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updated: 9/12/2017 10:34 AM

Rozner: PGA Tour's best on fire as BMW invades Conway Farms

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  • Justin Thomas removes his cap on the 18th green as his caddie comes over to celebrate after winning the Dell Technologies Championship golf tournament at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.

    Justin Thomas removes his cap on the 18th green as his caddie comes over to celebrate after winning the Dell Technologies Championship golf tournament at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.
    Associated Press

 
 

Not since the haughty days of Tiger Woods tearing apart Cog Hill has the BMW Championship had such reason to feel on top of the golf world.

When Woods was destroying the field in the third leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, circa 2007 and 2009 and sandwiching his ACL season, Dubsdread was a destination.

Now, the "Tiger Wave" invades Conway Farms in Lake Forest this week following two near-perfect tournaments to start the PGA Tour postseason.

Near perfect, if all you want in your playoff events is to see the biggest stars fighting shot for shot down the stretch as they battle for the $10 million prize at the end of the postseason rainbow.

The major season was extraordinary enough, kicked off by Sergio Garcia ending his drought with a hard-earned comeback against Justin Rose on the back nine at Augusta.

Brooks Koepka also picked up his first major when he overpowered Erin Hills and pummeled his opponents in the U.S. Open.

The Ryder Cup trend continued at the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, when Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar had their own match play on Sunday, Spieth stealing the show and the Claret Jug with one of the greatest bogey saves of all time on 13, and playing 5-under over the next four holes to ruin Kuchar's dream of finally winning a major.

And then it was Spieth's best friend, Justin Thomas, breaking through at the PGA Championship, his first major feeling inevitable for some time and likely the first of several for the 24-year-old Thomas.

So when the playoffs began, it was a question of whether the big guns would have the energy -- or desire -- left to compete at tournaments that, frankly, don't carry the same weight as the majors.

Question answered.

Dustin Johnson, right, shakes hands with Jordan Spieth after winning The Northern Trust golf tournament over Spieth on a playoff hole in Old Westbury, N.Y.
Dustin Johnson, right, shakes hands with Jordan Spieth after winning The Northern Trust golf tournament over Spieth on a playoff hole in Old Westbury, N.Y. - Associated Press

Dustin Johnson, who hadn't found his game since falling down the stairs the week of the Masters, took on Spieth at the Northern Trust on Long Island during the first week of the playoffs.

Trailing Spieth by 5 shots on Sunday, the No. 1 player in the world chased down Spieth on the back and they dueled all the way home.

First, it was Spieth with a ridiculous par save on 17 to keep it tied, and then it was Johnson making an equally unexpected par save on 18 to force overtime.

That's when Johnson showed his immense power and drove the ball to chipping distance on 18, wedging it to four feet, while Spieth had a much tougher birdie attempt and Johnson had his first victory since Match Play at Austin in March, when he won his third straight start and made him a huge favorite going into the Masters.

Jordan Spieth acknowledges the crowd after putting on the second hole during the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship golf tournament at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.
Jordan Spieth acknowledges the crowd after putting on the second hole during the final round of the Dell Technologies Championship golf tournament at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass. - Associated Press

For Spieth, it was his first defeat when leading by at least two shots on Sunday.

"I didn't lose the tournament. He won it," Spieth said. "I thought that was a fun show. I was hoping it wasn't going to be that much fun."

Next came the Dell Tech Championship at TPC Boston last week, when it again set up for a furious finish, this time Spieth and Johnson chasing Thomas and Marc Leishman.

But with a major victory in his pocket and shooting for Player of the Year, Thomas believes he's as good as the rest now, and his Sunday 66 first chased down Leishman -- after being 2 back at the turn -- and then ended Spieth's hopes of a huge Sunday comeback.

While Thomas won for the fifth time this year, Spieth had his second straight runner-up finish and you know he'll be very hungry here at Conway Farms.

Thomas is hardly satisfied, Johnson will have his customary length advantage and Jon Rahm has nine top 10s this season, including a third and fourth in the first two playoff events.

Just over a year into his pro career, Rahm is No. 5 in the FedEx Cup and fifth in the Official World Golf Rankings behind only Johnson, Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Thomas.

Jason Day hits off the first tee during the final round of the 2017 Byron Nelson golf tournament in Irving, Texas.
Jason Day hits off the first tee during the final round of the 2017 Byron Nelson golf tournament in Irving, Texas. - associated Press

Jason Day, meanwhile, hasn't won since the Players in 2016, has fallen to ninth in the OWGR and 28th in the FedEx standings, but it's worth remembering his blistering win at Conway in 2015 when he shot a 22-under and beat second-place finisher Daniel Berger by 6 strokes.

Berger, by the way, is the ninth-ranked American at No. 24 in the world after a win, two seconds and six top 10s this season.

So it sets up nicely for a huge week at the BMW Championship as 70 players tee off in Lake Forest and only 30 will leave Chicago for the final stop of the season in Atlanta next week.

For the third straight playoff event, it has every right to be great.

brozner@dailyherald.com

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

BMW Championship

What: Top 70 players advance to the third of four of tournament in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.

When: Today- Sunday

Where: Conway Farms Golf Club, Lake Forest

Tickets: bmwchampionshipusa.com

Transportation, parking: Spectators can be dropped off at 911 Telegraph Road, Lake Forest, and will be shuttled to the entrance less than half a mile away.

Public parking: Complimentary shuttle service from Six Flags Great America, 1 Great America Parkway in Gurnee. Use north entrance on Grand Avenue.

Metra: Complimentary shuttle service from the two Metra stations in Lake Forest.

Purse: $8.75 million with $1.575 million to the winner

Defending champ: Dustin Johnson

Conducted by: Western Golf Assn. to benefit the Charles "Chick" Evans Caddie Scholarships from Evans Scholars Foundation

Schedule:Tuesday: Gates open at 8 a.m.; pro practice rounds

Wednesday: Gates open at 6:30 a.m.; Pro-Am event

Thursday: Gates open at 8 a.m. for Round 1

Friday: Gates open at 8 a.m. for Round 2

Saturday: Gates open at 6:30 a.m. for Round 3

Sunday: Gates open at 6:30 a.m. for Final Round

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