Of all the FedEx Cup Playoff venues, I'm probably most excited about Crooked Stick and the BMW Championship. Most of us only remember it as the site of John Daly's 1991 PGA Championship
-- a stark-blond mullet dangling above a pumping fist as he strolled up the 18th fairway the final day. Hard to believe that was 21 years ago.
It was a big moment in the history of the game. The buzz from Jack's win at Augusta had died down a couple of years before. Tom Watson was entering an era of the yips. No one could really get behind Hal Sutton or Bob Tway as the next great American golfer. Freddy Couples was still eight months away from winning his first (and only) major, the 1992 Masters. And Tiger was just starting to win junior amateur championships, not yet on the national scene.
Enter Long John and a little Pete Dye track near Carmel, Ind. He was a 100,000-volt surge in the Tour's three-prong socket. He blistered the field that week -- the three-stroke margin of victory was misleading -- and instantly became the biggest draw at any event for the rest of the 1990's. He was equal parts Arnold Palmer, Sly Stallone and Jeff Foxworthy. The only thing relative to his shooting star within that generation was Tiger's arrival and dominance of the Tour for a decade. He was that big of a deal for all you under 25-year-olds reading this.
All of that to say it's sad that JD isn't playing this week; he didn't quite make it to the playoffs. Still, his win in 1991 tells us a little about Crooked Stick: doglegs can be cut, high irons trump bulleted flights, and aggression can pay off on these links. It's where Pete and Alice Dye call home, and it's where he made his bones in the 1960's (great article on the genesis of the course here
). There are eight par-4's measuring more than 440 yards and four par-5's (three easily reachable), so the long hitters are starting with a par 69 and have a clear advantage on more than half of the holes. Still, any good ball striker can win on any given week. Fred Funk
won the Senior PGA here with -20 three years ago, after all.
10. Bo Van Pelt. He gets overlooked so much because he's never quite in contention, but he's as solid as they come with a whooping 14 top-25's in 2012 and is basically top-40 in every statistical category outside of sand saves. He's also an Indiana boy -- from Richmond, which is in the absolute middle of nowhere. I'm sure he once looked upon the greater Indianapolis area as the London of Indiana, so it's a chance for him to shine in the big city lights. Also, his two professional wins on US soil have come in the Midwest (notably, he went to Oklahoma State and won a Web.com event in Omaha).
9. Kevin Stadler. I like to sneak in a darkhorse in whenever I can. Here's what I like about Stads: 11-T46-T10-T10 finishes his last four events. He also has better-than-average length and hits a ton of greens. The cherry on top is that his father finished T7 in the 1991 PGA at Crooked Stick, so karma is on his side. If you've burned a lot of your A players, he should be in for a good payday this week.
8. Brandt Snedeker. He's too hot not to include on the list, with top-6's in both playoff events so far. But with the length of Crooked Stick and his naming to the Ryder Cup team on Tuesday, he might just exhale this week. He's been grinding for so long now, and he reached a huge goal… who could blame him? That being said, the $10 million FedEx Cup prize is within his reach and he's not one to stop grinding.
7. Jeff Overton. The Indiana kid (he's from Evansville and lives in Bloomington) heated up last week in Boston with a T7 finish; he opened with a 64. He knows the track well, probably better than anyone in the field. He needs a good week to get into the Tour Championship -- currently he's 40th in the FEC standings -- so coupled with the hometown crowd, the inspiration should be there.
6. Jim Furyk. Another nod to the ballstriker, Fred Funk's long lost younger brother. I think he'll be inspired to justify his captain's pick by Davis Love.
5. Justin Rose. The defending BMW champ (at Cog Hill) isn't trending very well right now, with a T46 and MC his last two starts. But after his only other MC this year (British Open) he finished T5 in the WGC Bridgestone, a long course that requires high, soft irons. He needs to get his game going for the Ryder Cup, and he's become too consistent not to show up near the lead every couple of weeks.
4. Phil Mickelson. Recorded four rounds in the 60's for the first time in 39 events last week in Boston, so it appears his game is rounding into form for the stretch run and Ryder Cup. There are a lot of birdies to be had at Crooked Stick and he's 9th in birdies and 16th in par breakers despite a sub-par year by his standards.
3. Dustin Johnson. He is playing really, really well. He has all the measurables for the course: mainly that he's a bomber and great ballstriker. He has two top-5's in his last two events. But even at his best he's the third best player in the field.
2. Rory McIlroy. Hasn't exactly strung together consecutive results in awhile, but he's the best player on the planet right now. He won on a Pete Dye track at Kiawah for the PGA last month. His putting and driving stats are special (at Kiawah and TPC Boston, at least). And a fellow Northern Irishman, David Feherty, finished T7 here in 1991. All things point to him continuing to roll, but…
1. Tiger Woods. I think this is his week. He's slowly pieced his driving game together, his wedges have come around, he finished 11th in putting and got over his weekend scoring issues last week in Boston (only one bogey his final 43 holes). His game is building toward something, so he's going to win either this week or next (or maybe both).
Player to avoid: Sergio Garcia. I'm not a fan of a guy who has struggled to win, finally wins, then immediately takes a week off. He should be OK here, but I don't see him seriously contending.
Some darkhorses to consider: Troy Matteson (length off tee), Bob Estes (great ballstriking) and Jimmy Walker (playing well the last two months, has a chance to advance to Tour Championship).
Others who should perform well: Luke Donald, Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Dufner, Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley. Can't go wrong with any of those guys.
The good and the bad last week:
Another 9/10 week with a winner (Rory).
My No. 1 pick was just OK (Keegan Bradley), and Bubba was the big letdown as he claimed on Twitter
that he played "the worst (he) has all year." How about a little heads up next time, Bubs?
(I will say that Bubba is the closest thing we have to Daly on Tour these days and I pondered including him on the list solely for that reason. But when a pro says he's hitting the ball as bad as he has all year, I stay away.)
Hit me up on Twitter if you want to discuss who to pick this week.
Photo: US Presswire