BMW Championship: First Look

Adam Stanley

The PGA TOUR heads to Baltimore for the first time since 1964 for the penultimate event of the 2020-21 season, the BMW Championship.

Jon Rahm, who was in position to start his FedExCup Playoffs run with a win at THE NORTHERN TRUST, looks to defend his BMW Championship title after a dramatic playoff win over Dustin Johnson last season.

FIELD NOTES: Top 70 in the FedExCup standings after THE NORTHERN TRUST will tee it up at the BMW Championship… Rahm, the defending champion, stood to move from fifth to first in the FedExCup standings with a win at Liberty National… Dustin Johnson, who lost in a playoff to Rahm but went on to win the FedExCup last year, missed THE NORTHERN TRUST cut by a shot Friday after starting the tournament without a driver… After withdrawing from THE NORTHERN TRUST with an ankle injury, Patrick Reed is expected to return to action at the BMW… Olympic Gold medalist Xander Schauffele, two-time FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy, past FedExCup winners Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, plus Player of the Year candidate Collin Morikawa also will be among the headliners in Baltimore.

FEDEXCUPWinner receives 2,000 FedExCup points.

COURSECaves Valley Golf Club, par 72, 7,542 yards. Opened in 1991, the Tom Fazio design was recently updated with infrastructure changes over an 18-month timeframe. There’s more length, plus new and/or restored bunkers, and, in places, additional rough. The front and back nines have been switched to allow for better spectator views. The PGA TOUR hasn’t played an event in Baltimore since the 1960s, but Caves Valley is no stranger to big-time golf – the course played host to the U.S. Senior Open, the Constellation Senior PLAYERS Championship, and the first International Crown on the LPGA Tour.

STORYLINES: The BMW Championship is the final opportunity to earn a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs finale, the 30-man TOUR Championship at East Lake… Keep an eye on the Monday finish at THE NORTHERN TRUST to see who will survive and advance. In 2020 there were six golfers who moved into the top 70 after THE NORTHERN TRUST and six who moved out… The FedExCup points leader after the first two Playoffs events will begin the TOUR Championship at 10 under par, meaning those at the top will be fighting for position at the BMW Championship.

72-HOLE RECORD: 260, Keegan Bradley (2018). *At Caves Valley GC (N/A)

18-HOLE RECORD: 59, Jim Furyk (2nd round, 2013). *At Caves Valley GC (N/A)

LAST TIME: It was a thrilling finish to the second leg of the FedExCup Playoffs in 2020, with Jon Rahm defeating Dustin Johnson in a playoff at the BMW Championship. Johnson, who had won by 11 the previous week, rolled in a double-breaking 43-foot putt on the 72nd hole at Olympia Fields to force a playoff with Rahm at 5-under 276 after the Spaniard fired a 6-under 64 in the final round (the low round of the tournament). Rahm answered right back, however, with a curling 66-foot birdie bomb of his own to seal the win. It was his 11th TOUR title. Rahm’s victory came despite a mental blunder in the third round – he picked up his ball without marking it on the green and was penalized a stroke. Only five golfers finished under par at the 2020 BMW: Joaquin Niemann, Hideki Matsuyama and Tony Finau – after a final-round 65 – were the others besides Rahm and Johnson.


Nelly Korda wins gold medal in tightly contested final round at Olympics

Doug Ferguson

KAWAGOE, Japan – Turns out that first major championship was just a start for Nelly Korda. Now she’s an Olympic champion and left little doubt Saturday about who’s the best in women’s golf.

Korda held her nerve during a chaotic chase for medals and a one-hour storm delay at the end, calmly taking two putts from just inside 30 feet for a one-shot victory.

The 23-year-old Korda gave the Americans a sweep of gold medals in golf. Xander Schauffele won the men’s competition last Sunday.

“With sports it’s so different because you’re constantly looking ahead for your next event,” Korda said. “It never really gets to kind of sink in. … But when I do look back, it’s just crazy.”

Jessica Korda, Nelly’s 28-year-old sister who posted a 64 for the low score of the final round, ran out to the green and the sisters hugged and shimmied in celebration.

Nelly now has won three of the last four individual tournaments.

“This is just kind of like almost legend status as a golfer, period, male or female,” Jessica said. “It’s tough to win out here and she makes it look easy, but those girls are good. So for her to be doing, it’s insane to me. This is like total GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) status to me.”

Mone Inami of Japan delivered the golf-loving host nation a silver medal, and it was nearly better than that.

Inami, given the honor of the opening tee shot on Wednesday, ran off five birdies in a six-hole stretch toward the end, the last one from 8 feet on the 17th hole to tie for the lead. But her approach to the 18th plugged in the sand on the slope of a bunker. The best she could do was to blast out to 30 feet and she made bogey for a 65.

Lydia Ko of New Zealand had a 35-foot birdie putt to tie for the lead on the 18th. She left it 4 feet short and had to make that for a 65 to finish one behind.

In the playoff for the silver, Ko found a bunker off the tee on the 18th hole, had to lay up and missed a 10-foot par putt.

Ko had to settle for the bronze, after winning the silver in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro. She is the only golfer to win medals in both Olympics since golf returned after a 112-year absence.

“It’s not easy playing as the No. 1 in the Olympics. I did that in Rio,” Ko said. “And for her to fight through those kind of pressure and expectations and to end up winning the gold, I think it shows what kind of class player she is.

“I’m sure this is the start of many more majors and many more wins for Nelly.”

There was nothing easy about this final round for Korda, even starting with a three-shot lead. She fell into a tie for the lead, rebuilt it to three shots early on the back nine and then closed with six pars as three players made a bold run at her.

That list includes Aditi Ashok of India, at an extreme disadvantage all week with her lack of distance off the tee, some of that brought on by a bout with COVID-19 this summer. With her magic touch on the greens, Ashok stayed in the mix all day.

Her 12-foot birdie putt to keep pace with Ko burned the edge of the cup on the 17th hole, and she had a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th to stay in medal contention. That slid by the hole.

“I didn’t leave anything out there. I think I gave it my 100%,” Ashok said. “But yeah, fourth in the Olympics where they give out three medals kind of sucks.”

Korda finished at 17-under 267 and made two double bogeys this week.

One came on the 18th hole of the second round when she needed a birdie for a 59. Korda and her caddie did not realize the tee box was 30 yards forward, leading to the wrong club and wrong line into the rough behind a tree.

The other was Saturday on the par-3 seventh when her tee shot went left into a collection area. It took Korda three chips to get onto the green, and the double bogey dropped her into a tie with Ko and Ashok.

All three birdied the par-5 eighth – Korda with a 25-foot putt that was as big as any – and Korda ran off birdies at the next two holes to restore her three-shot lead.

“I told myself there’s still a lot of golf to be left and I’m very proud of how I handled the next three holes, or even just the entire round after that,” Korda said.

Inami, Ko and Ashok all whittled away until they ran out of holes and Korda was left with a gold medal, along with a future that never looked brighter.