Jon Rahm graced the media with his insights on a Tuesday afternoon, shedding light on his victorious journey at the 2020 BMW Championship.
Chuckling, Rahm shared, “I didn't attempt to hit a single draw over the weekend. It just wasn't in the cards that week. I leaned into the fades.”
Returning to the grounds of his Playoffs triumph, the current FedExCup leader carries cherished memories of his victory. However, Rahm's path to success wasn't a smooth one, as he navigated a rocky start that required strategic adjustments.
As I strolled the North Course at Olympia Fields Country Club on a Tuesday and Wednesday morning, the landscape ignited my contemplation of victory. From the first hole onward, my PGA-trained eyes locked onto the fairway dynamics. Reflecting, drawing parallels to 2020 proves challenging due to the contrasting course conditions. The turf, three years ago, boasted exceptional firmness and speed, permitting only a select five to conquer it under par.
The course predominantly guides players from left to right. A total of 30 fairway bunkers and four water-influenced tee shots demand precision. Rahm's insights seamlessly harmonized with my observations, mirrored by the outcomes of 2020. Rahm's fade-biased tee shots played to his advantage, enabling him to find more fairways. Notably, Hideki Matsuyama and Tony Finau, both known for their left-to-right ball flights, also secured sub-par finishes that week.
Crucially, triumph at the BMW Championship hinges on fairway accuracy. The rough presents a genuine challenge this year, a departure from the parched conditions of 2020. Notably, the frontrunners in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, Rory McIlroy (+700 BetMGM), Scottie Scheffler (+700), and Patrick Cantlay (+1000), stand as your betting favorites.
Cantlay, a two-time defending BMW winner, affirmed, “I think it's a really good golf course. You have to be on top of every part of your game and drive the ball in the fairway.”
If Cantlay is your choice, it's a compelling one. His prowess in driving has been unrivaled in 2023, making him a standout contender. Amongst these three, Cantlay stands out further due to his top-10 ranking in Scrambling. His versatile skill set plays a pivotal role in him holding the fourth rank in the global standings.
Conversations with players and a glance at practice routines on the range reaffirm the paramount importance of the tee shot. TPC Southwind, the venue for the recent FedEx St. Jude Championship, favored a similar tee trajectory. Max Homa (+2200) showcased remarkable prowess in Memphis, Tennessee, making him a contender to watch in Chicago. His adept ball striking at Torrey Pines positions him to tackle an Olympia Fields challenge. Homa's approach game and putting align seamlessly with the North Course's par 3s. Could Homa's journey culminate in a third victory?
Venturing further down the betting roster, Byeong Hun “Ben” An (+5500) emerges as a value proposition. With two top-three finishes in his last four outings, An wields the skill to locate fairways while exhibiting impeccable short game finesse. Much like Cantlay, An's well-rounded attributes paved the way to a 12th-place finish here in 2020.
Pinpointing a single attribute that guarantees victory at a major championship venue proves elusive. Success necessitates a harmonious symphony of skills. While every facet must be firing, clinching victory diverges from mere contention. On these grounds, it's unmistakable that players perceive the driver as a potent weapon. If the top 50 players of this FedExCup season recognize its potency, it's a sign you should, too.