BMW Championship 2021 picks: Our experts are torn. Bryson or Rory?
One leg down, two to go in the FedEx Cup playoffs. This week, the final 70 players will have a quick turnaround after the Monday finish at The Northern Trust. Fortunately, the trip to the BMW Championship from Jersey City, N.J. to Owings Mills, Md., site of Caves Valley Golf Club, was a relatively short one.
Designed by Tom Fazio with some long, tree-lined corridors, Caves Valley has drawn some comparisons to Quail Hollow, where Fazio has done extensive work on. As a result, a number of experts in the gambling space have been drawn to Rory McIlroy, whose history at Quail Hollow is well documented. At 28-1 at some books, the four-time major champion is certainly an attractive play.
So, too, is Bryson DeChambeau, who should, theoretically, feast on Caves Valley, which appears to be a bomber’s paradise. Concerns about DeChambeau’s focus are certainly valid (Brooks saga, World Long Drive Championship), but he’ll still be hard to pass up at 25-1.
RELATED: Tony Finau’s finest moment, Bryson DeChambeau’s next experiment, and the shank heard round the world
Our experts are somewhat torn on who to back—Rory or Bryson. Read on to see who we like, or, just bet them both and call it a day.
RELATED: What makes Caves Valley, set for its PGA Tour debut, a golf ‘fairy tale land’
BMW Championship 2021 picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Rory McIlroy (28-1, Caesar’s Sportsbook) — Caves Valley is essentially a more interesting Quail Hollow. More variety—uphill, downhill, with more risk-reward holes. We saw Rory dominate Quail just a few months ago. The comparison is a good one with tree-lined fairways that allow you to move the ball (with a preference to a fade) and pushed up greens with Tom Fazio’s touch. That all screams Rory.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Bryson DeChambeau (22-1, DraftKings) — The ball-striking is at its highest level since his API/Players run right now. He just needs to get things rolling better on the greens. Considering he’s a top-15 putter in this field over the past 50 rounds, I’m betting he figures it out.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Patrick Cantlay (23-1, FanDuel) — Cantlay is hot right now with six top-25 finishes in his past seven starts. His only miss was a missed cut at The Open by a shot. He is always someone to watch in a no-cut event because of his balanced profile that can keep him afloat even if one part of his game is not clicking on a particular day.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Brooks Koepka (25-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — Koepka’s T-31 last week is going to look much worse than it actually was. As you can imagine, Koepka wasn’t as engaged with the event in the final round and had his worst round of the week, losing 3.8 strokes to the field. The first three rounds were vintage Koepka, flashing excellent ball-striking with average putting. Few golfers are putting themselves in contention as often as Koepka who has six top-six finishes in his past 12 starts.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Rory McIlroy (28-1, Caesar’s Sportsbook) — Let’s get back to sharp betting, not chasing winners like we did last week with Jordan Spieth (apologies to those who tailed). Finding value in lines is what seasoned bettors do, and that’s what we have with Rory McIlroy at 28-1. Per our guy Rick Gehman, it’s the longest odds on Rory in his database, which goes back to Fall 2018. It’s likely way longer than that. Plus, this is a 69-man field. Caves Valley should reward elite off-the-tee play, and that’s where Rory thrives. He’s also first in this field in the past 24 rounds in SG/par 4s from 450-500 yards, per Fantasy National, with six holes this week coming in that range. I don’t see why you wouldn’t bet Rory at this number.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Justin Thomas (20-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — Yes, we’re going straight back to the JT well. Coming off a T-4 finish, which included a him gaining 4.5 strokes putting, it’s somewhat stunning to see him still in the 20s odds-wise. Historically, when he posts a high finish like that, there’s more (very) good golf to come. In the prior start to his 14 PGA Tour wins, Thomas has finished inside the top nine six times.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Bryson DeChambeau (22-1, DraftKings) — DeChambeau comes into this event ranked fourth in the FanShareSports' course-suitability ranking, mainly due to his solid off the tee game and putting on bentgrass greens. He also ranks top 20 for both SG/tee-to-green and opportunities gained over the past two months.
