This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $2.7M
FedEx Cup Points: 2,000 to the winner
Location: Wilmington, Del.
Course: Wilmington Country Club (South Course)
2021 champion: Patrick Cantlay (Caves Valley)
The PGA Tour has been around in its current form since 1968 and there's never been a tournament in Delaware. Until now. The rotating BMW Championship heads to Wilmington Country Club, where the remaining golfers in the playoffs run into a huge unknown. Unknown because the course has never been used in any professional tournament and huge because the course is crazy-long at over 7,500 yards for a par-71. Just to tease you a bit for now, we'll tell you that there's a 634-yard hole that's not even the longest hole on the course. But that's not the full story. We'll go into greater detail on the course in a minute, but first to the field.
There were two surprises on Monday morning, first when we saw that Cameron Smith was the top guy on the DraftKings board and second when Smith pulled out shortly thereafter citing lingering hip discomfort. That leaves 68 guys in this no-cut field, with Tommy Fleetwood simply electing not to play.
Reaching the BMW is generally not significant for the Scottie Schefflers and Rory McIlroys of the world, but it's an enormous accomplishment for many guys in the field, including eight rookies: Cameron Young has been a certainty for months now to make it this far, but there's also Sahith Theegala, Davis Riley, Joohyung Kim, Kurt Kitayama, Taylor Pendrith, Taylor Moore and Alex Smalley. We're not sure if that's a record, but it sure seems like a lot of rookies. And then there are aging veterans who never know when this will be their last rodeo, such as Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman. If that doesn't sound like such a big deal for that trio, keep in mind that Webb Simpson, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler have all begun their offseason. (When athletes' seasons end, we say they're heading to the golf course. What do we say for golfers?) Sure, it's possible those former stars could be around next year, but the point is that golfers rarely know when they've played in a tournament for the last time until long after they've played in it.
There is so much at stake this week, maybe not for the superstars but for many guys it means everything -- with the chance for so much more if they somehow can find their way into the top-30 in the point standings come Sunday night. The BMW Championship will decide who gets to go to the Tour Championship, which in and of itself is a big deal but one that also comes with fantastic perks. Not only are those 30 golfers guaranteed a large check, but also entry into next year's Masters, both Opens, THE PLAYERS and the five invitationals (Bay Hill, Memorial, Harbour Town, Colonial and Riviera).
So this week has the potential to alter not only bank accounts, but lives and careers.
Last year, two guys moved in the top-30 at the BMW. Sergio Garcia and Erik van Rooyen knocked out Max Homa and Charley Hoffman. The year before it was also two, with three in 2019, two in 2018 and four in 2017.
Scheffler missed the cut last week at the FedEx St. Jude and lost the top spot in the point standings to Memphis winner Will Zalatoris. As we've seen in the past, the staggered start for the Tour Championship gives a huge edge to the lead guy, and the top guys all know it.
Wilmington Country Club is a 1959 Robert Trent Jones design, with an Andrew Green renovation last year in advance of the Tour arriving. There are two courses there and the South will be in play this week. They have made some changes to the hole routing and such, but since this course has never been played before, that matters little. FWIW, No. 1 this week normally is No. 10 and things really jump around after that, though the 446-yard 18th will remain the closing hole.
It's hard to imagine a par-71 much longer than 7,534. Keep in mind, that's with just three par-5s. As mentioned earlier, there's a 634-yarder that's not even the longest. That honor goes to the staggering 649-yard 14th. It's so long that we counterintuitively think it helps the shorter hitters, since it's unreachable in two by almost everyone. There are also three par-4s exceeding 490 yards and three par-3s in the 200s, including the 234-yard 15th that immediately follows that mammoth par-5. But ... but ... there are also are many very short holes. There are eight par-4s under 450 yards, half of those less than 425. This makes us believe that the shorter hitters can contend this week. Besides, the course may not play at its top length every day because there is some flexibility. For instance, there's been talk of turning the 393-yard 16th into a drivable par-4 at some point during the tournament.
Who would even think of a 649-yard hole? For that, we can thank Mother Nature. From the official Golf Course Superintendents fact sheet we learned that "an August 2020 tornado downed a 250-year-old white oak, which allowed moving the 14th green back 60 yards. In 5 minutes, 300 trees were felled in the tornado."
