Drive, chip, putt, repeat is D.J.’s plan

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There should be a great 1-2 punch highlighting this week’s nail-biting, collar-stretching, scoreboard-watching PGA Tour event.

But more on that in a minute.

First, we’re now down to just two events to crown a FedEx Cup champion for the 2019-2020 season. This week’s event, the BMW Championship, will be played at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill., and will showcase the remaining 70 players who have a shot at the FedEx Cup title.

To move on, players will need to be inside the top 30 in points after the final putt falls on Sunday. If you are inside that number, you’ve still got a chance at the $15 million payday. If you’re not, take the next week off and watch the drama unfold as you ponder: ‘What if.’

While we’ve had plenty of big names walk away with the title, including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy two times each, the battles down the stretch have proven there’s room for a surprise or two.

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Players like Bill Haas (2011), Brandt Snedeker (2012) and Billy Horschel (2014) aren’t names usually associated with the year’s champion, but all three played their way to the top of the mountain.

The last four years it has been players we’re used to seeing: McIlroy (2019 and 2016), Justin Rose (2018) and Justin Thomas (2017). As for Woods, he won it twice (2007, the first year of its existence, and again in 2009) but he’s got a lot of work to do this week to put his name in the mix as he’s fallen to 57th in the FedEx standings. That’s down eight spots from the previous week and he will likely need a top-five finish to move on.

So this week’s goal is a simple one: Get into that top 30. Winning solves that problem no matter where you are in the rankings. With that in mind, it’s horse racing’s ‘and down the stretch they come’ week.

We’re going with the 1-2 punch of Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. But in our eyes, it’s basically 1 and 1A.

After his win last week at The Northern Trust, Johnson passed Thomas for the No. 1 spot in the FedEx Cup race and is now No. 1 in the world … again. It was his 22nd PGA Tour win.

To look at Johnson, the favorite at 8-1, it’s a tale of two seasons played within one month. It wasn’t long ago — actually in July — that he was putting back-to-back 80s on the scorecard and a missed cut. He followed that up with a 79 and a WD the next week.

Now? He’s back. He was T-12 at WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and backed that up with a T2 at the PGA Championship. Then came this past week. He ran away with The Northern Trust making the course look like a putt-putt layout as he finished at a jaw-dropping 30-under-par and won by 11 strokes.

His game is heating up at the perfect time. He shot a 60 in the second round last week that could have been lower, much lower. He was 11-under with seven holes remaining, but he put seven straight pars on the scorecard including on the par-5 18th.

The old saying is it’s tough to follow up a great round with another great round. Not so for Johnson, who followed up his 60 with a 64 on Saturday and then a 63 on the final day.

Oh, and least we forget, he’s also a two-time winner at the BMW event.

Then there’s Thomas, who is ranked second in the FedEx standings (less than 100 points behind Johnson) and third in the world. He’s got three wins in the 2019-2020 season and could have at least one more. Add in the fact he’s the defending champion here and that’s got to make him a solid pick even though he’s also short-priced at 12-1. He’s already won the FedEx title once so the pressure won’t be as intense.

His play in recent weeks has been O.K. but not Justin-esque. But it is close enough that a tweak here or there, especially with his putting stroke, which was dismal last week, might just push him over the edge. Since the Tour’s return to action he’s had four top-10s in eight events, including a win and a runner-up.

About the Author
Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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