Recent results: Golf Digest's betting panel has been red-hot the past two seasons—and we’re finishing this season on a strong run, too. Our experts have now predicted 12 of the past 27 winners—an insane clip in predicting golf events (after going up 225.30 units last season!). Christopher Powers has predicted Kevin Kisner’s win at the Wyndham (55-1) and Cameron Champ’s victory at the 3M Open (at 150-1) in the last five weeks alone, giving him four wins in 2021 (Justin Thomas at 18-1 at the Players; Brooks Koepka at 50-1 at the WMPO). Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports picked up his second win of the year by predicting Collin Morikawa’s victory at The Open (at 40-1, after hitting Garrick Higgo at the Palmetto, also at 40-1). Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel predicted Cam Davis’ win in this column at the Rocket Mortgage (at 100-1) for his third win of 2021, and Stephen Hennessey predicted Jason Kokrak’s victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge a few weeks ago (at 45-1), giving him two wins on the year (Jordan Spieth at 11-1 at the Valero). Rick Gehman also has two wins this year (Thomas at the Players; Daniel Berger at 14-1 at Pebble Beach), as does Pat Mayo, who predicted Koepka’s WMPO win as well as Collin Morikawa’s WGC-Workday win at 33-1. We’ll stop there! Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!
Listen to Golf Digest's weekly betting podcast, "Be Right," (above) where we interview the industry's leading experts (and sometimes tour pros) to help you make your bets and pick your fantasy lineups. And be sure to subscribe to "Be Right" wherever you get your podcasts!
BMW Championship 2021 picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win
Caddie: Jason Kokrak (80-1, DraftKings) — Kokrak’s been one of the best players of 2021, and he’s also one of the longest hitters on tour. We’re getting a better number here based off two missed cuts, but that shouldn’t scare you away from this birdie-maker.
Mayo: Daniel Berger (35-1, DraftKings) — Not a dark horse in a traditional sense, but it’s hard to fall too far down the board in an elite field. That leaves Berger. Even in a poor showing at The Northern Trust he still managed to finish top 10 for the week in approach.
Gdula: Sam Burns (50-1, FanDuel) — Burns kind of quietly has four top-21 finishes in his past five starts, including a T-21 at The Northern Trust last week. Burns’ distance should allow him to get leverage on the field and cut some corners this week whenever possible, and he ranks in the 76th percentile in adjusted SG/approach over the past year in my database.
Gehman: Hudson Swafford (300-1, DraftKings) — Never before have I written up the player with literally the longest odds in the field, but never has that player been so attractive. Swafford led the field at The Northern Trust in the ball-striking categories, gaining a whopping 12.83 strokes off-the-tee and on approach. That was the fourth-best ball-striking week for any golfer this season— per the RickRunGood.com golf database. If he can find a neutral putter this week, like he has in three of his last five starts, he can contend.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Sam Burns (50-1, FanDuel) — Burns’ 2021 has been so good, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he threatens to win this elite field. He was in the mix last week again, and I like his chances of keeping the hot play going. His distance plus his stats on par 5s make him a strong play at this number … and back it up with a first-round leader, which is his forte (he’s 17th in this field in first-round scoring average this season).
Powers, Golf Digest: Keith Mitchell (200-1, DraftKings) — Crazy number here for a guy who just posted his second top-eight finish in his last three starts, has good history at Caves Valley-comp course Quail Hollow and has already proven he can take down a tough field with his win at the 2019 Honda Classic, where he edged out Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler by a stroke. He’s also playing with a bit of house money having made it this far after a so-so 2021. Hopefully, that frees him up to make a serious run at the top 30, which would get him into his first career Tour Championship. Go Dawgs.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Kevin Na (70-1, FanDuel) — Na is starting to find some good form right now. He ranks 15th in the field for SG/tee-to-green over the past two months which has resulted in an eighth and two second-place finishes. His putting on bentgrass greens will really help here at Caves Valley Golf Club.
