Five To Watch At The 2013 BMW Championship

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Five Favorites For The BMW Championship

BMW championship
Greg M. Cooper - USA TODAY Sports

Although the Tour Championship isn’t until next week in Atlanta, this week’s BMW Championship marks a finale, of sorts, for the 2013 PGA Tour season. With the FedEx Cup points about to reset, this marks the final opportunity for players to jockey for position near the top of the standings. And, of course, with 70 players set to begin play on Thursday, only 30 will leave on Sunday with their ticket for the championship tournament.

The BMW Championship also has quite the fine host course this week, as Conway Farms will hold its first PGA Tour tournament. The private course north of Chicago has become a fixture in the amateur ranks, hosting NCAA championships, Junior Amateur championships and even a U.S. Open sectional qualifier. Still, Luke Donald, who starred at nearby Northwestern University and has called Conway Farms his home course ever since, was instrumental in touting the merits of the site as a worthy Tour stop.

The 7,261-yard Tom Fazio design was opened in 1991 on 209 acres of land, and finds a way to feature a little bit of everything as golf’s challenges go. While some holes are generally open, others like the par-4 first feature trees lining the rough. The first par-5, the 600-yard eighth, is a challenge in not only length, but features a small green that will challenge players to make tight approach shots.

With no cut, we should be in for four days of exciting golf, as players will bring their most aggressive games from the start in an attempt to jockey for positioning. The storylines are deep as well, as defending champion Rory McIlroy is still in the hunt despite an overall disappointing year; Henrik Stenson looks to repeat his magic from last week, and top stars like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson fight for points leading into the Tour Championship.

With no further delay, then, let’s take a look at my top five for the BMW Championship.

Brandon Raper is a golf writer for “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, and add him to your Google+ network.

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5) Luke Donald

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Donald’s struggles have been well-documented in 2013, including a recent change in swing coaches for the former world No. 1. Still, he’s playing at a course that’s been his home since his college days, and his putting has been solid. Donald will be motivated to perform, as he needs a top-ten, possibly a top-five finish to advance to the Tour Championship next week.

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4) Steve Stricker

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Not quite as close to home as Donald, but Steve Stricker doesn’t have a long trip from his Wisconsin home either, and that should fit his mental preparation quite well. If there was any doubt about whether his reduced schedule would affect his game, realize that last week’s second-place finish at TPC Boston was his third runner-up and sixth top ten in just 11 starts. Arguably the best putter on Tour, Stricker is seemingly in top form as he closes out the 2013 season in style.

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3) Adam Scott

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Scott struggled at the Deutsche Bank Championship, finishing tied for 53rd. However, he had run off four straight top-15 finishes heading into Boston, including his win at The Barclays. Ranked 12th in Greens in Regulation and fourth in scoring average in 2013, Scott is playing for position this week, with the points reset before East Lake.

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2) Matt Kuchar

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After a Sunday 78 at The Barclays took Kuchar out of contention, he rebounded nicely in Boston, with three rounds of 66 to finish tied for fourth. Momentum is on his side, and if there was ever a week for Kuchar to really stamp his name on these playoffs, this is it.

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1) Justin Rose

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Rose is a trendy pick this week in Illinois, and for good reason. He’s been under par in every round the last two weeks, and could easily have found a way to win either of the tournaments. More importantly, his ball-striking has been absolutely on fire. There are just no glaring holes in his game lately. If he putts well this week, he’s going to have a huge finish.