PGA Tour Picks: BMW Championship

By TOM LaMARRE

This is where Patrick Cantlay took control of the PGA Tour season last year, winning the BMW Championship in a six-hole playoff over Bryson DeChambeau before claiming the Tour Championship a week later to walk off with the FedEx Cup.

The fourth-ranked Cantlay (pictured), from Los Alamitos and UCLA, is among the favorites this week in the BMW, second event of the playoffs at Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Del., even though he could manage only a tie for 57th last week in the opening playoff event in the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn.

However, with a couple of repeats, Cantlay could become the first player to win the FedEx Cup two straight years.

“That’s the goal now,” said Cantlay, who teamed with Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State earlier this season to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. “Now that the majors are done with for the year, that’s the biggest prize left on the schedule.

“I’ve been trying to double down on the process that got me to where I am, not change a whole lot and just look for small incremental improvements, and I think the consistent play I’ve had this year is a testament to that.”

Cantlay hasn’t won an individual title this season, although he has finished second three times, losing in playoffs to top-ranked Scottie Scheffler at the WM Phoenix Open and to Jordan Spieth in the RBC Heritage.

His 10 finishes in the top 10 have put him seventh in the FedEx Cup point standings and in position to claim the title again with another strong finish to the season.

“Golf is very interesting in that a week or two weeks you could change the whole trajectory of your year,” said Cantlay, who has seven victories in his PGA Tour career and will be playing six times in eight weeks through the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta next week. “You’re only two wins in a row from being the hottest player on the planet

“But this stretch is a lot of golf for me.”

Also in the field this week are Will Zalatoris, who climbed to No. 9 in the world and into the FedEx Cup points lead by beating Sepp Straka in a dramatic three-hole playoff in the FedEx St. Jude Championship; Scheffler, who lost his lead in the FedEx Cup points standings for the first time since March and now is second; fifth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, who won the 2020 BMW Championship; third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, a two-time FedEx Cup champion; seventh-ranked Justin Thomas, the 2017 FedEx Cup champion; 11th-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick, who won the U.S. Open at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass.; eighth-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, who tied for fifth in the U.S. Open and the FedEx St. Jude; Tony Finau, who won two straight events before tying for fifth in the FedEx St. Jude, and sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, who has won three times this season.

Second-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia, who won the Open Championship at St. Andrews, withdrew from the BMW Championship on Monday because of a hip injury and hopes to play next week in the Tour Championship and next month in the Presidents Cup.

The BMW Championship started out as the Western Open in 1899 and is the second-oldest tournament on the PGA Tour, behind only the U.S. Open, which was first played in 1895.

BEST BETS

1. Jon Rahm, Spain – The fifth-ranked Rahm, who is 14th in the FedEx Cup standings, tied for fifth in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, recording his seventh top-10 finish of the season, including a victory in the Mexico Open. He won the 2020 BMW Championship by shooting 66-64 on the weekend and beating Dustin Johnson in a playoff, and tied for fifth in 2017 and 2019.

2. Patrick Cantlay, United States – The defending FedEx Cup champion won the BMW last year by beating Bryson DeChambeau in a six-hole playoff and claimed the Tour Championship to wrap up the title. He also finished second in 2019 BMW and tied for ninth in 2017. Cantlay, who has 10 top-10s this season, started slowly with a tie for 57th in FedEx-St. Jude last week.

3. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Coming off a missed cut last week in the FedEx St. Jude, the third-ranked McIlroy still is ninth in the FedEx Cup standings with victories in the RBC Canadian Open and CJ Cup among eight top-10s this season. Rory, who claimed the FedEx Cup in 2016 and 2019, won the 2012 BMW Championship among five top-10 finishes in the event.

4. Collin Morikawa, United States – The eighth-ranked Morikawa tied for fifth in the FedEx St. Jude Championship last week and also in the U.S. Open recently, climbing to 20th in the FedEx Cup point standings with eight top-10 finishes this season. His best finish in three starts in the BMW Championship was a tie for 20th in 2020, when he played the weekend in 68-68.

5. Tony Finau, United States – After winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic and the 3M Open in his two previous starts, Finau posted a solid tie for fifth in the FedEx St. Jude last week, and has climbed to 14th in the world and fifth in the FedEx Cup point standings. He has finished in the top 10 four times in seven appearances in the BMW, including fourth in 2019 and fifth in 2020.

6. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – By winning the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., for his eighth victory as a professional and first on the PGA Tour, the 11th-ranked Fitzpatrick is 12th in the FedEx Cup standings with 10 finishes in the top-10 this season. He will make his debut in the BMW Championship after tying for fifth in the FedEx St. Jude last week.

7. Justin Thomas, United States – The 2017 FedEx Cup champion, No. 7 in the world, won the PGA Championship at Southern Hills by beating Will Zalatoris in a playoff and has nine top-10 finishes this season to sit 10th in the FedEx Cup standings after a tie for 13th in the FedEx St. Jude. JT shot 61 in the third round en route to winning the BMW Championship in 2019.

8. Xander Schauffele, United States – The sixth-ranked Schauffele got off to a slow start in the playoffs last week with a tie for 57th in the FedEx St. Jude, but he has three victories this season among 13 finishes in the top-25 and also is sixth in the FedEx Cup standings. His best result in the BMW Championship was a tie for third in 2018, when he opened with scores of 63-64.

9. Will Zalatoris, United States – If the ninth-ranked Zalatoris can come back to earth after claiming his first PGA Tour victory last week in a playoff over Sepp Straka, he might also be a factor in the BMW Championship. He has three runner-up finishes this season among nine top-10s, losing twice in playoffs, including in the PGA. Zalatoris is making his debut in the BMW.

10. Scottie Scheffler, United States – The top-ranked Scheffler lost his lead in the FedEx Cup standings for the first time since March after missing the cut last week in the FedEx St. Jude Championship, slipping to second behind tournament winner Will Zalatoris. He is making his third start in the BMW Championship, tying for 20th in 2020 and tying for 22nd last year.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Adam Scott, Australia; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Sam Burns, United States; Viktor Hovland, Norway; Brian Harman, United States; Sepp Straka, Austria; Joohyung Kim, South Korea; J.T. Poston, United States; Shane Lowry, Ireland; Cameron Young, United States; Joaquin Niemann, Chile; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Sahith Theegala, United States.

SLEEPERS

1. Lucas Herbert, Australia – Three-time winner as a pro recently was T-15 in the Open at St. Andrews and also was T-13 in the PGA at Southern Hills. Making his first start in the BMW.

2. Denny McCarthy, United States – Winner of 2018 Web.com Championship was T-20 in FedEx St. Jude and has five top-10s this season. Also is making first appearance in the BMW.

3. Dylan Frittelli, South Africa – Five-time winner as a pro finished T-20 in FedEx St. Jude and has six top-25s this season. T-33 in 2020 BMW Championship after T-52 the year before.

4. Andrew Putnam, United States – Two-time winner on Korn Ferry Tour was T-5 in the FedEx St. Jude last week and was T-6 at Pebble Beach. T-16 in the 2020 BMW with four rounds in 60s.

5. Maverick McNealy, United States – Finished second in the Fortinet among four top-10s and was in the hunt last week before a 75 in round three left him in T-31. T-40 in the 2020 BMW.

For complete results and first-round tee times, visit  https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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