Wilmington could be described as a typical Northeast tree-lined, parklands course. There are 91 bunkers, strategically placed in the fairways and around the greens. The multi-tiered bentgrass greens are enourmous, which is fitting on holes where golfers will be hitting from so far out in the fairway. Last week at TPC Southwind, the greens averaged 4,300 square feet; this week, they're almost double at 8,100. They'll run at a speedy 12.5 on the Stimpmeter. We think that scrambling will largely take a back seat this week, since it should be easy to get somewhere on the greens even from far back in the fairway. Also, there is water on four holes.
As for lineup construction, this is a no-cut event. Even the $6,000 guys will get four rounds. We fully expect the winner to come from the top echelon of players, so we'll be trying to get as many of those guys into our lineups as possible -- i.e., three. And then our three guys from the low-$7,000s on down, well, we'll hope that at least two of them can sneak their way into a high finish. We want aggressive players -- there doesn't seem to be too much trouble on the course -- and guys who can make a lot of birdies/go low.
Weather-wise, conditions should be ripe for scoring. High temperatures will be in the upper 80s across the tournament. There's almost no chance of rain on Thursday and Friday, with a slight chance on the weekend. Winds should be light all week. In other words: On your mark, get set, go!
Fun BMW Championship factoids: This is the third oldest golf tournament in the world, having started in 1899 as the old Western Open. Only the Open Championship (1860) and U.S. Open (1895) are older. This will be the 118th edition. BMW came on board as the title sponsor when the FedEx Cup playoffs began in 2007.
Wilmington Country Club factoids: The club has played host to five USGA events, though none of them professional. They were the 1965 and '78 U.S. Junior Amateurs, the 1971 U.S. Amateur, the 1978 U.S. Girls' Junior and the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur. The 2013 Palmer Cup between the United States and Europe was also contested there, and one golfer in this week's field took part. That would be Justin Thomas. Daniel Berger and Patrick Rodgers were also on the U.S. team.
Key Stats to Winning at Wilmington CC
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Driving Distance
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Birdie Average/Birdie or Better Percentage
• 3-putt Avoidance
2021 - Patrick Cantlay (Caves Valley)
2020 - Jon Rahm (Olympia Fields)
2019 - Justin Thomas (Medinah)
2018 - Keegan Bradley (Aronimink)
2017 - Marc Leishman (Conway Farms)
2016 - Dustin Johnson (Crooked Stick)
2015 - Jason Day (Conway Farms)
2014 - Billy Horschel (Cherry Hills)
2013 - Zach Johnson (Conway Farms)
2012 - Rory McIlroy (Crooked Stick)
We're flying a bit blind this week, of course. When that's the case, it's good to focus on quality ball strikers. At first glance, with so many long holes, it seems distance will help -- and it will. But with so many shorter holes -- more than half -- we think this course is open to the masses. And by open to the masses, we don't mean anybody can win. We expect the winner to come from the top-15 or so guys. With greens so big, the better putters should have an advantage. Expect these golfers to tear up Wilmington to the tune of 20-under-plus. In fact, the over/under as determined by golfodds.com is 262.5 -- 21.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $10,100 (Winning odds at DraftKings Sportsbook: +1400)
There's no cut, there's not a lot of trouble lurking on the course, we're going aggressive. Frankly, there are more than six guys we like in the top two tiers, so all we can do is offer our best of the best, starting right here with Thomas. Thomas is elite in every phase of the game except putting. Yet he is ranked second on Tour in birdie or better percentage behind only Cameron Smith. He can attack and he can go low. Thomas was sneakily on the cusp last week, tying for 13th.
Patrick Cantlay - $9,900 (+1400)
All you have to do to see how low Cantlay can go is look back to last year's BMW at Caves Valley, where Cantlay soared to 27-under before defeating Bryson DeChambeau in a playoff. Cantlay is fourth on Tour in birdie or better percentage. He's not quite as strong as Thomas tee to green, but he can make up for it with putter in hand. Cantlay is ranked 12th on Tour in SG: Putting and 14th in putting from outside 25 feet -- there will be many long putts this week.
Tony Finau - $9,700 (+1400)
How's your past month going? For Finau, it's win-win-T5. He is on an all-time heater, and there was no indication at Memphis that it was slowing down. He shot 26-under in winning the Rocket Mortgage a few weeks aback. Finau has shot 12 straight rounds in the 60s over his past three tournaments -- and last week wasn't exactly a birdie-fest like the first two. He is ranked 12th on Tour in birdie average and, quite surprisingly, is ranked 16th in putting from outside 25 feet.
