2022 BMW Championship Preview: Everything To Know About Wilmington Country Club 

Written By John Haslbauer on August 15, 2022
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The First State will get its first taste of PGA TOUR action this week, as Delaware makes its debut on the TOUR junket to host a FedExCup Playoffs event at Wilmington Country Club. We may never see Caves Valley on the schedule again after the birdie fest beat down at the 2021 BMW Championship which saw seven players eclipse the 20-under-par mark. It’s safe to say Wilmington CC will provide more of a challenge to the field and those handicapping BMW Championship odds for the second playoff event.

It is a very vulnerable position to try and handicap golf odds at a course that’s brand new to the PGA TOUR, especially one like Wilmington Country Club that’s never even hosted a professional golf tournament. It has also rolled out a brand new routing for tournament play between its North and South courses on property. But, with the aid of course flyovers, the tournament fact sheet and scorecard, and comp course performance, there’s still plenty of data to pull from in the breakdown ahead to keep us from feeling completely blind on this new frontier.

In short, Wilmington Country Club sets up to favor the longer hitters in the field, featuring narrow fairways, thick rough, and some of the largest greens we’ve seen on TOUR. These large, firm, and fast Bentgrass greens should also favor the top lag putters. With the last two BMW Championships falling on opposite sides of the spectrum between extremely easy (Caves Valley) and extremely challenging (Olympia Fields), I’m expecting something squarely in-between this time around, as a balanced mix of average-to-difficult scoring holes should produce a winning score in the mid-teens under par.

Now let’s get into the key facts and info about Wilmington Country Club for the 2022 BMW Championship.

BMW CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: THE FAVORITES

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R. McIlroy
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+1000
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+1000
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+1000
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+1000
J. Rahm
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+1400
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+1200
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+1200
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+1200
P. Cantlay
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+1400
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+1400
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+1400
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+1400
T. Finau
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+1400
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+1400
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+1600
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+1600
W. Zalatoris
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+1400
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+1400
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+1600
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+1600
J. Thomas
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+1400
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+1400
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+1400
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+1600
M. Fitzpatrick
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+1400
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+1600
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+1400
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+1600
S. Scheffler
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+1400
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+1400
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+1400
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+1600

BMW CHAMPIONSHIP: FIELD AT A GLANCE

For the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the field has been cut down from the top 125 in the FedEx Cup Standings to the best 70 players remaining. With the condensed field, the two-day cut has been removed for the remainder of the playoffs. So we’ll get to see four rounds from everyone this week.

As expected in the playoffs, it’s a loaded field once again, as 19 of the top 20 in OWGR players will be teeing it up (Dustin Johnson being the only exception). All players will be vying for a top-30 position in the FedEx Cup standings after this week in order to qualify for both the TOUR Championship and full suite of PGA TOUR events on the 2023 season. Wyndham Clark, Lucas Glover, Andrew Putnam, and Adam Scott played themselves onto the good side of the top-70 bubble after strong performances at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Notables with a premature exit from the playoffs just outside the top 70 include Gary Woodland, Daniel Berger, and Justin Rose.

Cameron Smith (hip injury) and Tommy Fleetwood are the only qualified player in the top 70 who’s confirmed he will be skipping the week, and with no replacement qualifiers in this stage of the playoffs, the field is currently set at 68 players.

INTRODUCTION TO WILMINGTON COUNTRY CLUB

Wilmington Country Club celebrates its 120th anniversary this year since its establishment in 1902. There are two courses on property – the South Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, and the North Course, designed by Dick Wilson. The South Course is the signature at Wilmington CC playing as a 7,334-yard Par 71 for its members and has been rated as the No. 1 course in the state of Delaware. The North Course is considerably shorter with less acclaim. For the BMW Championship, the routing has been interweaved between the two, but predominantly features holes from the South. With the new routing taken into account, it will play as a 7,534-yard Par 71 at the BMW Championship.

In all its years, Wilmington Country Club has never hosted an official professional golf event. In 1966, it played host to exhibition matches between Gary Player & Carol Mann and Arnold Palmer & Jack Nicklaus, but otherwise, there are no other events to draw.

