The PGA TOUR Playoffs have reached the half way mark with Steve Stricker leading the points race for the FedEx Cup after winning last week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. This week the TOUR is in Illinois for the BMW Championship at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, where Camilo Villegas is defending champion and looking to climb up from his current 52nd place standing.
Tiger Woods is currently in second place in the points race. He won the BMW Championship at Cog Hill in 2007 but was unable to defend his title last year after undergoing season-ending knee surgery. He, as always, is the favorite coming into this week. But, Stricker has made his statement winning last week and climbing to second in the Official World Golf Rankings.
The FedEx Cup points system was changed after Vijay Singh won the first two events and built such a lead that he just had to finish the final event to hoist the FedEx Cup. Now, the points earned this season will be reset after the BMW Championship to give all 30 players qualifying for The TOUR Championship, the final of four FedEx Cup events, a mathematical chance at winning. Another change the TOUR made was giving the players a week break before the final event.
This week’s field consists of 70 players, after being cut down from 125 at the start of the playoffs. With only 30 moving onto the final event, many players need to play well to improve their shot at the $10 million prize. There are some top names in danger of not qualifying for The TOUR Championship, notably Sergio Garcia, who is currently in 55th place. Sitting on the bubble this week are British Open champion Stewart Cink (25), Ian Poulter (30), Anthony Kim (34) and Paul Casey (36), who withdrew from the Deutsche Bank Championship with a rib injury.
The drama at the BMW Championship will be unlike any other even on the PGA TOUR this season. The changes made to the points system put more pressure on players to perform if they want a shot at the $10 million FedEx Cup. So, the big questions this week are:
- Who will win this week?
- Who will make the biggest move?
- Who will drop out of contention?
The top three picks to win the BMW Championship are Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Sean O’Hair. Woods, somewhat of a defending champion having not been in the field last year, is always the favorite. Johnson and O’Hair have had terrific seasons and are in the thick of the playoff race.
It would be easy to say that Garcia and Villegas would be the biggest movers this week as both stars try to reclaim some of the magic of the 2008 playoff season. But, this seems to be the year of surprises – Heath Slocum winning The Barclays and Jason Dufner almost winning last week. So, I can see Hunter Mahan and Steve Marino putting themselves into the top 10 in points after this week. And, watch veterans Tim Clark and Rory Sabbatini make their move into the top 30.
The fall may continue for Ernie Els, who dropped from 11th place to 20th after the Deutsche Bank Championship. He may join defending FedEx Cup champion Vijay Singh, who couldn’t break into the top 70 after last week’s event, at home to watch the final event.
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