2012 BMW CHAMPIONSHIP

"I'm confident in my ability and confident with the shots that I'm hitting and confident on the greens. I'm making the right decisions out there, and everything is really just going to plan at the minute.

"It's a nice run to be on, and I want to try to keep it going for as long as possible."

–Rory McIlroy, 2012 BMW Championship

RORY McILROY • CHAMPION

Monday, September 3, 2012 – seven years in the making, 2012 BMW Championship week begins. Despite best laid plans, one critical piece turns up missing at Crooked Stick: the 70 players. Rain in suburban Boston delays a Sunday finish at the second leg of the FedEx Cup elimination series, the 100-man-field Deutsche Bank Championship. With the event concluding on Monday (Labor Day), many players arrive late to Crooked Stick. Also absent is the dry weather that has plagued the Midwest over the long, hot summer. Sunday rains drench the course and force a washout of Monday’s celebrity shootout, featuring Pete Dye and Fuzzy Zoeller. By the time showers subside mid-day on Monday, Superintendent Jake Gargasz reports 1.7 inches in his rain gauge.

 

Before hustling off to Carmel, however, two-time major champion Rory McIlroy, fires a Monday 67 to finish at -20 and take the Deutsche Bank Championship. It marks his third PGA Tour crown of the year.

 

Winning by a stroke over 2010 Open Champion, Louis Oosthuisen, McIlroy heads to Crooked Stick full of resolve. “Three is a great number,” he says. “I’d like to make it four – or five – after the FedEx Cup.”

 

Two players of local note also finish Boston with momentum. Evansville, Ind. native and former Indiana University golf star Jeff Overton finishes seventh, jumping from 83rd to 40th in FedEx Cup standings to earn his way into the Crooked Stick field. “The last thing I wanted to do was be sitting down in Bloomington...watching this thing on TV,” he tells The Indianapolis Star. Bo Van Pelt, from Richmond, Ind., also earns a spot in the BMW. He starts his week back home in Indiana in 20th place standing in FedEx points. “I’ve been looking forward to this week for a long time,” says Van Pelt.

 

Twenty-one years after hosting the 1991 PGA, not a single player from that field returns to Crooked Stick for the 2012 BMW. Pete Dye, now 86, is on hand once again. Angling to repeat his correct winning score prediction for the ‘91 PGA (12-under), Pete makes a forecast for the 2012 BMW: “More than 20 under.”

 

Along with McIlroy, Oosthuizen and Mickelson, a world-class lineup descends on Crooked Stick’s softened fairways ahead of Thursday’s opening round. Among the 70 players turning up for the title are: Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Luke Donald, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Vijay Sign, Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington.

 

Practice rounds begin in earnest on Tuesday, and the course draws a favorable review from one of the world’s best. “It’s a wonderful course. It’s in great shape,” says four-time major champ Phil Mickelson. “The greens are just pristine. I haven’t seen surfaces like this in a long time.”

 

Rain arrives again on Wednesday, leading to suspension of play during the Pro-Am competition. Just before noon, winds gust to nearly 50 miles per hour. Reluctantly, officials cut the event to 9 holes.  

Longtime Indy Star golf writer Phil Richards offers a course condition summary ahead of Thursday’s opening rounds: “With the greens holding like pudding, the best players in the world take dead aim at flagsticks and let fly. Their shots stick. Torrents of birdies ensue.” Richards’ missive proves prescient.

 

Clear, calm skies greet spectators and players for Thursday morning’s opening rounds. Beginning on holes one and 10, birdie-seekers get right to work. They attack a course rendered defenseless by rain and cooler than normal temperatures – and by the PGA Tour’s “preferred lies” rule. The rule allows players to lift clean and place, within six inches, any ball coming to rest in the fairway. The front nine’s opening group – Jimmy Walker, Ian Poulter and Ben Curtis – scorches hole number one, carding three birdies. The day’s torrid scoring pace doesn’t end there.

 

At the end of opening rounds, four players lead the pack – by firing course-record tying 64s. The pace-setting group includes red-hot Rory McIlroy, Hoosier Bo Van Pelt, 2012 U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson and Canadian Graham DeLaet. A stroke back at 65 are Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh who requires just 22 putts on the day.

Playing from perfect fairway lies – and with hole locations called “generous…they could be much tougher” by one media observer – 60 of the 70 players shoot par or better on the day. “It’s as susceptible as it could play,” says Phil Mickelson after carding 69, just half a stroke better than the field average. “With the soft conditions out there, you could really shoot a number, adds Rory McIlroy, “and I did.”

Winless on tour since 2008, the field’s oldest golfer, 49-year-old Vijay Singh, follows his opening 65 with a 6-under 66. He finds himself atop the leaderboard alone at -13. Singh is a former Masters winner and two-time PGA champ. One stroke back lurks a threesome of Woods (65-67), McIlroy (64-68) and former U.S. Amateur champ Ryan Moore (66-66).