Consistent with other popular, northeast golf courses we typically see on the PGA TOUR, Wilmington Country Club features a classical tree-lined layout with Bentgrass throughout and notable elevation changes on several holes. The course’s defining characteristics relative to others on TOUR are its length (No. 4 this season in total yardage behind Plantation Course at Kapalua, Corales Golf Club, and Torrey Pines South) and massive greens (No. 2 in average green size to the Plantation Course at Kapalua). With narrow fairways and thick rough, it sets up to favor the bombers, who should be less deterred by missed fairways when hitting into these over-sized greens with wedges or short irons in hand.

How It Breaks Down

We can throw away any direct correlation from past results at this event. That’ll make handicapping especially difficult for this week, but we should be able to approximate this week’s conditions well by looking back a recent events with similar set ups.

Not all 7,500+ yarders are the same, and in the case of Wilmington Country Club, it should play predominantly shorter than the scorecard would suggest with much of the yardage is hidden by long Par-3s and even longer Par-5s. While not at all similar to Wilmington CC, Corales Golf Club comes to mind as a similarly deceptive scorecard. It too sees inflated yardage from long Par-3s and Par-5s that are not reachable in two. That construction of holes has consistently produced shorter-hitting winners like Chad Ramey, Joel Dahmen, and Brice Garnett over the years, despite measuring over 7,600 yards in length. I still expect bombers to have a distinct advantage on this course, but it’s not a pre-requisite like we’ve seen on other northeast bomber tracks like Bethpage Black, Winged Foot, or Caves Valley.

Going through the hole-by-hole breakdown, a concentration of 33% of the holes will fall between 400-450 yards, a unique characteristic for a course which measures over 7,500 yards. Instead, it’s the Par-3s and Par-5s at Wilmington Country Club that are most daunting. There are three Par-3s which measure over 200 yards, and the three Par-5s on property measure a gaudy 582, 634, and 649 yards.

Xander Schauffele and Max Homa both thrive amongst this field in terms of Par-5: 600+ Scoring, and they’re followed by Brendan Steele, Jordan Spieth, Scott Stallings, Sam Burns, Rory McIlroy, Cam Smith, Mito Pereira, and Aaron Wise to round out the top-10. I don’t often look too closely into par-3 scoring metrics, but with limited sure-fire birdie opportunities from the Par-5s, it seems there may be an edge to be had on the three Par-3s measuring over 200 yards. The top-10 from this range are Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Matt Fitzpatrick, Mito Pereira, Emiliano Grillo, Maverick McNealy, Viktor Hovland, and KH Lee.

Looking over the last 36 rounds, the top-10 players in scoring across the 18 weighted hole distances from the scorecard are Justin Thomas, Matt Fitzpatrick, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Wyndham Clark, Cameron Young, Brendan Steele, and Patrick Cantlay.

WILMINGTON COUNTRY CLUB COURSE SPECS

  • Yards: 7,534
  • Par: 71 (4x 3s / 11x 4s / 3x 5s)
  • Greens: Bent
  • Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr. (Andrew Green renovation in ’21)
  • Comp Courses: Muirfield Village, Firestone CC, Congressional, Bethpage Black, Torrey Pines (South), Winged Foot, TPC Harding Park, TPC Twin Cities
  • Past Winners (BMW Championship): Patrick Cantlay -27 (’21), Jon Rahm -4 (’20), Justin Thomas -25 (’19), Keegan Bradley -20 (’18), Marc Leishman -23 (’17)
  • Hole-by-hole Breakdown:
Wilmington Country Club (7,534 Yards)

COURSE COMPS

It is both difficult and crucial to land on the right comp courses this week for a course in Wilmington Country Club which we’ve never seen on the PGA TOUR before. What we know for sure is Bentgrass will be prevalent throughout, the greens will be large, firm, and fast, the fairways will be tight with thick rough and ample bunkers and trees surrounding, and it will play above-average in terms of PGA TOUR length.

