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BMW Championship: Key stats, statistical modeling strategy at Wilmington CC

Nick Hennion of The Action Network lays out his key betting stats for this week's BMW Championship at Wilmington CC.

ACTION NETWORK USE ONLY. MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - AUGUST 11: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the seventh tee during the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind on August 11, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
ACTION NETWORK USE ONLY. MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE - AUGUST 11: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the seventh tee during the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind on August 11, 2022 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)Read moreStacy Revere / Getty Images

The win FINALLY came for Will Zalatoris, who defeated Sepp Straka in a playoff at the FedEx St. Jude Championship to claim his first PGA Tour victory at the first event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Now, the field shrinks to 70 players for the second playoff event of the FedEx Cup series - the BMW Championship. Rory McIlroy (+1000) is the consensus favorite for the event while Jon Rahm (+1200), Matt Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau and Zalatoris (all +1400) round out the top of the odds board.

Before we share any plays, though, we begin with my statistical modeling strategy for the event. Unlike other tournaments, this week provides a tricky proposition for golf bettors as Wilmington Country Club, the site of this year’s BMW Championship, has never hosted a PGA Tour event.

However, I gleaned statistical trends and info from results at a few correlated courses to help build my model. Those courses are Quail Hollow, Riviera Country Club, TPC Twin Cities, Bethpage Black, Congressional and Club de Golf Chapultepec as they display similarities to Wilmington CC, a Robert Trent Jones, Sr. design.

With that said, let’s dive into my key stats for this week’s event. In addition to the factors below, I added qualifiers of “courses over 7,400 yards” and “Par 71″ to further refine the field.

Key Stat #1 - Driving Distance (15 percent emphasis)

Correlated Stat - Good Drives Gained (5 percent emphasis)

This course is an absolute behemoth at 7,534 yards, so players who can bomb it off the tee should have an advantage over the field.

At the same time, though, it appears that some level of accuracy will be required. Wilmington Country Club features only 25 acres of fairway across the 18 holes against 52 acres of rough. Comparatively, Quail Hollow -- the leading course comparison -- has 26 acres of fairway, which measures out to 33 yards wide on average. That data sees Wilmington CC fairly average in terms of fairway width, but there’s one other factor worth mentioning.

Reports out of the course from media day and the PGA Tour suggest this rough is thick and will challenge players who find it. Thus, I’m adding a slight emphasis on good drives gained -- defined as either hitting the fairway or reaching the green from the rough -- to get an accuracy measure included.

Here are the leaders in driving distance across the last 24 qualifying rounds:

  1. Rory McIlroy (+1000)

  2. Luke List (+20000)

  3. Adam Scott (+5000)

  4. Tony Finau (+1400)

  5. Keith Mitchell (+8000)

Key Stats #2 & #3 - Strokes-Gained: Ball Striking (15 percent emphasis) & Strokes-Gained: Approach (15 percent emphasis)

Correlated Stats - Proximity: 150 to 175 yards (5 percent emphasis), Proximity: 175-200 yards (5 percent emphasis), Sand Saves (5 percent emphasis)

Like last week at TPC Southwind, it’s my belief this event will be won by a pre-eminent ball striker rather than someone who acquires a hot putter.

I already mentioned the overall length of the course, but these greens are also unique in their own way. On the whole, the average green size at Wilmington Country Club is 8,100 square feet. In other words, they’re MASSIVE. For reference, the greens at TPC Southwind measured only 4,300 square feet on average while the average green size on the PGA Tour comes in at around 6,600 square feet.

So while players should have little issue finding the putting surface, they’ll need to produce accurate iron shots to give themselves scoring chances. That’s why in addition to giving 15 percent emphasis on SG: Ball Striking -- defined as the combination of SG: Off-The-Tee and SG: Approach — I’ve given extra emphasis on SG: Approach as that has, historically, proven the defining statistics for winners at the aforementioned correlated courses.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that Wilmington CC features heavy bunkering — 91 in total across the 18 holes — so players that have historically demonstrated comfort out of the sand should carry an added advantage.

Here are the leaders in both key statistics over the last 24 qualifying rounds:

Strokes-Gained: Ball Striking

  1. Rory McIlroy (+1000)

  2. Keith Mitchell (+8000)

  3. Justin Thomas (+1600)

  4. Adam Scott (+5000)

  5. Keegan Bradley (+10000)

Strokes-Gained: Approach

  1. Rory McIlroy (+1000)

  2. Justin Thomas (+1600)

  3. Corey Conners (+5000)

  4. Adam Scott (+5000)

  5. Marc Leishman (+15000)

Key Stats #4 & #5 - Birdies or Better Gained (10 percent emphasis) & Three-Putt Avoidance (10 percent emphasis)

The biggest unknown for me this week is whether we’re in for yet another birdie-fest or if this course proves more challenging.

Historically, the BMW Championship has descended upon courses where it is remarkably easy to score. Last year at Caves Valley, both Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau reached -27 for the week. In 2019 at Medinah, Justin Thomas reached -25 for the week. Granted, those were both Par-72′s with an extra Par-5, but I’m uncertain whether this week’s winning score will look similar to that or something like the -4 that won at Olympia Fields in 2020.

Either way, I’ve included birdies or better gained at a slightly de-emphasized percentage week-over-week (it was at 15 percent for TPC Southwind), but the main stat I’m focusing on is three-putt avoidance. If you look at other tracks with big greens, think Kapalua, Shinnecock Hills — three-putt avoidance becomes massively important.

With such big greens, players are going to find themselves in situations with lengthy birdie putts. Those who can effectively lag it up next to the hole and get off the green in two (or fewer) putts should give themselves a great chance at success.

Here are the leaders in each category over the previous 24 qualifying rounds:

BoB Gained

  1. Justin Thomas (+1600)

  2. Rory McIlroy (+1000)

  3. Aaron Wise (+4000)

  4. Brian Harman (+5000)

  5. Jon Rahm (+1200)

Three-Putt Avoidance

  1. Tony Finau (+1400)

  2. Patrick Cantlay (+1400)

  3. Kevin Kisner (+10000)

  4. Xander Schauffele (+2000)

  5. Joaquin Niemann (+3300)

Key Stat #6 - Strokes-Gained: Par 4′s (10 percent emphasis)

Correlated Stat - SG: Par 4′s - 400 to 450 yards (5 percent emphasis)

Only seven holes at Wilmington Country Club are not Par 4′s, so players’s past performances on those types of holes should have a great indicator of success this week.

Although we don’t know the relative ease or difficulty of these 11 holes, it can be reasonably assumed that players who rank near the top in Par 4 Efficiency will simultaneously find themselves on the first page of the leaderboard. Whereas the rest of the course is decently long, the Par 4′s actually measure pretty standard. All but two of these 11 holes measure between 400 and 500 yards while the remaining two — numbers six and 16 — measure at 391 and 393 yards on the scorecard.

That said, a majority of the 11 holes, numbers one, four, 10, 11, 17 and 18, fall within the above indicator, hence the extra emphasis on how players perform on holes between 400 and 450 yards.

Here are the leaders in SG: Par 4′s over the last 24 qualifying rounds:

  1. Rory McIlroy (+1000)

  2. Justin Thomas (+1600)

  3. Adam Scott (+5000)

  4. Max Homa (+5000)

  5. Jordan Spieth (+4000)

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