BMW Championship 2021 picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Caddie: Bryson DeChambeau (22-1, DraftKings) — I wouldn’t touch Bryson with a 10-foot pole right now. On paper he should thrive at a course like this. But that space between his ears is so muddled right now, I wouldn’t put money on him.
Mayo: Dustin Johnson (22-1, DraftKings) — Despite middling play, he continues to be priced as a super elite option. He just hasn’t been worth his odds.
Gdula: Tony Finau (22-1, FanDuel) — I love Finau as much as the next guy, but odds are that he’s not going back-to-back based simply on variance alone, and he’s rating out as one of the worst values on the board, according to my win simulations.
Gehman: Louis Oosthuizen (22-1, DraftKings) — Oosthuizen has been phenomenal this season and oddsmakers are starting to catch on. He’s on a stretch of golf that has returned eight consecutive top-20 finishes, five of those coming in the top three. The problem, for me, is the way he’s being priced. At 22-1, he has shorter odds to win than Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Bryson DeChambeau and countless other top tier golfers. I’m not quite prepared to buy Louis at this price.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Jon Rahm (+550, DraftKings) — A fade strictly because of the number. Monitor it on Thursday and Friday if you like him and if he gets off to a slow start you might be able to find double-digit odds on him live … this is just unbettable.
Powers, Golf Digest: Jordan Spieth (16-1, DraftKings) — Thank goodness for that second-round 62 last week, otherwise he may have finished 30 shots back as opposed to 21. If his odds drifted like they should have, maybe he’d be an attractive bet. But he’s essentially the same price as a week ago despite barely breaking 80 on Monday.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jordan Spieth (16-1, DraftKings) — Last week was supposed to be a course that Spieth could excel at. It never happened though further highlighting how bad his recent form is. He ranks bottom six in the field this week for both SG/tee-to-green and opportunities gained over the last two months.
BMW Championship 2021 picks: Matchups
Caddie: Brooks Koepka (+100) over Dustin Johnson (Bet365) — DJ’s played like crap the past couple of months, and Koepka just couldn’t putt last week. Not sure why you’re getting plus money here, but take it.
Mayo: Rory McIlroy (+105) over Brooks Koepka (DraftKings) — Despite middling play, he continues to be priced as a super elite option. He just hasn’t been worth his odds.
Gdula: Joaquin Niemann (-108) over Sungjae Im (FanDuel) — Niemann has been around 0.4 strokes per round better than Im over the past year once adjusting for field strength, and he has the better tee-to-green game, as well.
Gehman: Russell Henley (+100) over Sam Burns (DraftKings) — Henley was true to his DNA last week, gaining 5.85 strokes on approach and another 1.5 off-the-tee. The reason he finished T-56 was the putter, where he lost 6.10 strokes to the field. That’s the second-worst putting week of his career and uncharacteristic considering he had gained strokes putting in four straight events prior to last week. It’s safe to assume he gets back to his baseline this week and gives himself a chance to make noise.
Hennessey: Charley Hoffman (-112) over Brian Harman (FanDuel) — My custom model at Fantasy National gives a significant edge to Hoffman over the past 24 rounds in SG/off-the-tee, SG/approach, opportunities gained (how many birdie looks inside 15 feet) and total strokes-gained on courses over 7,400 yards. Hoffman’s 16th in my model, Harman’s 57th.
Powers: Justin Thomas (-120) over Dustin Johnson (DraftKings) — Looking at Dustin Johnson’s last few starts, it’s seems he’s either checked out of this season entirely or is just working through some stuff. Thomas, meanwhile, is peaking, and I think he’s going to win, so, ipso facto, he’d beat DJ if he did that.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Patrick Cantlay (-111) over Jordan Spieth (Betway) — As you can see above, Spieth is really struggling right now. Cantlay on the other hand comes into this event ranked second in FanShare's course-suitability ranking, 13th for SG/tee-to-green over the past two months and 10th for SG/putting.
