Caves Valley is essentially a new course for all these players on tour, with none of the 70 in this field having played a round here, not at this level of competition anyway.
Conditions will undoubtedly play a factor here as always, and at over 7,500 yards, this par 72 looks to be suited to some of the bigger hitters on tour, though with no course form to go off that is a very loose assessment.
The same was said of Kiawah Island, where Phil Mickelson became the oldest ever Major winner earlier this year, so event trends may well be the way to go here.
BMW Championship Contenders
The Fed Ex Cup playoffs naturally bring the cream to the top through its format, and there’s a strong trend to consider between the opening two events, as well as certain players who flourish under this sort of pressure.
Jon Rahm is certainly one of those and has proven time and time again that he’s one of the most dangerous players on tour.
His consistency is baffling with 13 top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year from just 20 events, and the US champion will be kicking himself over not picking up more titles this season.
He always comes to the fore in the Fed Ex Cup playoffs too, finishing in the top-6 in each of the last five renewals of the Northern Trust and BMW Championship.
He faltered to a third place last weekend in the fifth of those, though that’s good foundations laid to defend the title he won at this event last year in magnificent style, beating Dustin Johnson in a playoff by sinking a 60+ foot putt for birdie.
The Spaniard certainly won’t be far away here and will be looking the carry on the trend of top-10 Northern Trust finishers going on to win the BMW Championship having become the seventh player to do so since the inception of the Fed Ex Cup.
Another who will be looking to do the same is Tony Finau. The American won his first event in 143 starts last weekend, and will be hoping titles are like London buses.
Winning the opening two events of the playoffs certainly isn’t unheard of. Vijay Singh managed the feat in just the second year of the Fed Ex Cup, while you only have to look as far back as Bryson DeChambeau in 2018 to find the last man to do it.
As mentioned, it could be a course for the bombers and Tony is certainly one of those. We could see a weight of his shoulders heading into this and that renewed lack of pressure may work perfectly in his favour so get Tony onside for back-to-back wins as he looks for his fifth consecutive top-10 finish here.
It’s been a couple of poor years for Justin Thomas in terms of the Fed Ex Cup, though he’s one player that has fit the trend in the opening two events with a top-10 finish at the Northern Trust in 2017 before going on to win the Dell Technologies the following week, and there’s no reason to suggest he can’t replicate that this weekend.
The American also took this title two years ago and it’ll be surprising if he wasn’t in the hunt after a very strong fourth place finish last week.
Kevin Na looks to be getting back to his best golf and at just the right time. After a torrid spell earlier in the year where he failed to make a top-10 between mid-January and mid-July, he’s gone 2nd-23rd-2nd-8th, and there’s nothing stopping him from continuing in that vein here.
He’s played his irons and wedges exceptionally well of late and if he can find that magical touch with the putter, that could turn those place finishes into wins.
Finally, it’s Rory McIlroy that gets our vote of confidence here. He’s shown glimpses of promise over the season, and a victory at the Wells Fargo shows that he’s still up their with the best in the business.
Despite finishing 43rd last weekend, he again showed signs of coming back to his best and it’s in these kinds of events that we often see the best of the Northern Irishman.
He finished 12th here last year and ninth the year before despite not showing obvious form around the event, though he’s looking poised for a big weekend at some point and this is a big opportunity for him to climb up the rankings before the starting scores come into play at the TOUR Championship next week.