THERE’s a touch of three-two-one about this year’s FedExCup Play-Offs, although that phrase tends to invoke thoughts of lift-off and maybe that doesn’t quite work because the PGA Tour’s grand finale continues to resemble a damp rocket firework that fails to ignite rather than a NASA spaceship flying to the moon. Punting opportunities remain however, so let’s tuck in and hope to ride the recent wave of success at the BMW Championship.
Winner: Justin Rose 14/1
In last week’s column we followed Patrick Reed, hoping that Captain America would be inspired by a return to a course he had enjoyed Presidents Cup success on and it proved a fruitful strategy. Even in his post-event press conference he admitted such golden recollections had fuelled his drive to the win. Can something similar occur at Medinah, famously the host of Europe’s Miracle fightback in the 2012 Ryder Cup?
Has to be my favourite Ryder Cup moment of all time. Justin Rose celebrates a birdie putt on the 17th green during the Singles Matches for The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. This is when you knew a miracle in sport was about to take place! pic.twitter.com/HfAzTm9DGj
— Golf Sleep & Play (@golfsleepplay) September 26, 2018
The most obvious man to follow would be Ian Poulter, but he’ll have such notions forced down his throat all week. Rory McIlroy not only thrived on the course that year, but off it too, meeting his wife in fact, so he ought to be chipper if you believe the win is finally within his sights. But my first thought of the fightback seven years ago is actually of Justin Rose holing that famously enormous putt on the 17th green and his unusually cocky response. A winner at Torrey Pines earlier this year, he’s looked close to adding a second triumph in recent weeks. He’s been third at Pebble Beach, 20th at Royal Portrush, 11th at Southwind and 10th last week at Liberty National when he opened with a 65. Memories of 2012 glory can push him over the finishing line.
Each Way: Adam Scott 20/1
It is not only in the Ryder Cup that we’ve witnessed action from Medinah in recent years. The PGA Championship visited the Chicago track in 1999 and 2006 – and on both occasions, Tiger Woods emerged the champion. Both times Sergio Garcia also finished in the top three, but he’s not even in the field this week, missing the cut last Friday and with it dropping out of the top 70 in the rankings. One man who shared tied third with the Spaniard 13 years ago is, however, back and his form is heading in the right direction.
The new Sunday leader in the clubhouse.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 11, 2019
For 39-year-old Aussie Adam Scott this has been something of a frustrating year, with second-place finishes at both Torrey Pines and Muirfield Village but those two layouts have something in common: Tiger loved them in his pomp, just as he did this set-up, so perhaps that provides us with a vital pointer? In addition to those close calls he added three top 20s in the American majors, including eighth at Bethpage and seventh at Pebble Beach. After a blip in the Open (missed cut) he claimed fifth last week at Liberty National, breaking 70 in all four laps and ending the week on a high with a 65.
First Round Leader: Ryan Moore 55/1
It’s a bit of a shock to realise quite how long Moore has been knocking around, not least when you notice that he finished ninth at Medinah in the 2006 PGA Championship thanks to a fine weekend that saw him post 67-69. Were each-way punts available on rounds three and four scores he’d have earned a payout both times and it might be worth taking the hint for a first-round play, not least because this calendar year he’s played some attractive golf on Thursdays.
— Diggers Golf (@DiggersGolf) March 17, 2019
In fact, he’s claimed the solo first-round lead at Muirfield Village, was second at Harbour Town, fifth at Sawgrass and sixth at San Antonio (in the latter three examples he was within two blows of the lead). His ability to go low over 18 holes has also been proved with a round two 64 at River Highlands, a round three 65 at Deere Run and a Saturday 67 last week. In all he has gone sub-70 in ten of his 16 first laps in 2019 and the reason I’m suggesting we follow him on Thursday alone is simple: his record in round two is terrible. In fact 11 times out of 16 he has failed to better 72.