BMW Championship preview and best bets

Golf expert Ben Coley bagged a 28/1 winner in the first of three FedEx Cup Playoff events. He’s now turned his attentions to the BMW Championship.

  • Over the past month, Ben’s previews have picked out winners at 28/1, 25/1 and 28/1 to take his annual profit beyond +150 points. Get his full tipping record here.

Golf betting tips: BMW Championship

4pts e.w. Scottie Scheffler at 18/1 (Sky Bet 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1.5pts e.w. Joaquin Niemann at 35/1 (Sky Bet, William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Maverick McNealy at 100/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

0.5pt e.w. Mackenzie Hughes at 300/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

The most profound thing uttered across the two Wayne’s World films, as it relates to golf in 2022 at least, came in the first of them. Dressed head to toe in Reebok gear if I remember rightly and sipping on a Pepsi, Garth Algar rued the that “people only do things because they get paid, and that’s just really sad.” The joke, of course, is that Algar is advertising while he speaks. Perhaps Brooks Koepka was doing a Wayne’s World joke all along.

Anyway, why Wayne’s World? Well, because that is what I think of when I hear the word Delaware, and Delaware hosts its first PGA Tour event this week. Students of arguably the two greatest films of all time (the other, dear reader, is Wayne’s World 2) will know what I’m talking about: the scene where Wayne and Garth are in front of a blue screen, which allows them to go from New York (‘hey, I’m in New York…’) to Texas (‘howdy…’) to… Delaware.

We are of course meant to infer that Delaware is unremarkable. So unremarkable that the lads from Aurora, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago, natch) can’t think of anything to say. Having never been there myself, and hailing from one of the United Kingdom’s most unremarkable towns, I couldn’t possibly comment. But I would suggest that the course which has been chosen for the BMW Championship, Wilmington Country Club, probably fits the description.

A par 71 which has been expanded to cover 7,534 yards, it is quite long. It’s also wide off the tee, with bright, near-white bunkers whose shapes are refined. The greens are massive, almost absurdly so and fully twice the size of some we’ve witnessed this summer. After rain, the course will likely play soft, which you could argue is just how organisers of this nomadic tournament seem to like it. Perhaps I’ve misread things, but this is one for the PGA Tour purist, rather than those who get their kicks in the finer details of architecture or even from a bouncing ball.

As I wrote last week, this doesn’t necessarily undermine the viewing experience if you just tune in on Sunday. On the one just gone, it can even be argued that Southwind’s watery nature made that final round, while this tournament last year took us to the point-and-shoot Caves Valley, where Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay could not be separated until Cantlay finally managed it in a play-off which had everyone engrossed. Just as some of the year’s best finishes have involved unheralded golfers, so have some of them come on shall we say unheralded golf courses.

The trouble, I suppose, is that we have to get through three or so days first. Might I suggest Wayne’s World on Thursday night, Wayne’s World 2 on Friday night, and then we’ll see?

Now, we could spend longer on Wayne’s World. We’d all like that. We could talk about Jim Morrison, Del Preston, a bloody great big bengal tiger, a thousand M&Ms, a gun rack, or its finest scene – when, in Wayne’s World 2, Christopher Walken chases the crew through town until they reach the Tool Box and perform the YMCA.

Scheffler can take control of FedEx Cup

But let’s focus on its core message, that of second chances, and get back to the day job of explaining why I’m prepared to go in again with SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER.

Last week, Scheffler missed the cut owing largely to a hopeless putting display during the first round at Southwind. On paper, that was a mere continuation of the issues which cost him a crack at the Open, a fifth win in 2022 at the Charles Schwab, possibly even the US Open too, so it’s hard to argue in good faith that this was a freak occurrence.

That said, sometimes you have to trust your judgement and mine was that Scheffler’s entire tournament could so easily have gone very differently. On his first hole, he hit a perfect drive, and a pin-high wedge to four feet. On his second he fired an approach shot to eight feet. Neither putt went in and you may well have seen various memes relating to his frustration, which surely bled into some mistakes in his long-game as the day unfolded.

He still matched the first-round score of the eventual winner, but unlike Will Zalatoris, Scheffler wasn’t able to undo the damage on Friday. Nevertheless, he was able to putt considerably better, to the tune of more than five strokes, and remained excellent off the tee. Poor approach play numbers limited his score to a two-under 68 and he missed the cut by one, but Southwind exaggerates mistakes in that department and for most of round two, playing in attack mode, he continued to look close to his very best.

The other reason I’m not too concerned about a rare missed cut is that five of the last six times Scheffler has failed to make the weekend, he’s had a chance next time: seventh in Phoenix last year, runner-up in the Match Play, third at Memorial, runner-up earlier this summer at Colonial, and then when in the mix before a poor final day at the Open. Only in the CJ Cup, where he produced a freakishly bad driving display, has he failed to bounce back at the first opportunity throughout this run.

And while the FedEx Cup does often go the way of a hot hand, and will do so more often now there are only three Playoff events, it isn’t always that simple. Billy Horschel, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose all ended up winning the jackpot having missed the cut in the first event, while Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy did so having finished 43rd and 31st respectively.

Scheffler, who is just a few points behind Zalatoris in second place, is plainly still the man to beat when it comes to securing the season-long prize many would argue his season-long performance merits. The fact that third placed Cameron Smith skips this tournament only increases his prospects, and in football parlance I expect a response from him in Wilmington.

On that, it’s worth stating that as well as being a two-time winner on bentgrass greens, Scheffler was born just a couple of hours north of this week’s venue. Yes, his family moved to Texas when he was young and that’s very much his home state now, but he shot 59 in Boston during his rookie campaign and I suspect we might hear him talk about the extra support he’ll get here. Glance through the New Jersey press after his Masters win and you’ll certainly get the impression they consider him one of their own.

