Free golf betting tips & odds: Ben Coley's BMW Championship preview

Justin Rose
Justin Rose

Profitable golf tipster Ben Coley is backing Justin Rose to shake up the market leaders in the BMW Championship.

After a week off to reflect on the first two events of this, golf's most valuable month, the FedEx Cup returns for the BMW Championship at Conway Farms in Chicago, Illinois.

Every single player in this field has had their feet up - presumably watching the European Masters in Switzerland - and that adds an interesting dynamic to event three of four, as players jostle for position with East Lake and the TOUR Championship just around the corner.

Not that the layers are expecting the intermission to have changed the course of the play. The pack has been shuffled - Jordan Spieth first, Justin Thomas third, Rory McIlroy as low as eighth in the betting - but this is the same collection of players who have so far shown that when the money is down, the best will produce.

It's hard to argue that any of them represents especially bad value. Jordan Spieth has won twice in six and it might've been four; Dustin Johnson has won four this year and just about chips away at a strike-rate which makes 8/1 reasonable; JT has been the pick of the lot this season, landing five titles including a breakthrough major. Even Rory and his disinterested look is tempting enough at odds, 22/1, we rarely see by his name.

Yet the more these great players dominate these late-season events, the less inclined I am to try and work out whose turn it is. That may sound counter-intuitive, and matching player to tournament is a worthy pursuit even at the head of the betting, but the fact of the matter is this same pool of players has produced bigger-priced winners in lower-grade events all year long.

Instead, the mission is to work out what exactly will get the job done at Conway Farms. Ostensibly, this is a par 71 of moderate length, but the two renewals to have been staged here so far - 2013 and 2015 - were both played on a saturated golf course.

Perhaps bizarrely, then, they produced altogether different results.

Two years ago, Jason Day seemed to benefit from a break as he returned to the form which had seen him win the PGA and then The Barclays, romping to a six-shot victory over Daniel Berger which appeared certain the moment he returned to the course on Friday to polish off an opening 61.

Power ruled the roost that week - the top six all ranked 11th or better in distance, and only two players who were also inside that 11 failed to get competitive. Behind Day and Berger was Scott Piercy, and a little further back sat Rory, DJ and JB Holmes in a row of big-hitters.

Shots of the Week | 2017 Dell Technologies Championship

In 2013, however, Zach Johnson put local knowledge to use. Perhaps the fact that it was the Tour's first visit to the course proved significant as Johnson, who knows this part of the world extremely well, had been on a scouting mission a fortnight earlier. He'd also played Conway Farms in the 1997 NCAAs, for whatever that was worth, and was familiar with his surroundings.

Still, Johnson was joined on the leaderboard by others who favour accuracy over power, which begs the question: are we set for bombs away like 2015, or will fairways be the order of the day like 2013? The answer, unfortunately, is not clear.

On the one hand, the course is not saturated this time - it's a couple of months since serious rain hit the area. On the other, there is little wind in the forecast and while organisers will perhaps be keen to avoid the 59 Jim Furyk produced four years ago, there may be little they can do. Tom Fazio's design was created in the mould of a Scottish links, if not in appearance then certainly in its reliance on wind as a key form of defence.

Perhaps it'll ultimately represent a level playing field, but one requirement is birdies and that helps make Justin Rose my headline selection.

Rose won his US Open at Merion, one of the most demanding courses in the United States, but he's also a very effective player under low-scoring conditions.

Despite this having been a fairly difficult year, in which he's yet to win, Rose ranks 10th in birdie average and his last PGA Tour win came in 22-under par.


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What really interests me is the fact that a switch in shafts has seen the Englishman rediscover some of his best ball-striking of late. Two starts back he was exemplary from the fairways, gaining almost nine strokes on a field he led in approach shots, and that was a significant step up on poor displays across the key summer events.

Granted, he didn't quite build on it at TPC Boston in long-game terms, but Rose admits that course doesn't suit him so well. Tenth place was his best finish since 2006 and it's fair to say that the redesign courtesy of Gil Hanse has harmed his prospects in one of the regular stops in the Playoffs.

To improve seven shots from round one to two and then produce a 69-68 weekend therefore represents another encouraging sign for Rose, especially as he putted well, and the hope is that another week to polish up on those tweaked irons could have him ready to peak in an event he won five years ago.

Certainly, this is a good part of the world for Rose, whose standout form has come in the northeastern states, and he can better 13th place here at Conway Farms in 2015 after back-to-back top-10 finishes to start the Playoffs.

Phil Mickelson finished mid-pack here in both 2013 and 2015 but, like Rose, could be primed to step up on those efforts.

The left-hander was a big eye-catcher in Boston, where the long game and the short game worked in harmony for sixth place - his best strokeplay finish since last year's second place at the Open Championship.

