BMW Championship betting preview and tips from Ben Coley

In-form golf expert Ben Coley has three selections this week
In-form golf expert Ben Coley has three selections this week

With winners at 50/1 and 70/1 over the last four weeks, don't miss Ben Coley's selections for the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club.

Recommended bets

3pts e.w. Justin Thomas at 16/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Tony Finau at 40/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Joel Dahmen to lead after R1 at 150/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

Prepare yourself for a dose of nostalgia or a week behind the sofa, depending whether yours is the flag of Europe or the United States, as the BMW Championship heads to Medinah Country Club in Illinois.

It might be 20 years since Sergio Garcia pushed Tiger Woods all the way in the PGA Championship here, but with Garcia having failed to qualify and Woods an injury doubt, it's the Ryder Cup of 2012 which is most likely to help provide a narrative of some kind as the PGA Tour approaches its conclusion.

For Rory McIlroy, Medinah holds particularly fond memories as not only did he help Europe to that come-from-behind victory which fully earned its 'Miracle of...' status, but he also met his wife on the morning of the singles. Erica Stoll was the official who organised a police escort for McIlroy after he'd overslept, but for which the whole world might have been different. Never underestimate the butterfly effect.

Setting aside any awkward analysis of some of the key dates in McIlroy's life, he'll be rolling back to Chicago with an extra spring in his step and remains a huge danger to all as he looks to fully lay to rest some ghosts of his own.

McIlroy shares favouritism with Brooks Koepka, and that might be true of every event they both play in for a little while yet - particularly if Dustin Johnson continues to miss both ways off the tee as he searches for a return to his very best form.

Then again DJ is never that far away, and having been the only American to go unbeaten at Medinah in 2012 there's a case to be made for him here. That case is strengthened by the fact that he led at halfway last week, and had he gone on to win he'd have been half the 14/1 which is now on offer. Food for thought, certainly, but he really was spraying the ball all over Liberty National.

All three of these players are well suited to Medinah, not least because at 7,613 yards, it is an exceptionally long course. Indeed, when Woods won the 2006 PGA Championship here it was the longest course in major history, and while it doesn't quite play like an out-and-out sluggers' paradise, length off the tee remains an excellent starting point.

With Jon Rahm so obviously playing well, there's a good chance that we get a winner from the very front of the market after a slightly surprising one-two in New Jersey, but my pick of them is in fact Justin Thomas.

This will be the third time I've sided with Thomas in three starts since The Open Championship, but perseverance may at last pay off here as he looks primed to close out the season in style.

Quite simply, I believe Thomas has finished as far down the leaderboard as he could have lately, and with finishes of 9-11-12-12 since the Travelers Championship that means he's achingly close to winning for the first time in a year.

Last week at Liberty National, he made an encouraging start - despite, you might say, being an onlooker as Bryson DeChambeau made headlines for slow play - and there were more positive signs as he made a Sunday move to finish just outside the top 10.

Crucially, not only did he drive it better than he had been, but Thomas maintained the outstanding levels with his approach play that have made him such an eye-catcher throughout the summer.

At a course where quality iron players populated major leaderboards in 1999 and 2006, the fact that Thomas has been inside the top-five in strokes-gained: approach on each of his last three Stateside starts is hugely significant and it's surely a matter of time before he takes full advantage.

"I feel like I'm in a great spot," Thomas told reporters at Liberty National. "I feel like I'm really close to winning some more tournaments."

Rewind to last February, and he'd produced back-to-back top-five performances with his irons without reward, then stepped up a level to win the Honda Classic. The previous year, his 50/1 success in the PGA Championship - on a long, classical, tree-lined course not dissimilar to this one - came after he'd found his long-game in the previous week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

With the incentive of having won in every season since his 2014 breakthrough, and the knowledge that he's close, expect Thomas to be right in the thick of things from the off here and perhaps made a late bid for what would be a second FedEx Cup triumph.

