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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Focused Fowler fancied to finish with a flourish

Reed and Day set to make Conway Farms challenges too

Rickie Fowler in action at the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston
1 of 1

Tournament starts 3pm Thursday
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 8pm

Palmer's top tip
Rickie Fowler 14-1

The $10m bonus cheque which awaits the winner of the FedEx Cup is looming large and getting into the top five of the points standings is always the aim for elite players in the penultimate event of the US Tour season.

A place in the top five means your FedEx Cup destiny is in your own hands – victory in the Tour Championship finale would get the job done no matter where anyone else finishes – and Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm fill the precious spots heading into the BMW Championship.

BMW motivation for Spieth, Thomas and Johnson is questionable – they are assured a spot in the FedEx top five regardless of what happens at Conway Farms, Illinois. Finishing 70th this week, then first next week will result in FedEx glory, so it is all about the Tour Championship for this trio.

Spieth is the most appealing of the top three as a BMW betting proposition. Runner-up finishes in the first two FedEx playoffs events mean he is hungry for a title, and Conway Farms suits him better than it does Thomas and Johnson. Spieth, a vastly superior putter to the other two, can comfortably reach the super-low total which will be required for victory.

Spieth, 16th and 13th in the two previous BMWs at Conway Farms, is a fair price at 13-2, but preference is for his friend Rickie Fowler at double the odds.

For Fowler, the BMW is a golden opportunity to set up a wonderful end to his season. He lies sixth in the FedEx standings, primed to smash his way into the thick of things for the Tour Championship. FedEx Cup success would turn a good season into a great one, and there may not be a more determined player over the next fortnight.

Fowler has seen his pals enjoying the spotlight this summer – Spieth winning the Open, then Thomas the USPGA Championship – and the 'nearly-man' tag must be grating. Some warm words from peers since the USPGA will have helped morale – there may be no more popular Major champion than Fowler when or if he achieves his goal – and a FedEx Cup would provide even greater consolation.

Fowler has a perfect track with which to start his late charge for a FedEx fillip. Conway Farms offers up low scores – Jim Furyk fired a 59 in 2013 – and Fowler's putting prowess makes him likely to go on a birdie blitz. He lies second on the US Tour strokes-gained-putting statistics.

Fowler won two points as a 17-year-old in the 2006 AJGA Canon Cup at Conway Farms. In his first visit as a professional, he opened with a 77 in the 2013 BMW, but battled back to level par by the end of the week. On his return two years later, he tied for fourth place.

The Florida-based Fowler jetted out of his adopted home state before the hurricane hit, arriving in Illinois in plenty of time to prepare thoroughly for the BMW. A hugely consistent campaign is something of which to be proud, but the Honda Classic has been his only triumph. A second W can be chalked on the board on Sunday.

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KLM Open

Evian Championship

Next best
Patrick Reed 30-1
Punters are advised to go for a three-pronged BMW attack on players who are desperate for silverware. While the market leaders may have more than one eye on the Tour Championship, Fowler, Patrick Reed and Jason Day are entirely focused on the BMW.

Reed, like Fowler, has been regularly producing excellent golf, without gaining the ultimate reward. Both men have a FedEx playoffs event title on their CV, but for Reed it was his last success. The Barclays, almost 13 months ago, is the last time Reed was top dog.

Another fantastic Ryder Cup performance followed the Barclays victory, but Reed's form dipped sharply afterwards. He suffered with kidney stones for four months, as well as equipment issues, struggling to find the right lie angles for his irons. From May onwards, though, the old beast slowly reappeared, and a month ago he peaked with a share of second place in the USPGA.

Reed finished strongly for sixth place in the Dell Technologies Championship the week before last and he has rediscovered the Rolls-Royce putting stroke which made him a superstar.

The Texan impressed at Conway Farms in 2006, winning three points from four matches in the Canon Cup, then again in 2009, finishing second in the strokeplay qualifier for the Western Amateur, before losing in the semi-finals of the matchplay competition. He returned under immense pressure as a pro in 2013, in the wake of his controversial “top-five player in the world” comments, and tied for 59th. A share of 28th in 2015 was solid, and better things can be expected this week.