If we begin with the architect himself, we can start by drawing comps to some of Robert Trent Jones Sr’s other work like Baltusrol, Bellerive, Congressional, Firestone, Oak Hill, Port Royal GC, Robert Trent Jones GC, and Spyglass Hill. Of this list, I would expect it to play most similarly to Firestone CC, which also featured very narrow fairways, thick rough, and firm and fast Bentgrass greens with a slight advantage to the longer hitters in the field. Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Shane Lowry, and Rory McIlroy were the last five winners at the WGC Bridgestone at Firestone CC with winning scores in a range of -6 to -16, where I’d expect the winning score at the 2022 BMW Championship to fall as well.

I tried to avoid drawing comps to Muirfield Village, as it’s decidedly more of a strategic course which is more “bomber-proof” and emphasizes more positional play. However, both courses share similar hole distributions on firm & fast, above-average sized Bentgrass greens with tight fairways and penal rough. For those reasons, I do believe players who have found consistent success at Muirfield Village should be able to tap into similar skillsets at Wilmington Country Club.

Winged Foot is also an imperfect comp for this week, as it essentially eliminates players with below-average distance from contention, but its volume of approaches from thick rough into over-sized greens would seem to be a translatable skillset for what’s in store this week. Similarly, I’ll look to comp performance at Torrey Pines (South) and Bethpage Black for players best equipped to navigate long courses from thick rough.

On a third and final tier, TPC Harding Park and TPC Twin Cities are more recent comps which have emphasized total driving on pure Bentgrass and produced winning scores in the mid-teens under par.

Combine that altogether and the top 10 in comp course history are Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Adam Scott, and Viktor Hovland.

Condition Comps

Looking beyond the overall courses that have laid out a similar test of holes, it can also be helpful in a week like this to compare more granularly across comp conditions expected for this week. While we don’t know a ton about how Wilmington Country Club will hold up to the test of the 70 best remaining players on the PGA TOUR, we do know foundationally that it will feature narrow fairways, thick rough, and firm & fast Bentgrass greens. The top-10 players in scoring in those isolated conditions are Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, and Scottie Scheffler.

Looking more broadly at scoring on long courses with thick rough and narrow fairways, the top-10 are Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Jon Rahm, Chris Kirk, Matt Kuchar, Luke List, Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Xander Schauffele, and Cam Smith.

KEY STATS TO CONSIDER

  • SG: T2G
  • SG: APP
  • Driving Distance
  • Good Drives Gained (On Narrow Fairways & Thick Rough)
  • Prox 150+
  • SG: P (Bent) / SG: P (Firm & Fast greens) / 3-Putt Avoidance
  • Par-3 Scoring: 200+
  • Par-4 Scoring: 400-450
  • Comp Course History

When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to start modeling with SG: T2G to prioritize the top-trending players leading into the week. So I’ll be doing just that in a week as uncertain as this. The top-10 players in SG: T2G are Tony Finau, Cameron Young, Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Will Zalatoris, Brendan Steele, Jon Rahm, Mito Pereira, and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Approach play is pivotal on any given week, and even though these greens are massive, it will still be a nice luxury for the most precise players with their irons to capitalize on some expected tight pin locations. The top-10 players in SG: APP entering this week are Russell Henley, Shane Lowry, Sam Burns, Will Zalatoris, Tony Finau, Scottie Scheffler, Brendan Steele, Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, and Cam Smith. As a complement to SG: APP, I’m also looking at Good Drives Gained in courses with narrow fairways and thick rough in order to best approximate the players who can reach a high percentage of greens in regulation on courses where missed fairway percentages are high. That top-10 includes Corey Conners, Davis Riley, Brendan Steele, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Emiliano Grillo, Collin Morikawa, Russell Henley, Mito Pereira, and Sam Burns.

Handicapping 2021 BMW Championship odds boiled down to putting, and although I don’t expect that to be the case at Wilmington Country Club, it is a unique skill to putt well on large, firm, and fast Bentgrass greens, which we don’t typically see week to week. The top-10 players in weighted putting across these categories are Lucas Herbert, Patrick Cantlay, Keegan Bradley (!), Cam Smith, Denny McCarthy, Tyrrell Hatton, Tony Finau, Max Homa, Sam Burns, and Seamus Power.