 

Playing “preferred lies” from fairways into receptive greens once again, the field goes low. Bill Haas turns in Friday’s best effort with the week’s fifth course-record tying 64. Steve Stricker suffers through a +1 73, but aces the 199-yard sixth hole with 6-iron. The hole-in-one scores a $100,000 scholarship donation from BMW to the Evans Scholars Foundation and the Western Golf Association. “…it was about my only highlight of the day,” says Stricker.

At the half-way point, 61 players tally scores of par or better. Yet amidst all the low scoring, no one expects the record-setting mark that is about to occur at Crooked Stick.

 

“…Come again some other day”                                

 

Rainfall records for Indianapolis date to 1861. So no one knows for sure when or even if more than 2.71 inches of rain have ever fallen in the area on a September 7th. But on September 7, 2012, after the second round of the BMW Championship a total of 2.71 inches of rain does fall in Indy. And a new rainfall record is set for the date. A too-wet Crooked Stick becomes even wetter.

Four hundred man-hours of work later, Crooked Stick returns to playability and players begin their third rounds at a pushed back starting time of 11:00 a.m. The high temperature reaches just 73º on the day. Another quarter-inch of rain falls. A large gallery – 38,000 – turns out. And red-hot scoring continues.

 

Trailing leader by five to start, Phil Mickelson vaults into a first-place tie with Singh after 54-holes. He shoots the week’s sixth course-record tying 64 and finishes at -16. Ten birdies, at holes 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17 and 18 tie his career best in a round and marks the seventh time he has achieved the 10-birdie feat. A pair of bogeys – at 3 and 14 – prevent Phil from setting a new Crooked Stick scoring mark.

 

“I got it going with the putter,” says the 40-time PGA Tour winner. He also tips his cap to Crooked Stick and the spectators. “It’s a great golf course. And the community…it’s unreal how much support we’ve had this week. I just think the dedication and loyalty of the golf fans, especially in this area, is impressive,” he says.

Singh survives an up and down day to card 69 and tie Mickelson. Trailing by a stroke at 201 are Lee Westwood (68) and Rory McIlroy (69), followed by Adam Scott (66), Robert Garrigus (66) and Dustin Johnson (67) at -14, 202. Still in the hunt at 203, but fading from T2 to 8th is Tiger Woods who cards 71.

 

Championship Sunday at Crooked Stick brings bright, clear skies, a high temperature of 75º, zero precipitation and a fourth consecutive day of “preferred lies.” Yet it is Pete Dye’s broad-shouldered 7,597-yard layout that rises to respond. Nearly half the field shoots over par.

 

Avoiding that fate is a 23-year-old from Northern Ireland – Rory McIlroy – the world’s number one player, the leader in FedEx points coming into the week – and winner in three of his last four tournaments.

 

Riding a 5-under 67 McIlroy finishes -20 for the second week in a row and earns his second consecutive win. Seizing the lead for good with a birdie on 9, he takes the crown by two strokes over Phil Mickelson (70) and Lee Westwood (69). The champion misses just one fairway and goes bogey-free until the 18th hole. “I’m just on a great run at the moment,” says McIlroy. “It’s great to be able to win events like this where the quality of the field is so good,” he says.

Finishing T3 at 217 are Robert Garrigus (69) and Tiger Woods (68). And while he doesn’t leave with the trophy, Woods departs Crooked Stick with good feelings. “The people here are just so nice. It’s really a treat to come here.”

Local favorite Bo Van Pelt grabs a T10 finish at -13 on the strength of a second consecutive 71. He also earns enough FedEx points to qualify for the season-finale Tour Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club (Tom Bendelow 1908, Donald Ross 1913) in two weeks. “All in all, I was happy with the finish. This was an amazing week,” says Van Pelt. “The people of Indiana were great. Hopefully they know how much I appreciate their support.”

 

Third round co-leader Vijay Singh plays the front side 1-under, but stumbles coming home with bogeys on 14, 16 and 17. His 73 drops him to -15 and eighth place. Worse, it strands him in 33rd place in FedEx Cup points, just outside the Tour Championship field.

 

On a day that sees the field average 72.086 strokes, Bubba Watson cards the low round: a bogey-free 65, which includes an eagle on 11. It vaults him to a T12 finish at -12.

 

Sunday attendance exceeds 40,000 – lifting total for the week to 143,000. “On Sunday afternoon, I went up to the BMW Hospitality area that overlooked the back nine,” says the club’s Tony Pancake. “It was incredible to see 40,000 people cheering on the best leaderboard golf has seen in many years.” And what of Pete Dye’s winning score prediction? McIlroy’s bogey on the final hole is all that prevents Pete from a winning forecast.

 

Western Golf Association officials take time to thank and recognize the club. “Crooked Stick is getting quite the reputation of being a special place to host golf championships,” an October letter to their member's states, “Not only are events successful, but the club members are world-class as well.”

 

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