We have reached the penultimate start for the 2018-2019 season on the PGA Tour, and 70 talented golfers will descend upon the iconic Medinah Country Club outside Chicago, IL hoping to be one of the 30 golfers to stamp their ticket into next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta, GA at East Lake, with their eyes on the $15 million dollar prize.
Medinah is one of the country’s most venerable old golf courses, boasting one of the most impressive clubhouses in all the land, built by Shriners and reminiscent of a Byzantine-style, mosque-evoking clubhouse with Oriental, Louis XIV and Italian architectural aspects.
Course #3, where this tournament will be held, has hosted five major championships: three U.S. Opens(1949, 1975, 1990) and two PGA Championships (1999, 2006), as well as the Ryder Cup in 2012.The Europeans, will remember that 2012 ‘Miracle of Medinah’ very nicely.
Built and designed by Tom Bendelow in 1924, noted architect A.W. Tillinghast (Bethpage, Aronimink, Baltusrol, Winged Foot) revamped the course in 1930, and that design played until Roger Packard’s 1986 redesign in preparation for the U.S. Open brought substantial changes. This was followed by Rees Jones’ work in preparation for the 2006 PGA Championship, which extended Course 3 to 7,561 yards which at the time became the longest course in major championship history.
Medinah Country Club is noted for the three waterfront par three holes in numbers 2, 13, and 17, all of which play over 190 yards and all over water. Medinah can play at over 7,650 yards at its extremities, and if length wasn’t enough of a defense, the course has has another weapon up its sleeve: 4,700 trees around the property that line the fairways and gobble up wayward tee shots.
The first key to unlocking Medinah will be accuracy off the tee- because the rough is said to have been grown nice and lush and also the foliage from the trees can block out misplaced drives from having a line in to the Bentgrass greens.
This is going to require an all-around test this week, and we would not be surprised to see the leaderboard heavy on big names as the cream rises to the top.
Must-Have #1 Patrick Cantlay
Just like last week, there is going to be a premium on Ball Striking and Approach at Medinah, so we go back to the well again in backing this classy 27-year old out of UCLA.
It seems that Cantlay is peaking at the right time, finishing 12th at Liberty National last week and continuing his great run of form that now reads 12-12-41-15-21-1-3 over the last seven weeks.
The reason for success has been his sublime all-around game. He lead the field last week in SG: Tee To Green and in Birdie or Better %. For the season he ranks 2nd on Tour in SG: Total, 3rd in SG: Tee To Green, 9th in SG: Around the Green, 11th in SG: Approach, 11th in SG: Off The Tee, and 27th in SG: Putting.
Those are the stats of someone who should be a multiple winner on Tour, so it’s a wonder that he hasn’t won more than once this season, like he did at Muirfield in June. He has produced ten Top 10s and 13 Top 15s on the season however, and we expect another one of those to come this week. Perhaps a return to the Midwest will find Cantlay in the winner’s circle once again.
Must-Have #2: Joaquin Niemann
We turn back to another one of the talented young bucks on Tour in our lineups this week, as this 20-year has been playing some lights out golf on the PGA Tour for quite a sustained stretch of time lately.
He is still looking for his first PGA Tour win, and there would be no better place to get it than this week at the BMW Championship, as a strong finish would catapult him up the standings and into the Top 30 for the Tour Championship next week at East Lake in Atlanta.
This young Chilean has been kind of a revelation over the past couple months. He has carded finishes of 30-13-10-23-5-5-31-27-31 in his last nine domestic starts.
He has been absolutely on fire in all facets of his game as of late too, and that bodes well coming into the stern test that is Medinah. Over the last 12 rounds he ranks 1st in Par 4 Scoring, 1st in Proximity from 150-175 Yards, 7th in Ball Striking, 9th in Strokes Gained Approach, 17th in Birdie or Better %, 23rd in Fairways Gained, and 28th in Par 5 Scoring.
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