The penultimate event of the PGA Tour's regular season is here. The BMW Championship at Wilmington Country Club comprises the top 70 in the FedEx Cup Playoffs for a no-cut event.
Who can solidify a spot in the top 30 for next week's TOUR Championship? Who has what it takes? What does it take at Wilmington?
Let's dig into the course, the key stats, the win simulations, and the best bets of the week.
You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.
Wilmington Country Club South Course Info & Key Stats
Distance: 7,534 (long: ~220 yards longer than the average par 71)
Fairway Acres/Yardage Ratio: 3.3 (narrow: PGA average is 4.2)
Average Green Size: 8,100 square feet (large: ~130% of the PGA average)
Green Type: Bentgrass
Past 5 Winning Scores: N/A
Past 5 Cut Lines: N/A
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Strokes Gained: Approach, Driving Distance, Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass, Birdie or Better Rate, FedEx Cup Standings
This course last hosted the 2013 Palmer Cup (a collegiate event between the United States and Europe). That means we do not have much context about which stats matter for this week based on historical precedent.
Of course, we can look at comparable courses and try to extrapolate.
At courses with similar ranks in length, green size, and fairway acreage, we see an added emphasis on distance and iron play compared to the average PGA Tour courses.
That also checks out when looking at a hole-by-hole view of the course. Two of the three par 5s are longer than 630 yards, and the other is 582 (still longer than the usual par 5 at around 560). Three of the 11 par 4s span at least 490 yards (i.e. 60 yards longer than the average par 4).
Added length, then, on six or seven holes (there's a 234-yard par 3, too), will be a help.
For this reason, I'm letting distance and irons dictate the process this week. Those who lack in one or both should be at a consistent disadvantage.
Golfers With Great Course/Event History
This course last hosted the 2013 Palmer Cup. Justin Thomas played in it.
Win Simulations for the BMW Championship
Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their golf betting odds this week at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets for the BMW Championship
The model once again likes Rory McIlroy even a little more than the actual betting odds. If we're selling out for distance and irons, then Rory fits. Scottie Scheffler and Justin Thomas are also pretty fair values as far as golf favorites go.
Though the model is a bit lower on Xander Schauffele, I still like him at +1900 well enough to bet him. He has no holes in his game, and that helps him shine through at no-cut events, where he has three career wins.
I may let myself get heavy on favorites and start a card with Rory, Thomas, and Xander, my three favorite plays in a vacuum this week.
I won't want to have heavy outright exposure on long shots given the tendency for favorites to find a way to get it done in no-cut, tough-field events. That said, top-10s and top-20s I'm eyeing include Joaquin Niemann, Max Homa, Cam Davis, Taylor Pendrith, and Keegan Bradley.
Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the BMW Championship
All stats cited below originate at FantasyNational. Strokes gained data includes stats from the past calendar year and is adjusted based on my field strength and recency tweaks. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds when possible -- unless noted. All ranks and percentile ranks are among the field. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.
Best of the Best
Rory McIlroy (FanDuel Salary: $11,800 | FanDuel Sportsbook Win Odds: +1000 | FedEx Cup Rank: 9th) - McIlroy, once again, makes sense to target this week. If we are okay targeting golfers who are long off the tee and have elite irons, then we have to consider Rory. McIlroy also is a pretty phenomenal bentgrass putter (97th-percentile over the past 50 rounds). He's the best birdie-maker in the field and the second-longest driver, as well.
Justin Thomas ($11,200 | +1600 | 10th) - If we look at spike weeks -- or 80th-percentile outcomes in adjusted strokes gained: tee to green and putting -- over the past year, Thomas' 81.3% tee-to-green spike week rate is the only rate in the field above 66.7%. And while he's not known for surefire putting, he has spike weeks at a 31.3% rate, well over the expected mark (of around 20% given the cutoff I'm using). He's got 87th-percentile distance and 90th-percentile irons.
Others to Consider:
Will Zalatoris ($10,900 | +1400 | 1st) - A chalky play this week after a win but the leader in approach and long off the tee.
Xander Schauffele ($10,700 | +1900 | 6th) - A no-cut stud; 66.7% tee-to-green spike week rate; 84th-percentile expected putting.
Sam Burns ($10,500 | +1800 | 4th) - Long off the tee and an elite iron player and putter; should fit perfectly at Wilmington.
Joaquin Niemann ($9,600 | +4500 | 19th) - Niemann doesn't jump off the page as someone who would be a long driver, but he is (66th-percentile), and the irons (70th-percentile) are there as well. What also clicks for Niemann here is plus putting on bentgrass (0.22 strokes per round over the past 50) while being a stellar birdie-maker (90th percentile) who can convert on the par 5s (88th-percentile in strokes gained on par 5s).
Max Homa($9,300 | +5000 | 16th) - A lot of what we can say about Niemann applies to Homa, only Homa is a much better overall putter (94th-percentile in expected putting). But he's long enough (76th-percentile) to score well on the par 5s (91st-percentile). We're also getting 69th-percentile irons with Homa, who can climb the FedEx Cup Rankings with a solid finish this week and earn himself more strokes for the TOUR Championship.
Others to Consider:
Corey Conners ($9,500 | +4500 | 30th) - A strong showing can secure him a spot next week; big putting regression candidate, too.
Adam Scott ($9,200 | +5500 | 46th) - A T5 last week vaulted him to 46th from 82nd; has plus distance, irons, and bentgrass putting.
Cam Davis ($8,900 | +6000 | 52nd) - Davis is a really boom-or-bust type of play this week. The reasons we can buy into a boom: he has 88th-percentile bentgrass putting supported by good underlying distance splits, he has 81st-percentile distance, and he has 52nd-percentile irons. The worries about a bust come in with field-worst accuracy, 3rd-percentile par 4 scoring, and an overall below-average short game when we factor in wedges. Still, he can overpower this course, and that has appeal.
Keegan Bradley ($8,700 | +8000 | 45th) - There are concerns with Bradley's putter (as usual); he's a 13th-percentile bentgrass putter. However, he has had really good underlying splits lately with the flat stick, and he gives us 58th-percentile irons and plus distance (69th). He actually has some of the best spike-week rates among value golfers at any salary, too.
Others to Consider:
Taylor Pendrith ($8,700 | +6500 | 69th) - Very similar profile to Cam Davis; needs a home run to get into top-30 for next week.
Keith Mitchell ($8,600 | +8000 | 39th) - 93rd-percentile bentgrass putter and 88th-percentile distance.
Mito Pereira ($8,200 | +11000 | 42nd) - On the cusp of advancing to next week; average distance but elite ball-striking overall.
Kurt Kitayama ($7,000 | +21000 | 49th) - 90th-percentile distance and field-average irons; not the worst minimum-salary profile by any means.