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BMW Championship: Welcome to Crooked Stick

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By Pete Pappas

GolfWRX Staff Writer

Crooked Stick Golf Club is one of five Pete Dye designs on the Tour schedule this season (TPC Sawgrass, Harbor Town, TPC Louisiana, and Kiawah Island). Unfortunately for most players in the BMW Championship this week, they haven’t even seen Crooked Stick until just a few days ago.

In fact, the last time Crooked Stick hosted a PGA Tour event was the 1991 PGA Championship. Eventual winner John Daly was going to be the “next superstar,” David Feherty was roused by his best major finish on American soil and the entire PGA Championship purse was less than what the champion alone will take home this week for winning the BMW.

And oh by the way, World No. 1 Rory McIlroy was probably still wearing diapers.

The BMW Championship is the third of the four events in the 2012 FedExCup Playoffs. Starting with 125 players, the playoff field has now been trimmed to 70 players after last week’s Deutsche Bank Championship.

On the final day at the Deutsche Bank Championship, McIlroy birdied five of his first eight holes in a come-from-behind win over Louis Oosthuizen. His one-shot victory moved him to his current top spot in the FedExCup standings.

Oosthuizen, meanwhile, moved to No. 5 in the FedExCup standings with his second-place finish last week, a position that carries favorable significance. At the conclusion of play this week at the BMW, 30 players will advance to East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for the final playoff event, the TOUR Championship. And a points reset will give everyone a mathematical chance to win the FedExCup and the cool $10 million bonus that goes along with it.

However only the top-five players in the FedExCup standings after the BMW will control their own destiny and can win the FedExCup outright with a victory at East Lake. Five, therefore, is the magic number, and the goal for everyone playing this week at Crooked Stick.

And the current top-five players in the FedExCup standings happen to be playing their best golf of the season right now. Marquee groupings (noting their corresponding FedExCup standings) at the BMW this week include: McIlroy (1), Nick Watney (2), and Tiger Woods (3).

With McIlroy’s victory last week, he joins Luke Donald (2011) and Woods (2009) as the only other players to hold the No. 1 spot in the FedExCup standings, Official World Golf Rankings, and PGA Tour money list at the same time.

Woods owns the most career playoff victories of anyone in the field, and in 12 starts at the BMW Championship has five wins and nine top-10 finishes. Woods also enters play with the best stroke average of any player in the field with at least 32 rounds of playoff experience under their belt.

Other groups to keep a close eye on include Jason Dufner (7), Zach Johnson (8) and Phil Mickelson (9); Brandt Snedeker (4), Oosthuizen (5) and Dustin Johnson (6); and Bubba Watson (10), Carl Pettersson (11) and Keegan Bradley (12).

Last week Mickelson notched four rounds in the 60s for the first time since the 2011 Farmer’s Insurance Open which bodes well for “Lefty.” And long hitters Johnson (ranked T6 in driving distance at 310 yards) and Watson (ranked No. 1 at 315 yards) should have a distinct power advantage on the 7,497 yard long Crooked Stick course (which could play even longer if soggy conditions from early week persist).

Perhaps most significant however, Crooked Stick tells us to expect a spotlight shift – to something unfamiliar, something unforeseeable, and maybe even someone unforgettable.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

You can follow Pete on Twitter @TheGreekGrind and GolfWRX @GolfWRX

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

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