By Tom LaMarre
If Tiger Woods were healthy, he would be one of the favorites heading into the BMW Championship, the second of three events in the FedExCup playoffs this week at Medinah Country Club https://www.medinahcc.org outside Chicago.
Woods captured the PGA Championship in 1999 and 2006 at Medinah, but after being forced to withdraw before the second round of The Northern Trust last week because of a strained oblique muscle, the only two-time winner of the FedEx Cup is fighting for his playoff life.
There’s even a chance Woods might not be able to play and go quietly into the offseason.
If he does play, Woods has some work to do in order to move on to the playoff finale and defend his title in the Tour Championship next week at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
by pulling out of The Northern Trust, Woods slid 10 spots to No. 38 in the FedEx Cup point standings and must climb back into the top 30 to qualify for the third and final post-season event.
Woods said he is “hopeful” that he will be able to play and Chicago has always been his kind of town, as he has won the BMW Championship, formerly known as the Western Open, at record five times (1997, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2009) in the Windy City area.
“Medinah Country Club is one of the neat places,” Woods said after he won there in 2006. “I’ve played here a few times actually. … I’ve always loved playing here. It’s a straightforward golf course. We don’t get to play golf courses like this. That’s why guys love Charlotte, love playing at Firestone, why guys love playing Riviera.
“These are golf courses that are straightforward, classic golf courses that are just right in front of you. They’re difficult but they’re not tricked up, like how most of the modern golf courses are now.”
Keegan Bradley is the defending champion, having won the title last year at Aronimink Golf Club in Newton Square, Pa., and other former champions in the field are Marc Leishman, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Billy Horschel, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose.
That’s quite a list but they are all chasing top-ranked Brooks Koepka, who leads the FedEx Cup standings, and Patrick Reed, who climbed to No. 2 in the standings by winning The Northern Trust last week.
And Jon Rahm probably has been playing better than anyone in the world over the last couple months.
So, with or without Woods, there figures to be plenty of drama this week at Medinah.
- Jon Rahm, Spain – After taking the lead in The Northern Trust, two late bogeys proved to be costly and Rahm wound up in a tie for third, climbing to fifth in the FedEx Cup standings. In his last six events, his worst result was a tie for 11th in the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, and he claimed his second 2019 title in the Irish Open.
- Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Even though he tied for sixth last week, the 2016 FedEx Cup champion dropped one spot to third in the standings. McIlroy has 13 results in the top 10, including victories in the Players and the RBC Canadian Open. He won the BMW Championship in 2012 and has claimed four victories in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
- Dustin Johnson, United States – DJ opened The Northern Trust with 63-67 to take the lead, but faded to a tie for 24th by playing the weekend in 74-73 and dropped three position sto 10th in the standings. He claimed two of his four playoff victories in the BMW Championship (2010, 2016) and has two other top-10 finishes in the tournament.
- Brooks Koepka, United States – The FedEx Cup points leader held onto the top spot with a tie for 30th last week, but probably is going to need more than that in the last two playoff events to claim the title. In two events before that, Kopeka tied for fourth in the Open Championship and won the WGC-FedEx St. Jude, and needs to regain that form.
- Justin Rose, England – The defending FedEx Cup champion finished second the last two years in the BMW Championship and his only playoff victory came in this event in 2011. Rose tied for 10th last week in The Northern Trust and slipped one spot to 12th in the point standings. Finished in the top five three times during the playoffs last year.
- Adam Scott, Australia – By closing with a 65 to finish solo fifth in The Northern Trust, Scott moved up seven spots to No. 14 in the standings. It was his fourth top-10 finish recently, including a tie for eighth in the PGA Championship and a tie for seventh in the U.S. Open. Scott has recorded four top-10 finishes in the BMW Championship.
- Patrick Reed, United States – Anyone paying attention can say they saw Reed’s second career playoff victory coming last week, because he recorded five consecutive finishes in the top 25 leading up to The Northern Trust. He moved up 50 spots in the standings to No. 2, but must play better in the BMW, where he has no top-10 finishes.
- Justin Thomas, United States – Still looking for his best stuff after a wrist injury earlier this year, Thomas tied for 12th in The Northern Trust, his third straight finish in the top 15, including a tie for 11th in the Open Championship. The 2017 FedEx Cup champion finished in the top 15 two of the last four years in the BMW Championship.
- Patrick Cantlay, United States – Cantlay’s tie for 12th in The Northern Trust last week kept him at No. 6 in the point standings. It was his fourth top-25 finish in five tournaments since he captured the Memorial Tournament in June. Cantlay, who has yet to win a playoff tournament, tied for ninth in the BMW Championship two years ago.
- Jordan Spieth, United States – Despite a 74 in round three, Spieth played well enough the other three days to tie for sixth in The Northern Trust, his third top-20 result in his last four starts. The 2015 FedEx Cup champ rose 15 spots to 44th in the standings and needs a similar move in the BMW, where he has three top 10s, to make the finale.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Tiger Woods, United States; Tommy Fleetwood, England; Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa; Brandt Snedeker, United States; Webb Simpson, United States; Marc Leishman, Australia; Abraham Ancer, Mexico.
- Andrew Putnam, United States – A tie for 12th with a closing 67 last week put him on the hot seat at No. 30. Finished T-16 in the BMW last year, and that would do it.
- Corey Conners, Canada – The man on the outside at No. 31, Conners tied for 21st in The Northern Trust. Needs a solid finish in the BMW to make the Tour Championship.
- Max Homa, United States – Wells Fargo winner was in the top 10 a closing 75 and fell to 38th in The Northern Trust. At 56th in the points, needs to bounce back in BMW.
- Wyndham Clark, United States – Gave himself a chance with a tie for 18th in Northern Trust, climbing 22 spots to No. 68, but needs a bigger move in the BMW.
- Joaquin Niemann, Chile – The 20-year-old shot 66 in the final round to tie for 30th in the Northern Trust and grab the last spot in the BMW, but needs much more this week.
For first-round tee times visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html