Matchup results from The Northern Trust: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Daniel Berger (+120) over Dustin Johnson); Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Xander Schauffele (+100) over Collin Morikawa; Powers: 1 for 1 (Maverick McNealy (+105) over Kevin Kisner); Caddie: Push (Bryson DeChambeau (-125) over Brooks Koepka); Gdula, Gehman, Hennessey: 0 for 1.
Matchup Results this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Hennessey: 24-16-3 (up 6.22 units); Alldrick: 26-15-1 (up 5.73 units); Powers: 23-18-4 (up 2.93 units); Gdula: 22-21-2 (down 0.12 units); Gehman: 20-23-2 (down 3.61 units); Caddie: 16-24-5 (down 6.79 units); Mayo: 17-24-3 (down 7.88 units)
BMW Championship 2021 picks: Top 10
Caddie: Justin Thomas (+180, DraftKings) — JT’s putter was red-hot on Thursday, and though it cooled down Friday and Saturday, he gained almost two strokes Sunday, too, and gained in four straight rounds for the first time since May. If the putting’s back, watch out.
Mayo: Rory McIlroy (+230, DraftKings) — Always live at a Fazio design, Rory showed flashes at Liberty National only to be undone by giant numbers. There’s far more room for error this week.
Gdula: Viktor Hovland (+300, FanDuel) — When I combine key stats for this week and long-term adjusted form, Hovland is actually sitting third among all golfers in the field in my model. He’s got such good ball-striking that he should hit fairways when needed and find these small greens in regulation.
Gehman: Charley Hoffman (+650, FanDuel) — After a scorching start to the calendar year, Hoffman went through a bit of a slump in the summer but it appears he’s getting back on track. He gained strokes both off-the-tee and on approach at The Northern Trust and his metrics are much more reminiscent of his stretch from April to May when he had six straight top-20 finishes.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Charley Hoffman (+650, FanDuel) — Hoffman gained nearly six strokes on approach in the final three rounds—an insane clip—to surge up the leader board. If he keeps those irons hot for four rounds, he could be a real contender.
Powers, Golf Digest: Corey Conners (+350, DraftKings) — Despite losing strokes putting in seven of his last eight measured events, Conners has still managed to pick up five top-21 finishes during that stretch. All the guy does is put on a tee-to-green masterclass week after week. A mediocre putting performance should be enough to cash a top 10, and maybe something bigger than that.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Hideki Matsuyama (+350, DraftKings) — Matsuyama comes into this event ranked 14th for opportunities gained over the last two months and fifth for SG/tee-to-green over the same period. He also has one of the best long-term stats in the field and his strong approach game should mean he gains an advantage over the majority of the field here at Caves Valley Golf Club.
Top-10 results from The Northern Trust: Everybody: 0 for 1.
Top-10 results from this season: Gehman: 10 for 42 (up 13.85 units); Hennessey: 7 for 40 (down 0.87 units); Powers: 8 for 42 (down 3.37 units); Gdula: 4 for 41 (down 13 units); Tour caddie: 7 for 41 (down 16.98 units); Mayo: 3 for 41 (down 21.5 units); Alldrick: 3 for 40 (down 25.5 units).
BMW Championship 2021 picks: One and Done
Gehman: Harris English — I use a strategy for One and Done that allows me to burn through all my best players early instead of saving golfers for the end of the season. Now that we have arrived at the end of the season, it’s the best man available and this week that’s Harris English. He was a bit inconsistent last week at The Northern Trust but his game has been sharp all year long.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Joel Dahmen; U.S. Open: Jon Rahm; Corales: Denny McCarthy. Sanderson: Sebastian Munoz. Shriners: Matthew Wolff. CJ Cup: Xander Schauffele. Zozo: Bubba Watson. Bermuda: Rasmus Hojgaard. Houston: Lanto Griffin. Masters: Rory McIlroy. RSM: Webb Simpson. Sentry TOC: Patrick Reed. Sony: Abraham Ancer. AMEX: Patrick Cantlay. Torrey: Jon Rahm. Waste Management: Webb Simpson. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis Invitational: Rory McIlroy. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Bryson DeChambeau; Honda Classic: Sungjae Im. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Jordan Spieth. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Daniel Berger. Valspar: Paul Casey. Wells Fargo: Viktor Hovland. AT&T Byron Nelson: Sam Burns. PGA Championship: Collin Morikawa. Charles Schwab Challenge: Charley Hoffman. Memorial Tournament: Billy Horschel. Palmetto Championship: Lucas Glover. U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka. Travelers Championship: Keegan Bradley. Rocket Mortgage Classic: Jason Kokrak. John Deere Classic: Kevin Streelman. 3M Open: Maverick McNealy. Wyndham Championship: Webb Simpson. The Northern Trust: Bryson DeChambeau.
