This week, however, major professional golf will return to the D.C. area — or at least a short drive from it — when the BMW Championship begins Thursday at Caves Valley Golf Club, some 55 miles from TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, site of the last local PGA Tour event.
TPC Potomac, incidentally, is hosting next year’s Wells Fargo Championship in May because Quail Hollow in Charlotte, the regular host of the event, will be undergoing maintenance in preparation for the 2022 Presidents Cup.
“I just love going out there for the entire experience,” Jordan Spieth said of Caves Valley, where the No. 12 player in the Official World Golf Ranking estimated he has played roughly 10 times. He will be part of a field comprising the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings for the second of three legs in the PGA Tour’s playoffs.
Spieth, the 2015 FedEx Cup champion, is seventh in the FedEx Cup standings, well behind leader Tony Finau in the race for the $15 million check that goes to the points leader following the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta running Sept. 2-5.
But first comes the BMW Championship on the heels of the Northern Trust, the opening tournament in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Finau won that event Monday on the first playoff hole when Cameron Smith was undone by a wayward drive.
The BMW Championship is making its first appearance in Maryland since it joined the FedEx Cup playoff rotation. The tournament also represents the first stop for the PGA Tour in the Baltimore area since 1962, when Doug Ford won the Eastern Open Invitational at Mount Pleasant Golf Club.
Officials with the BMW Championship had been seeking to play the tournament, which typically takes place in the Chicago suburbs, in another city to grow its national profile and generate additional donations to the Evans Scholar Foundation.
The rapid pace of ticket sales has underscored the anticipation for the BMW Championship and the tour’s return to Maryland. Weekend passes to the tented hospitality areas have sold out, with tickets available only on the secondary market. Single-day passes onto the grounds remain available.
The Western Golf Association, which oversees the BMW Championship, announced in June that ticket sales were outpacing those from the 2019 tournament by 40 percent. The 2019 BMW Championship, according to officials, drew north of 130,000 spectators from 44 states and three countries to storied Medinah Country Club in northeastern Illinois.
Jon Rahm, the reigning U.S. Open champion, enters this week second in the FedEx Cup standings, trailing Finau by 585 points and slightly ahead of Smith. The winner in each of the first two tournaments in the playoffs receives 2,000 points. The top 30 players in the points standings after the BMW Championship qualify for the Tour Championship, which starts with the top-ranked player at 10 under par and the other players staggered below based on their points position.
Rahm had been leading the Northern Trust through the first three rounds, with the tournament at Liberty National in Jersey City moving to a Monday finish because of Tropical Storm Henri. The Spaniard had a chance to force a three-way playoff with Finau and Smith but made a bogey at No. 18.
He won last year’s BMW Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club south of Chicago by sinking a 66-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Dustin Johnson. Both players had finished at 4 under par on a course that hosted the 2003 U.S. Open.
“Last year was the U.S. Open. Let’s just be honest about it and be fair,” Rahm said of the 2020 tournament. “That event was a U.S. Open with a 70-man field, so definitely the type of golf I enjoy. Plus, it’s the top 70 players. It’s the week before East Lake, so I think we’re all trying to get into form before that very last big event.”
In addition to advancing to the Tour Championship, also at stake this week are coveted Ryder Cup points. For the U.S. team, the top six in the Ryder Cup points standings earn automatic spots, with Collin Morikawa, Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas already having qualified.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker will pick the other six players to complete the roster.
Finau sits in sixth and Xander Schauffele is seventh in those standings, with Spieth eighth. Harris English and Patrick Reed round out the top 10, though Reed is hospitalized with bilateral pneumonia and will miss the BMW. Spieth is about 335 points behind Finau.
“I’ve put a lot of work in to kind of try to get back toward the top in the FedEx Cup standings,” said Spieth, whose seven top-five finishes this year include a win at the Texas Open and a runner-up at the British Open. “Get back in the winner’s circle and really, most importantly, be a very consistent player week in and week out, and I feel like this year the results are finally lending themselves to the work that’s been put in.”
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