Tier 2 Values
Collin Morikawa - $9,400 (+2000)
It's remarkable that Morikawa has gone all season without a win -- in fact, it's more than a year since he captured the Open Championship. But he showed last week that he can be close. With all these short par-4s, Morikawa should be able to attack like only an elite iron player can. Sure, the putting is still dicey, but let's not forget he's ranked 75th, almost in the top third of Tour players. It's the scrambling that really kills Morikawa, and that won't be prominent at Wilmington CC this week. Which brings us to our next pick ...
Viktor Hovland - $9,200 (+3000)
Hovland is actually a great putter -- the statistics say he's ranked 23rd on Tour. It's the scrambling that is horrendous and wrecks his rounds. If you could somehow remove the need to scramble from golf, Hovland would be the best player in the world. That can't happen, of course, but the enormous greens can help Hovland make it go away for one week. He's ranked 10th on Tour in SG: Approach and eighth in both birdie average and birdie or better.
Cameron Young - $8,900 (+2500)
It pains us to skip Joohyung Kim at $9,000. But there are just too many good guys and we like Young a smidge better. We didn't like Young last week. There was too much that could go wrong at TPC Southwind for an uber-aggressive player. He wound up tied for 31st. This week, we're all-in on Young, who is ranked fourth on Tour in driving distance, second in SG: Off-the-Tee, 13th in Tee-to-Green and fifth in birdie average. Like we said up top, you don't have to be long to contend this week, but it sure doesn't hurt.
Tier 3 Values
Russell Henley - $7,800 (+7000)
Henley has shown a remarkable ability to pile up birdies without being able to putt -- he's 137th on Tour in SG: Putting, yet 11th in both birdie average and birdie or better. Math? That doesn't even seem possible. Henley does it by ranking 18th in driving accuracy and seventh in greens in regulation. The big question is how low can he go -- can he get to 20-under? The answer is, at this moderate price, he doesn't have to. The other answer is, he got to 23-under at the Sony.
Keith Mitchell - 7,400 (+6500)
Regular readers will know that Mitchell is a regular pick. He's surely not among the best golfers, but he's good in so many ways and is usually perched solidly in the middle of Tier 3. Mitchell is ranked third on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee by virtue of being one of the more accurate of the long hitters. He has 10 top-25s this season, and just missed another last week. Nobody thinks of Mitchell as a good putter. However, he's ranked 40th on Tour. he is also ranked seventh in something called Average Distance of Putts Made.
Sahith Theegala - $7,300 (+9000)
Theegala won't win Rookie of the Year but in many years he would. Cameron Young has simply been too good. Theegala has 10 top-25s this season, racking up another last week with a T13 at the FedEx St. Jude. Looking at Theegala's stats, nothing really stands out, there's no world-class segment of his game. He's a great example of the "sum of his parts." Theegala is ranked only 129th in SG: Putting, yet he can go low. He was 19-under at the Sanderson Farms and, more recently, 17-under at the Travelers.
Kevin Kisner - $6,800 (+15000)
This does not seem like a Kevin Kisner course. And it's not. Well, about half of it isn't. But the other half surely is. With eight short par-4s, a 170-yard par-3 and two par-5s that might be three-shot holes for the whole field, Kisner could be a sneaky low-ownership play. With Kisner, it's all about the putter, and it looked pretty bad at the Rocket Mortgage and the Wyndham. But he ranked fifth at TPC Southwind to tie for 20th on the week. Kisner is 10th on Tour in Putting. He's also fifth in Average Distance of Putts Made, which seems like a good thing to be good at on huge greens. Kisner is 28th in the point standings and he'll need a good week to stay there.
Taylor Moore - $6,400 (+15000)
Moore is part of the impressive rookie class that's made it this far. He got here with a late finishing kick, making his past seven cuts with two top-10s and two top-25s. He just missed another last week with a T31. Moore is a bad putter -- ranked 141st -- yet he's improved greatly over the past two months and is ranked 31st in birdie average.
Trey Mullinax - $6,200 (+15000)
Maybe this a bit of a reaction to last week, when Mullinax tied for fifth. And that was with three late bogeys. But he's been playing his best golf for a few weeks now, beginning with his maiden win at the Barbasol. Mullinax is very aggressive off the tee -- heck, at ninth in distance and 178th in accuracy he could be the poster boy for aggressive. He's also a poor putter. Yet somehow, he's ranked 22nd in birdie or better. We don't care how the ball gets to the bottom of the cup, just that it does.