Mickelson spoke afterwards of some real off-course struggles this year, including severe fatigue, but says he's on the right track now and relieved to finally get rewarded for his hard work.

Statistically, Mickelson was really close to his absolute best last time and despite a stop-start season, he yet again ranks inside the PGA Tour's top 20 in birdie average.

Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson

If low-scoring is indeed the order of the day, he's going to be suited by conditions and it's no surprise that the relatively straightforward test of Boston helped him find comfort where it had so obviously been lacking since his split with Jim 'Bones' Mackay.

Another factor in his play must surely have been motivation. Mickelson arrived at the Dell Tech Championship knowing he was far from certain to secure a Presidents Cup wild card selection, but that a top 10 or thereabouts would be hard for captain Steve Stricker to ignore. It's no surprise a player of his calibre got it done.

Rather than rest on his laurels now that goal has been ticked off, Mickelson appears far more likely to use it as motivation once more, justifying his selection with another big week which he still needs to qualify for the TOUR Championship.

A two-time winner of that event, he will be as keen as ever to get back to East Lake and could yet win the FedEx Cup which, along with that elusive US Open title, is among the few things missing from his packed trophy cabinet.

Combine motivation with a return to form last time and unsurprisingly strong birdie figures, and the 66/1 quoted generally about Mickelson makes plenty of appeal. It's a young man's game these days, but this 47-year-old is relishing the challenge of fending off another set of young superstars.

Speaking of young superstars, Patrick Cantlay received a glowing reference from Spieth as he put the finishing touches to 13th place last time and remains of interest at a similar price.

The youngster - one of the success stories of the season in my book and a lock for Comeback Player of the Year - was right on the fringes during the final round in Boston only for a double-bogey at an awful hole to see him fall just outside the top 10.

Still, on the back of 10th in the opening Playoff event, that means he's got a chance to make it all the way to East Lake if he can perform here. It's hard to do justice to how big an achievement that would be for a player who was returning from years out of the game, playing on a medical and well outside the world's top 1000 back in January.

And while glowing praise around his achievements doesn't mean much in relation to this event, Cantlay would be a top-40 player in birdie average terms had he played enough rounds to qualify, and his no-weakness, all-round game seems ideally suited to a course which has thrown up all kinds of players.

Cantlay shot 60 when playing in the Travelers Championship as an amateur back in 2011 so his adaptability and scoring prowess is not in question and he does actually have some experience of Conway Farms, having played in the Western Amateur here back in 2009.

Cantlay's tee on No. 7 in Round 3 of the Travelers

Granted, he didn't fare as well as Patrick Reed, who progressed to the match play section, nor Bud Cauley, but it's Cantlay who makes most appeal this time as his rise towards the world's top 10 picks up pace.

Another interesting aspect to Johnson's win here was the nature of his Presidents Cup qualification 10 days prior to tee-off.

Johnson made a 25-foot birdie putt at the final hole of what was the Deutsche Bank to nip in ahead of Webb Simpson, taking that momentum with him to the BMW Championship, and it wouldn't surprise me were Kevin Chappell to do the same having just edged out friend Charley Hoffman to earn a Team USA debut.

However, it's the International team who provide my final selection and the man who secured the final spot in their line-up - Adam Hadwin.

Like Chappell and indeed like Johnson in 2013, the Presidents Cup has been at the forefront of Hadwin's mind ever since he edged out Cantlay for his breakthrough PGA Tour title in the spring.

A top-five finish at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational recently put him in command of his own fate and 13th place in Boston, despite a poor final round, ensured that there will be a Canadian on Nick Price's side later this month.

Hadwin also knows he's secured his East Lake debut at 16th in the FedEx Cup standings and given the strength of his play both last time out and at Firestone in August, I'm surprised to see him chalked up at 175/1.

A lack of course knowledge is less of a concern here than it might be at East Lake, given that nobody has more than eight PGA Tour rounds to their name at Conway Farms, while it's encouraging that Hadwin has played well on both starts in the John Deere Classic, the other event held in Illinois.

The low-scoring box is ticked by that famous 59 at the CareerBuilder Challenge earlier this year and while this is an elite field with a largely elite roll-of-honour, plenty of less familiar names have gone extremely close.

With no cut to worry about and a spring in his step, don't be surprised if Hadwin contends for the third time in five starts. It was after a similar run that his first victory came and a second is far from impossible.

Recommended bets: BMW Championship

2pts e.w. Justin Rose at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - appears to be finding his best form in time for a FedEx Cup charge

1pt e.w. Phil Mickelson at 70/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - low-scoring test will suit a back-to-form Mickelson

1pt e.w. Patrick Cantlay at 60/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - it's a matter of time before he wins; worth chancing at the price

1pt e.w. Adam Hadwin at 175/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5) - huge price for one who has contended twice recently and likes Illinois

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Posted at 2125 BST on 11/09/17.

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