Finally, he’s around the same price or even a point or two bigger than last week, despite the field size having almost halved. That puts the world number one around eighth in the betting (though it’s very cramped at the top), and for my money that’s wrong. He belongs at the top end of the market, fighting for favouritism with Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, and it could pay not to dwell too much on one round of golf in which everything went against him.

McIlroy will love it here and it’s interesting to note that the only issue in his missed cut was a rare off week with the driver, while Rahm’s putter warmed up on Sunday and marks him down as an obvious threat in a tournament he won spectacularly two years ago. The Spaniard would get the nod over McIlroy and these three players, to my mind the best in the field, made up my shortlist of those dozen priced shorter than 25/1.

Youngsters appeal in likely shootout

Beyond them, I was inclined to chance Cameron Young, but his price has hardened after a so-so week and continues to do so, and I’m going to have to leave him out. A friend of fellow Wake Forest graduate Zalatoris, he’s bound to be inspired by what happened on Sunday, while his own game remained exceptional from tee-to-green. If he improves for a change in surface then he’ll surely go well at a course which I do believe will strongly favour the best and longest drivers in the sport.

At slightly bigger odds, however, I’m going to side with fellow powerhouse JOAQUIN NIEMANN, who often improves away from bermuda greens and hinted last week that his long-game is coming to the boil.

Niemann made some clumsy mistakes after a bright start to round one, but for the remainder of the tournament his approach play was exceptional to the extent that having ranked outside the top 60 on Thursday night, come Sunday he was second only to Zalatoris.

Alongside this his driving improved day-by-day, and with these huge greens to aim at on a course I suspect will be vulnerable to low scoring, slight concerns about his short-game are easy to overlook. Certainly, if we do get a little more out of his putter as we have in this part of the USA before, his first title having come in West Virginia, then he’ll look a big player.

Niemann’s all-the-way Riviera win remains one of the best performances of the season and his approach work last week was close to the same levels. With first and fifth in West Virginia, third in Ohio, second and fifth in Michigan and third place in this event in Illinois, again we really do tend to see his best golf away from bermuda and so often on bentgrass greens, and the turning nature of this course will appeal to him.

Wilmington boasts two massive par-fives which will be hard to reach in two for many, despite playing downhill. There are also two par-fours which could encourage the very biggest hitters to have a thrash at the green and the sort of power boasted by Niemann, Young, Scheffler and McIlroy is sure to be a big help.

With that in mind, and the fact he’s a prolific birdie-maker, MAVERICK MCNEALY could make a big run at reaching East Lake for the first time, and perhaps even bag his first PGA Tour title.

A former world amateur number one who hits the ball a long way and putts well, McNealy is in some ways a similar player to Sam Burns, who improved his approach work and became a world-class player as a result. McNealy has a little way to go yet but certainly has the ability and this is a huge tournament for him, with both a Masters place and the world’s top 50 within reach if things go to plan.

Last week he finished 31st at Southwind but that doesn’t quite do justice to how well he played for the most part, shooting 11-under for three rounds but five-over on Saturday. It was a missed opportunity in the end but nevertheless leaves him 33rd in the FedEx Cup standings, confirming this to be his best campaign yet regardless of what happens, and the TOUR Championship is tantalising close.

What encourages me most about that performance is that his irons were very good for the most part, only for a lack of fairways to hurt him off the tee. They’re going to be much easier to hit here and driving the ball well is usually a strength, so there are reasons to believe he can find the improvement we’ll require in that department.

Combine that with the same levels of approach work and one of the best putters in this field can get to work on these 8,000 square feet greens which will ask questions from long range. At three-figure prices, back this son of an entrepreneur to earn a crack at next week’s multi-million dollar bonus pool.

International appeal

Finally, keep an eye on the Presidents Cup as a story which will add colour to the week. Qualification for both teams ends on Sunday, with wild cards selected after the TOUR Championship, and the Internationals in particular have plenty to work out.

MACKENZIE HUGHES, Taylor Pendrith, Lucas Herbert, Si Woo Kim, Emiliano Grillo, Sebastian Munoz, KH Lee, Adam Hadwin, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Marc Leishman are all outside both the automatic qualification spots and the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings, and this will be their final chance to impress unless they can qualify for East Lake.

I did wonder whether Hughes, the rank outsider here at 300/1, might repeat his heroics in this very event two years ago. Back then, he stood on the 18th tee needing to make par to sneak into the field for the TOUR Championship, and he was extremely emotional having got up and down from the greenside bunker to do just that.

Getting to East Lake got him into the majors in 2021, and Hughes made the most of it by leading for a time at the US Open and then finishing sixth in the Open. He therefore understands full well what’s at stake and how to deal with it, and while his form explains his price, it was at least encouraging to see his approach play improve at Southwind where he made the cut at a course which probably isn’t ideal for him.

His performance there was very similar to his last visit, again two years ago. Hughes went on to finish 13th, 10th and seventh in a fabulous FedEx Cup Playoffs run. By the time he got to Illinois for the middle one of those three events he sat 52nd in the standings. This time around he’s 53rd, and it’s not long since he was stringing together good performances in this part of the world during the summer months.

With scope for big improvement from the putter and hopefully enough room to allow him to stay competitive off the tee, there’s a case there for a player who is hard to predict but capable. In summary:

He will like the course
He has some high-class form too
He is worth a bet

Garth, that was a haiku!

Posted at 1145 BST on 16/08/22

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