hill outside Chicago the past three years but shifts to Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind., for this year only. You may remember that course as the host of the 1991 PGA Championship when an unknown alternate named John Daly won the major and became one of golf’s few households names (not always for good reasons). Crooked Stick is also designer Pete Dye’s home course. I’m not sure what to expect score-wise, but when the 2009 U.S. Senior Open was held there Fred Funk won at 20-under. But the PGA Tour hasn’t been back since ’91.
The Top 30 after this week, in which there is no cut, advance to the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta in two weeks. McIlroy leads the points, followed by Nick Watney (who won the playoff-opening Barclays) and Tiger, who finished third last week. That trio will be in the same threesome in the first two rounds. They tee off at No. 10 at 11:48 a.m. EST on Thursday. I will have a Tour Championship props story next week if the books post them a week ahead of time. Otherwise it’s a golf-free week at Doc’s Sports.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: BMW Championship Favorites
It’s no surprise that McIlroy is the 13/2 favorite at Bovada followed by Tiger at 7/1. What else can you say about McIlroy right now? He is the world No.1 (which is he now very unlikely to lose in 2012), and he led the field in putting and birdies during his one-stroke victory at the Deutsche Bank Championship. And he’s first on the Tour in adjusted scoring. McIlroy won’t know this course at all – but then again very few players will. McIlroy has played a BMW Championship just once, finishing T37 two years ago.
Tiger didn’t win last week but finally played well on the weekend and that’s all that has kept him from a few more victories in 2012 – especially the U.S. Open. Woods shot four rounds in the 60s at the Deutsche Bank for the first time in any tournament since winning the 2009 BMW Championship. Tiger also won this tournament in 2007 (also at Cog Hill), the first year of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
It already has been a good week for Dustin Johnson as he was named a captain’s pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, but Johnson can make it even better with a victory and he’s at 12/1. Par-72 Crooked Stick will be a beast at more than 7,500 yards and that always benefits D.J. He has finished in the Top 4 of the first two playoff events.
The Top-5 favorites are rounded out by Adam Scott at 20/1 and Louis Oosthuizen/Phil Mickelson at 22/1. After struggling in the Barclays, Scott shot four rounds in the 60s last week to finish T7. Oosthuizen had every chance to win in Boston, leading after 54 holes following a third-round 63. But Oosthuizen, who led the field in greens hit, finished a shot behind McIlroy. It was the former British Open champion’s third Top-5 finish in his past four events.
Mickelson, meanwhile, finally showed signs of life in Boston. Lefty’s T4 was his first Top-10 finish since the Byron Nelson in May. At No. 9 in the points, Mickelson will finish comfortably inside the Top 30 no matter what he does this week.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: BMW Championship Predictions
My Top-10 picks: “Yes” on Tiger (-250), McIlroy (-275) and Johnson (-125). “No” on Scott (-200), Oosthuizen (-170), Mickelson (-180) and Lee Westwood (-230).
Sergio Garcia seems like great value at 28/1 to win. He won the Wyndham Championship and then finished T3 at the Barclays before taking last week off. Will that leave him more rested than the top competitors this week or simply ruin Sergio’s momentum?
I also like Jeff Overton at 80/1 odds. He has never won but is from Indiana and lives about an hour from the course so he should know it better than anyone. Overton, who was T7 last week, also needs a good result to get into the Top 30 as he’s currently 40th in points.
I am guessing Tiger wins this week, which would set up an epic duel with McIlroy in two weeks, but in terms of betting value I would probably put down money on Jason Dufner at 25/1. He missed the Barclays to get some rest but was a solid T18 last week. The guy has six Top-7 seven finishes in his past 10 starts, including two wins. He is currently second on Tour in ball-striking and third in scoring average.
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