You’d be forgiven if Marc Leishman wasn’t your first name mentioned if you were asked to pick a favorite for the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs when they started late last month. Now? He’ll be one of five who will completely control their own destiny in the hunt for the big $10 million prize at the conclusion of next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Leishman dominated the BMW Championship pretty much all week at Conway Farms in suburban Chicago, taking a four-shot lead into Sunday and sealing the deal with a five shot win, good for his second Tour victory of the 2017 season.
Even with big names like Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Rose giving chase, drama was light at the top of the leaderboard on the afternoon. Leish’s lead never narrowed to less than three shots, Fowler was the only player within six strokes for most of the afternoon. As great as the drama’s been for the PGA Tour in the past couple events prior to the NFL season, this one — well, it was sealed long before Sunday afternoon.
For Leishman, the lack of drama came as a welcome reprieve. If you haven’t been completely consumed by football, you’ll remember that the 33-year-old blew a two-shot lead to Justin Thomas at the Dell Technologies Championship two weeks ago in Boston.
You can view the full leaderboard here. Let’s talk about three other quick takeaways from Chicago on Sunday.
Five players will control their own chances to win a ton of money at East Lake. Four are massive stars. One is Marc Leishman!
East Lake didn’t disappoint last year, with Rory McIlroy taking home the title with unforgettable heroics down the stretch. This year, we’ll have five names that will control their own destiny and be able to take home the $10 million just by winning the 30-player event next week. That list?
Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Marc Leishman, and Rickie Fowler.
Fowler pulled past Jon Rahm on Sunday with a nice round, and that put him in control of his chances at the big bonus next week in Atlanta. Hideki Matsuyama just missed out too, which, if you want to complain about the flaws in a system that begets Leishman over Matsuyama or Rahm, sure! But that’s the whole point of the Cup: to raise the stakes of these late year events so we all aren’t wholly consumed by football.
Rory McIlroy’s season is over. When will we see him next?
Rory’s US-based season is likely done, and perhaps for some time. His forgettable, injury-riddled season ended Sunday with a T-58 finish. He’ll play the Dunhill Links in Scotland in early October to conclude his season.
After that? Who knows! It wouldn’t be shocking to see McIlroy take some time away from the game for a month or two to get fully healthy and recover from what’s been a whirlwind year in the newlywed’s life.
The BMW is an awesome event. It’ll be the top benefactor of the PGA Championship’s move to May.
If you’ve been to a BMW Championship, chances are you’ve come away wildly impressed with how the Western Golf Association runs the event in conjunction with the PGA Tour. It’s won the Tournament of the Year distinction multiple times, gets to draw on highly-populated, golf-starved Midwestern cities like Chicago, Indianapolis, and St. Louis, and seems to supply big-time leaderboards year in and out. Some golf purists might complain about the relative lack of difficulty at rota courses like Conway or Indy’s Crooked Stick, but good golf is good golf. Par’s a made up number, anyway.
The one drawback for the BMW? It’s the first event on the calendar to have to share Sunday with a full NFL slate. That matters for both TV ratings, and local crowds. Last year’s tournament in Indianapolis shared the day with a home Colts opener, which wasn’t great for anyone involved.
But now, with the PGA Championship moving to May, there’s no tournament that will benefit perhaps more than the BMW. It’ll give one of the Tour’s best events a role that should rise above NFL counter-programming, showcasing big galleries and bigger leaderboards after the major championship season ends. It’s easy for even the most ardent golf fan to lose track of this event right now with football’s assault on your senses, and that’s a shame.
Not every effect of the PGA’s move will be awesome, but this one will be — no question.