A wet spring followed by some more rain in the immediate run-up to the tournament means that I really wanted to focus on the long-ball here, and while that leaves you with no shortage of candidates, it left me with an extremely thin shortlist.

Ian Poulter was omitted from it on power grounds, despite being inside the top 10 for par-five scoring average this year and being so obviously in form. It was Poulter, don't forget, who scraped Europe off the canvas here in 2012 and he's bound to relish a return to Medinah in front of a crowd which will be boisterous, but perhaps more friendly to him than last week's New York natives.

Cameron Champ found something last week and has the raw power to step up again here, while I did consider J.B. Holmes at 250/1 given his class, the fact he's finished fourth on his last two starts in this event and the hidden form he showed in The Open, but ultimately it's expected that this is dominated by world-class, in-form players.

For my money, Open Championship third Tony Finau qualifies as one of those and he can follow Patrick Reed's example in forcing Tiger Woods' hand when it comes to Presidents Cup picks.

Reed's victory in The Northern Trust wasn't enough to get inside the top-eight cut-off ahead of this, the final qualifying tournament, but it surely guaranteed him some more team golf and the hope is that Finau can do something similar.

It would certainly be a shame were he not in Melbourne with Woods and company, particularly after such a fine Ryder Cup debut last year, and in Medinah he might have been handed an ideal venue to close the deal from 10th in the standings.

Finau is of course a freakishly long hitter who scores well on the par-fives, and he's been seventh and eighth in this event over the last two years with the former of greater significance given that it came at Conway Farms, also in Illinois.

While his form either side of Portrush doesn't leap off the page, he's not been outside the top 30 in his last four starts and if he drives the ball as well as he has done of late then his place inside the top 10 will depend almost entirely on the putter.

Truth be told, it hasn't behaved since he was runner-up to Kevin Na at Colonial in May, but these Bentgrass greens are typically to his liking and I'm willing to chance an upturn in fortunes at the price.

It'll be interesting to see how Paul Casey gets on having skipped last week to spend time with his family, as despite missing the cut here in 2006 he has the right type of game for Medinah.

He's respected along with Billy Horschel, who putted better than anyone last week only for his typically reliable long-game to go walkabouts. Regular readers will know he's been a feature on these pages and the price seems fair.

As for other candidates to use the 2012 Ryder Cup as some kind of springboard, what about the defending champion here, Keegan Bradley?

We all know what we're getting with this one-time major champion - he'll either putt really well and contend or putt as he usually does and play well only in devastating bursts - but there's plenty of upside given how well he did here before losing to McIlroy in the singles.

Bradley has an excellent record defending titles - 24th in the Nelson, second in the Bridgestone and third in the PGA Championship - and he's arguably the pick of those at three-figure prices.

Finally, I must mention both Emiliano Grillo and Si Woo Kim having put them up last week. Despite missing the cut, it was Grillo who offered by far the most encouragement as he struck the ball well enough to be leading, never mind fighting to make the weekend, and he knows this is a massive week for his own Presidents Cup aspirations.

It would be no surprise to see either of these two click, but my final selection is in the first-round leader market where Joel Dahmen shouldn't be almost the outsider of the lot at 150/1.

Dahmen isn't particularly long off the tee and I find it hard to envisage him contending here, but he is a habitual fast starter whose breakthrough effort on the PGA Tour came when runner-up in Illinois at the John Deere Classic.

His only other runner-up finish came at Quail Hollow this year, the tough, long, championship course referenced in the case for Thomas, and on both occasions he was bang there from the off.

In total, Dahmen has three first-round leads this season and four in 70-odd PGA Tour starts, and while this is elite company it's also a very small field made up of just 69 players.

He's opened with rounds of 65 and 67 since the end of major season, and with his fast starts having come in bursts looks worth a speculative bet to make the most of this free roll in what's likely to be his final start of the season.

Posted at 2020 BST on 12/08/19

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