Previous results in the BMW Championship count for nothing as the third leg of the FedExCup Play-offs switches to Conway Farms Golf Club in Illinois for the first time.
Conway Farms Golf Club opened in 1991 but this year’s BMW Championship will be the first big professional tournament played on its highly rated course. Until now, Conway Farms Golf Club has been the scene of several prestigious amateur competitions and regional qualifiers for major events.
In terms of Conway Farms Golf Club form, there are only three golfers who rate a positive mention – Luke Donald, Chris Kirk and Patrick Reed. Donald, whose wife is from Illinois, is member of Conway Farms Golf Club and so he boasts an advantage over most of his BMW Championship rivals. Donald will need it: the Englishman has posted back-to-back 41st-place finishes, although he did play the last two rounds of the Deutsche Bank Championship in 10 under par, scoring only one bogey in those 48 holes.
Kirk participated in the 2008 US Open Section Qualifying tournament that Conway Farms Golf Club staged. Kirk snared one of the sixth spots in the major tournament, shooting rounds of 68 and 71 to finish second behind Hunter Haas. Kirk’s recent form has been ordinary, with nothing better than a 16th-place result in his last five competitions.
Reed played well in the 2009 Western Amateur at Conway Farms Golf Club. Reed qualified for the 16-golfer matchplay stage by shooting rounds of 69, 70, 71 and 71 and won his last-16 game versus Dylan Fritelli before bowing out in the last eight when he came up against Zach Barlow. Reed has played six competitive Conway Farms Golf Club rounds and that experience is something that is worth noting. Reed won the Wyndham Championship last month, although he has missed The Barclays cut and run 70th in the Deutsche Bank Championship since securing his maiden PGA Tour title in North Carolina.
Kirk and Reed do not feature in any BMW Championship 72-hole match bets – three-figure tournament chances seldom do – but bookmakers have paired up Donald with a range of golfers and that is where one should focus one’s attention ahead of what is one of the toughest golf betting assignments this season.
Of the available BMW Championship matches that feature home hope Donald, the most appealing is the one that pitches the former world number one versus Hunter Mahan, with Ladbrokes inviting punters to take their pick at odds of 1.91. The other options are backing Donald against either Sergio Garcia or Lee Westwood but Garcia and Westwood have Open Championship records that demonstrate that they are fine wind golfers. Wind is Conway Farms Golf Club’s primary defence against professionals tearing it apart. There is little to choose between Donald and Mahan on a number of scores but home advantage puts the Englishman on top.
Although it does not count for anything, Tiger Woods has the best BMW Championship record of this year’s 70 competitors. Woods has won the BMW Championship twice, with his other two appearances resulting in fourth and 15th places. The other BMW Championship winners in the field are Dustin Johnson (2010), Justin Rose (2011) and Rory McIlroy (2012).
Woods is trading at odds of 7.00 with most bookmakers to win the BMW Championship but the 14-time major winner has tended to perform best in recent years on courses with which he is familiar. Woods and Conway Farms Golf Club are strangers so the favourite does not appeal in such a talent-laden field.
Apart from backing Donald to beat Mahan, the smartest BMW Championship plays are probably small bets on Kirk and Reed to finish high up the leaderboard. Kirk is available at odds of 3.50 with Bwin and Paddy Power to make the top 20, while Paddy Power is offering odds of 5.00 about Reed achieving that feat. The positive Conway Farms Golf Club course experience of Kirk and Reed has to be worth something.
But the best advice is to keep all BMW Championship bets to minimum stakes because, quite frankly, there is insufficient data to form strong opinions about this quality event.