Other selection
Jason Day 18-1
The 2015 BMW at Conway Farms turned into a procession, with Day opening up 61, 63, and cruising to a six-shot success which took him to number one in the world rankings for the first time. That sublime effort followed a fast-finishing fourth place in the 2013 edition, and Day's course credentials are second to none.

This looks a wonderful opportunity for Day to get back to winning ways. The same was said before the Dell Technologies Championship, but some early horrors on the greens left him five over par through just five holes. The Aussie ace rallied to finish 25th, carding eight birdies in his final round, and his A-game has been returning over the last couple of months.

The short hop from his Ohio base to Illinois could result in the end of a 16-month victory drought for a class act who started the year with injury and personal problems, but is ending it full of health and optimism.

Others to note
Patrick Cantlay
The impressive youngster continues to threaten a US Tour breakthrough and could take a shine to Conway Farms, but Camilo Villegas (2008) is the only maiden who has won this tournament.

Kevin Kisner
The Carolinian's strengths are accuracy and touch, a recipe for Conway Farms success. Looks a BMW dangerman. 

Zach Johnson
The 2013 Conway Farms champion has local connections and knows the course better than most. This is a decent chance to end a victory drought stretching back to the 2015 Open.

Matt Kuchar
The Open runner-up should enjoy the set-up in Illinois. Winless stateside since the 2014 Heritage, but could sneak a place.

Hideki Matsuyama
The Japanese raider was seventh on his Conway Farms debut two years ago. Has won four US Tour titles since then. Obvious threat, but needs to putt better than usual to triumph on this easy track.

Henrik Stenson
The Swede will enjoy a layout where he can leave driver in the bag and regularly wield his three-wood, but he missed the last playoffs event with a knee injury.

Staking plan
R Fowler
3pts each-way 14-1 BoyleSports
P Reed
2pts each-way 30-1 BoyleSports
J Day
2pts each-way 18-1 BetBright, bet365, Betfred

Tournament lowdown

Course Conway Farms Golf Club, Lake Forest, Illinois

Prize money $8.75m ($1.53m to the winner)

Length 7,208 yards

Par 71

Field 70

Course records – 72 holes 262 Jason Day (2015) 18 holes 59 Jim Furyk (2013)

Course winner taking part Zach Johnson, Jason Day

When to bet By 3pm Thursday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 8pm Thursday

Time difference Illinois is six hours behind the UK and Ireland

Course overview Conway Farms was carved out of farmland north of Chicago, the Tom Fazio design opening in 1991.

It hosted a series of prestigious amateur events, along with a US Open sectional qualifier in 2008, before finally making its US Tour debut for the 2013 BMW Championship.

Jim Furyk fired the sixth 59 in US Tour history on the Friday, but failed to win the tournament.

High grass and heather punish the wayward, along with deep, revetted bunkers, while four lakes come into play during a round. Most fairways are tree-lined.

There are three par-fives (eighth, 14th, 18th) and all of them are long (600, 585 and 570 yards).

The fourth, fifth and sixth comprise the most difficult stretch on the course, with two long par-fours followed by a 218-yard par-three.

The 342-yard par-four 15th is a tempter off the tee for big-hitters, but anything left is wet.

The greens greatly vary in size

Story of last year Dustin Johnson beat Paul Casey by three shots at Crooked Stick GC, Indiana

Weather forecast Calm, warm and sunny all four days, with a small thunderstorm threat for Sunday

Type of player suited to challenge Jim Furyk nailed a 59 and Zach Johnson won the tournament, so the 2013 BMW Championship suggested accurate plodders succeed at this venue, but Jason Day and Daniel Berger, two players who are the complete opposite of Johnson and Furyk, were first and second two years later.

A red-hot putter is arguably the key, highlighted by winning scores of 16 and 22 under par.

Touch and accuracy are favoured over power on this layout, particularly with dry weather expected for the vast majority of the tournament

Key attribute Touch

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He lies sixth in the FedEx standings, primed to smash his way into the thick of things for the Tour Championship
E.W. Terms
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