During the 2023 golf season, Stadium sports betting analyst Nate Jacobson will share his betting targets each week. Here are his thoughts on this week’s BMW Championship.
Note: Nate will tweet out his official bets when they are placed before the event.
About the Tournament
The FedEx Cup Playoffs continue in the Chicago area with the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club. The top-50 players in the FedEx Cup standings are eligible for this event and like last week’s FedEx St. Jude Championship, there will not be a cut after 36 holes. The top-30 players in the season-long standings after this week will then qualify for the TOUR Championship, which is the last event of the season.
Olympia Fields hosted the BMW Championship three years ago and is a long par-70 layout that measures over 7,300 yards.
The 2020 version of this event played extremely difficult, as only seven of the 69 players in the field shot even par or better for the tournament. After starting the tournament +6 over the first two rounds, Jon Rahm rallied to shoot 66 on Saturday and 64 on Sunday to beat Dustin Johnson in a playoff by sinking a 66-foot birdie putt.
On top of that, the USGA thought the course was challenging enough to host the U.S. Open 20 years ago which tells you how tough it will be to score on. I’ll weigh the 2020 results and U.S. Open history a little more in my decisions for this week’s card.
Top of the Board
I don’t love the idea of betting players at the very top of the board in a strong field, but it’s hard not to make a case for Rory McIlroy (7/1) this week. McIlroy is coming off a tied-for-third finish last week in Memphis, where he was one of the best in the field both off the tee and on approach. McIlroy has finished no worse than tied for ninth in his last eight starts dating back to mid-May, and he had a deserved win at the Scottish Open last month.
I also think there is some extra motivation for McIlroy, who still gets criticized for being nine years removed from winning his last major. He is still third in the FedEx Cup standings behind Scottie Scheffler and Rahm, and he closed the gap after his strong result in Memphis. Winning this event would put him in a better position to win his second straight TOUR Championship and quiet some of the critics.
A long course that emphasizes distance like Olympia Fields fits McIlroy’s ability to drive the golf ball. He finished tied for 12th at the 2020 BMW Championship despite not being in good form after the COVID-19 pause was over. Now, McIlroy is in the best form of any player who will be in Chicago this week and could have an extra chip on his shoulder.
By betting McIlroy at a short price, I’m not going to bet many more players this week. If I didn’t bet McIlroy, I would be interested in Sungjae Im (33/1), Corey Conners (40/1), Tony Finau (40/1) and Matt Fitzpatrick (50/1).
Im is coming off a strong ball-striking week in Memphis and a tied-for-sixth finish, but I’m worried about him contending at a long track over four days. Conners, who also finished tied for sixth in Memphis, finished tied for 33rd three years ago at Olympia Fields — but had impressive advanced stats that week.
Finau and Fitzpatrick both finished in the top six at Olympia Fields three years ago. Finau has the game to play at a long course like this, but his current form in strong-field events will keep me away. Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Open a year ago and played his college golf across the Chicagoland area at Northwestern. He’s just underwhelmed in recent weeks.
I will bet on Byeong Hun An (55/1) in this range. He has the strong form and a 12th-place showing three years ago at Olympia Fields that’s required to draw me in. An finished tied for third at the Scottish Open and tied for second at the Wyndham Championship two weeks ago. He was one of the best in the field in strokes gained off the tee in Memphis, which is a critical stat for success at Olympia Fields.
In tournaments like this, I stay away from longshots because the elite players typically win playoff events. But this season has seen many players at deeper odds win top-tier tournaments, including last week when Lucas Glover won for the second time in as many weeks.
Adam Schenk (100/1), Chris Kirk (100/1) and Nick Taylor (125/1) are three players in this range that had good ball-striking weeks in Memphis. Schenk would be my choice of the three to bet on to win and finish in the top five.
Schenk has six top-seven finishes this season, including five in the last three months throughout the Heartland. I’m hoping the Indiana native and former Purdue golfer will feel comfortable at another Midwest course and ride the strong form we’ve seen all season.