Justin Thomas wins golf tournaments in bunches and he can build on his latest success by winning the BMW Championship this week. The event is the third leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs and the selection currently leads the standings. The top 30 after this week’s event progress to the Tour Championship. The overall points winner receives a $10 million bonus.
Joost Luiten is the defending champion of the KLM Open which is played in Holland where he was born. Since the event joined the European Tour in 1972 Bernhard Langer and Simon Dyson are the only three times winners but Luiten is not playing well enough to be the third. He often does well in his own back yard but this year other players are preferred.
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The BMW Championship returns to Conway Farms Golf Club in Illinois which staged the tournament in 2013 and 2015. Of the 70 players in the field this week 42 have played in either year and 23 played both events. Zach Johnson and Jason Day are former course winners and both players excel on courses that put a premium on accuracy over distance. Last year the average score was almost 69.5 and that is for a limited field and no cut. The course has a par of 71 made up of 35 and 36 nines.
This week is not only huge for money but the playing privileges that will be earned by the winner and players who qualify for the Tour Championship. The top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings after this week are exempt for the first three majors and WGC events. Most will have already secured spots through their world ranking but overall there is a great deal to play for this week.
Two years ago scoring statistics suggested the key skills at Conway Farms are greens in regulation, proximity to the hole, birdie conversion and scrambling. Big hitters do not have an advantage and course management is more important than hitting the ball a long way. Johnson and Day are more about accuracy distance and a player with a similar profile should prevail this time. The top 10 players in the world rankings have qualified for this stage of the playoffs.
Thomas has now won five times this season, including in two successive starts at the beginning of the year. He won his first major, the USPGA Championship in August, and came out again to win an event in the playoffs. He is a player at the top of his game and that usually means he contends at the business end of tournaments. If he wins this week that’s the FedEx Cup just about in the bag and another great win in a superb season. Thomas has a great deal going for him this week.
He has won twice and finished tied 6th in his last three events. He is the statistically the best scrambler in the field on 2017 numbers and tops the standings for one putting greens. Thomas was tied 13th on the course in 2015 when he was not long out on Tour. This streaky win machine can’t win again and head in to the Tour Championship with a substantial lead in the rankings that probably only Dustin Johnson can do anything about. Rory McIlroy is well off the pace in trying to win the FedEx Cup again.
In Holland Luiten is the local hero and the best golfer on Tour from the country. The blue eyed boy of Dutch golf won the KLM Open in 2013 and 2016 so he has nothing to prove at home. Luiten has course and tournament form but not the ideal skill’s profile so another player can enjoy the limelight in the Netherlands. Golf Rater has identified three players that could double up with Thomas to win this week.
Back next Thursday.