Hennessey: Patrick Cantlay — At this point, you’re going to use the best player you have available. I haven’t used Cantlay here, and his all-around game should definitely translate to Caves Valley.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Phil Mickelson; U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Harris English. CJ Cup: Kevin Na. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Doc Redman. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Tyrrell Hatton. RSM: Brian Harman. Sentry TOC: Justin Thomas. Sony: Ryan Palmer. AMEX: Scottie Scheffler. Torrey: Sungjae Im. Waste Management: Daniel Berger. AT&T Pebble Beach: Francesco Molinari. Genesis Invitational: Tony Finau. WGC-Workday: Xander Schauffele. The Players: Jordan Spieth. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Webb Simpson. Valspar: Charley Hoffman. Wells Fargo: Max Homa. AT&T Byron Nelson: Will Zalatoris. PGA Championship: Xander Schauffele. Charles Schwab Challenge: Abraham Ancer. Memorial Tournament: Collin Morikawa. Palmetto Championship: Matt Fitzpatrick. U.S. Open: Jon Rahm. Travelers Championship: Paul Casey. Rocket Mortgage Classic: Bryson DeChambeau. John Deere Classic: Alex Noren. 3M Open: Bubba Watson.
Powers: Viktor Hovland — The chipping and putting has been noticeably bad over the last few weeks, so bad that he actually bent his putter on Monday at Liberty National. New flat stick, new Vik? We’re going to find out. Let’s hope so, because he’s wasting some seriously good off-the-tee and approach play.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Brendan Steele; U.S. Open: Louis Oosthuizen; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Jason Kokrak. CJ Cup: Daniel Berger. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Bubba Watson. RSM: Brian Harman. Mayakoba: Corey Conners. Sentry TOC: Harris English. Sony: Zach Johnson. AMEX: Matthew Wolff. Torrey: Tony Finau. Waste Management: Sungjae Im. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis: Hideki Matsuyama. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Tommy Fleetwood. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Matt Fitzpatrick. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Jordan Spieth. RBC Heritage: Kevin Kisner. Valspar: Patrick Reed. Wells Fargo: Patrick Cantlay. AT&T Byron Nelson: Will Zalatoris. PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy. Charles Schwab Challenge: Joaquin Niemann. Memorial Tournament: Jon Rahm. Palmetto Championship: Harold Varner III. U.S. Open: Bryson DeChambeau. Travelers Championship: Scottie Scheffler. Rocket Mortgage Classic: Doc Redman. John Deere Classic: Brian Harman. 3M Open: Dustin Johnson. Wyndham Championship: Webb Simpson. The Northern Trust: Justin Thomas.
RELATED: Bryson DeChambeau listed as a huge underdog for the Long Drive World Championship
By The Numbers:
Courtesy of Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com:
3.72 - The number of strokes gained per round by Jon Rahm since the PGA Championship, by far the best mark in this field. In fact, only two other golfers have gained at least 1.8 strokes per round in that span (Oosthuizen & Morikawa).
4.83 - The number of strokes on approach that Rory McIlroy lost in Round 2 of The Northern Trust. That was the single worst approach round of his career.
49 - The number of years since the PGA Tour has played an event in Baltimore, Maryland. Caves Valley Golf Club required lengthening for the modern player before the tour agreed to return.
69 - The number of golfers in the field, since Patrick Reed has withdrawn. There is no cut this week and the top 30 in the FedEx Cup Standings will advance to the tour Championship.
About our experts
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.
Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.