(CBS Chicago/CBS Local Sports) — The BMW Championship comes to Medinah Country Club outside Chicago for the second round of the FedExCup Playoffs. The field has been reduced to 70 after the Northern Trust. Those who remain will be looking to stay in — or play their way into — the FedExCup points standings’ top 30 spots. These players then advance to the Tour Championship next week in Atlanta, Georgia.
Patrick Reed’s win and Abraham Ancer’s second-place finish last week propelled both of them into the top 10. Brooks Keopka remains in the top spot, with Rory McIlroy in third and Dustin Johnson in 10th. But some big names need a strong showing to keep their seasons alive past Sunday.
The biggest is Tiger Woods, who currently sits at 38th, outside of the Tour Championship field. He withdrew from the Northern Trust last week with an oblique strain and remains questionable for the BMW Championship. The larger concern may just be his quality of play. His first-round 4-over-par 75 — 13 strokes off the lead — was not pretty. Zooming out, Tiger’s performance since the Masters win leaves little cause for optimism.
Some other notables presently looking in from the outside include Francesco Molinari (34), Jordan Spieth (44), Phil Mickelson (46) and Jason Day (50). Lucky for them, the BMW Championship winner will pocket 2000 points, with the second and third-place finishers grabbing 1200 and 760 points respectively. A top-10 finish, at least theoretically, could propel any of these players into the top 30 of the FedExCup points standings, punching their ticket to the Tour Championship.
The field is once again a veritable who’s-who of the PGA Tour, with all of the world’s top 20 scheduled to play. Beyond that, the world rankings and points rankings diverge enough that a top-30 player like Bubba Watson won’t be playing. Keegan Bradley, the tournament’s defending champion, will be, however. Brooks Koepka, the top player in the points and overall rankings, remains the favorite to win the FedExCup Playoffs, though Rory McIlroy seems to have an edge at the BMW Championship.
Medinah Country Club’s No. 3 course has hosted some big tournaments over the years. Among them are the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championship, which Woods won. Another was the 2012 Ryder Cup, dubbed the Miracle at Medinah for Europe’s comeback win over the Americans. Many players from both sides return this week.
Medinah’s third course is a par 72, stretching to 7,613 yards, though it doesn’t play quite as long as its length might suggest. Part of that length comes from its par-5s, two of which extend over 600 yards. The seventh hole, the longest on the course, extends to 617 yards. The bunker-protected green is elevated with a trickier putting surface than is immediately obvious. The 14th hole, at 609 yards, must be played through overhanging trees to a forward-sloping green.
Medinah still requires some length to navigate. So it’s no surprise who the tournament favorites are going into the BMW Championship.
Brooks Koepka (8/1)
Koepka still leads the points standings, despite a T30 at the Northern Trust. He’s finished in the top five at every major this season, and that includes a win at the PGA Championship. His most recent win came at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational a few weeks ago. The knock on Koepka has been that he only shows up for big events. This is a big event.
Rory McIlroy (8/1)
Coming off a T6 at the Northern Trust, McIlroy might be playing the best golf of anyone on the PGA Tour. He tops everyone in shots gained, both off-the-tee and tee-to-green. In 16 events this year, he’s missed the top 10 on just three occasions. McIlroy also played well at Medinah as part of Europe’s 2012 Ryder Cup comeback team.
Jon Rahm (10/1)
Rahm, who can hit the ball as far as anyone, should thrive this week as well. His strong summer continued at the Northern Trust, where he turned in a T3. He’s also logged top 10s at the U.S. Open and WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational this summer. Rahm trails only McIlroy in shots gained: off-the-tee this season, which should help on a course of this size.