The ideal player I’m looking for this week should be above-average in Driving Distance, SG: APP, Prox 150+, Comp Course History, and Weighted Putting. There are just six players who meet each of those criteria: Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas, Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry, and Adam Scott.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: CAMERON YOUNG

In a season which has established Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, and Scottie Scheffler as prolific winners, it would seem to be a very fitting conclusion to have the two Wake Forest roommates end the year with a pair of first career wins for good measure to officially kill the “This guy can’t close” narrative once and for all.

The are plenty of factors in Cameron Young’s favor entering this week beyond just the positive vibes and motivation that come with watching his close friend Will Zalatoris get across the finish line at the FedEx St. Jude Championship last week. I always feel there’s a slight advantage for younger players when stepping onto a brand new course, in the sense that they have a level playing field with the veterans who will not have a leg up in knowing how to navigate the grounds.

In a week where we’ll need to speculate just how easy or difficult it will ultimately play, I’ll defer to Cameron Young who’s proven he has no “type” of golf course that suits him best. His seven top-3 finishes this season have come on drastically different set ups, whether it be open, bomb and gouge events like the Rocket Mortgage Classic and Sanderson Farms, difficult all-around tests like the Genesis Invitational, The Open, and the PGA Championship, or shorter positional courses like RBC Heritage and Wells Fargo Championship.

While Young has proven he can contend on various different tracks, it would seem he’s best suited for the longer ones which allow him to lean on the strength of his driver. Young ranks No. 2 behind only Rory McIlroy in Driving Distance, and should be able to freely pull driver as often as he wants on this layout.

It may not come as much of a surprise that Young ranks No. 2 in SG: T2G over the last 36 rounds, but as a lifelong northeasterner who’s grown up on familiar Bent grass, it’s beginning to feel like this is the right time and place to finally get across the finish line for his first PGA TOUR victory.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2022 BMW CHAMPIONSHIP

The 2021 BMW Championship was a spectacle for many reasons. Record rainfall produced an extremely wet course in Caves Valley, which allowed players to aggressively attack pins, and gave a distinct advantage to the longer hitters with the most carry distance. Patrick Cantlay ultimately defeated Bryson DeChambeau in a playoff thanks to a record putting display, but it seems the BMW Championship has taken all the necessary measures to avoid another repeat putting contest. I’m not expecting conditions to be as difficult as what we saw the year prior when Jon Rahm won at Olympia Fields, but with limited scoring opportunities on the par-5s and some very long par-3s and par-4s mixed in, I would be surprised if the winning score pushed beyond -16.

With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2022 BMW Championship odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.

In my model, I’m emphasizing SG: T2G, SG: APP, SG: TOT (Comp Course & Conditions), and Good Drives Gained (Comp Conditions), followed by a more balanced mix of Driving Distance, Weighted Putting (L36, Bent, Firm & Fast, 3-Putt Avoidance), Prox 150+, Par-3: 200+, and Par-4: 400-450.

Model Favorites

Justin Thomas claims the No. 1 overall spot for this week’s model. He ranks top-10 in each of the main key stats I’m looking for this week, including SG: T2G, Comp Course & Conditions, SG: APP, Good Drives Gained, and Driving Distance. A past BMW Champion, JT is always a threat in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and although I likely won’t go back to him two weeks in a row, he’s a very sensible play for this course.

After Thomas, the rest of my model’s top-10 features Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im, and Mito Pereira.

When BMW Championship odds open on Monday, I’ll look to build out another tight, top-heavy card after seeing which elite names have the most drift. As of now, I’m leaning towards betting Cameron Young, Matt Fitzpatrick, or Shane Lowry. Check back in later this week for more updates, and best of luck navigating the 2022 BMW Championship odds!

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John Haslbauer Avatar
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John Haslbauer

John Haslbauer writes about golf betting and advanced golf metrics for TheLines.com. He is a passionate golf fan, golf writer, and (casual) golfer. A graduate at Syracuse University, John works out of Jersey City as a Director of Media Strategy for HBO and HBO Max. He created the website thepgatout.com at the start of 2021 and is active on Twitter (@PGATout). No, he is not a tout. The Twitter handle is a joke. Touts are lame. We hate touts.

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