5 Things: Rory McIlroy's FedEx Cup quest; more

Rory McIlroy has his sights set on winning the FedEx Cup to cap off a 'great' 2014 season.
Rory McIlroy has his sights set on winning the FedEx Cup to cap off a 'great' 2014 season. ( Associated Press )

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. – The BMW Championship, the third leg of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs, begins in earnest for the field of 69 on Sept. 4. This year, the tournament shifts from its usual home in Chicago to just outside the mile-high city of Denver.

Here are 5 Things you need to know:

1. McILROY'S MISSION: Rory McIlroy is toting two of golf’s most famous trophies around in his possession. But the dual winner of the Open Championship and PGA Championship has never won the FedEx Cup and would like for that to change.

“I feel like it’s been such a great year on the golf course that if I wasn’t to go ahead and win the FedEx Cup, it would definitely be disappointing," McIlroy said. "I really want to cap off this summer as best I can.”

In 2012, McIlroy won the PGA Championship, Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship and was in the pole position heading into the Tour Championship, but he got pipped in the end at the Tour Championship by Brandt Snedeker.

“Not winning a couple of years ago did add a little bit of fuel to the fire and probably makes me a little bit more determined to try to win it this year,” McIlroy said.

2. STADLER'S HOMECOMING: Kevin Stadler went to high school at Kent Denver School, less than a mile from Cherry Hills Country Club. But that doesn’t mean he has a ton of experience playing the course.

“I’ve probably played it less than 10 times,” he said. “Ever.”

Stadler, 34, said he toured the course a few times this summer. It’s his first home-state tournament since the 2005 International at Castle Pines.

Stadler kicked off his pro career not far from home. At age 22, Stadler declared that he was turning pro shortly before the first round of the 2002 Colorado Open, and then won the tournament with his father, Craig, on the bag.

3. HOW WILL CHERRY HILLS HOLD UP?: Cherry Hills Country Club hosted one of golf’s most memorable majors, the 1960 U.S. Open. Arnold Palmer rallied to win the title and hold off Ben Hogan and 20-year-old amateur Jack Nicklaus. The club last hosted a men's major when Hall of Famer Hubert Green edged Lee Trevino for the 1985 PGA Championship. It has hosted two U.S. Amateurs since as the site of Phil Mickelson’s victory in 1990 and just two years ago, Jordan Spieth was the top seed in match play here before being bounced in the first round.

On Sept. 2, Rory McIlroy, Zach Johnson and Camilo Villegas attempted to re-create Palmer’s historic drive from the first tee with a persimmon driver. It was a nod to Palmer’s legendary tee shot during the 1960 U.S. Open, when "The King" drove the green at the 346-yard hole to jump-start his final round. None of them managed to hit the green.

But with today's technology? "It's a 3-wood, maybe a 5-wood to the front," Graeme McDowell said. "I hope Arnie doesn't take that too personally."

“It’s taken a bit of the teeth out of what this golf course probably did have before,” McIlroy said of today's modern equipment.

But the course is firm, the rough is thick, and if the wind blows, Cherry Hills will give players fits. The key is to jump on the first seven holes, where birdies and eagles could be plentiful.

“You won’t see guys go crazy under par,” McIlroy said. “It’s an old, traditional, timeless golf course, in a way, and if they want, especially with the green complexes, they can make it as tough as they want.”

4. BRADLEY'S STREAK: Since joining the PGA Tour in 2011, Keegan Bradley has finished in the top 30 of the FedEx Cup standings and made it to Atlanta for the Tour Championship every year. He has been Mr. Consistency: 20th, 21st and 18th, respectively, in the final FedEx Cup standings. At 28th entering this week, Bradley finds his streak to be on the line.

“It’s one of my personal-favorite stats of mine,” he said. “Just because it shows that from my rookie year, every year I’ve been on Tour, I’ve been one of the best players on the Tour.”

SHORT SHOTS: Hunter Mahan, on his phone conversation with U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson: “When I called him, he said, ‘Is this the Ryder Cup player on the phone?’ And I said, ‘Well, is it? I sure hope it is.’ It was nice to kind of break the ice and just get it over with.” . . . Rory McIlroy delivered one of the lines of the day. When asked whether Keegan Bradley shared similarities with Ian Poulter, McIlroy said, “They’re both nuts. That’s the first thing.” . . . Graeme McDowell returns to work for the first time since the birth of his first child, daughter Vale Esme. "Life's changed," McDowell said. "I know I've changed inside, for sure. It's tough to quantify how much I've changed. Time will tell, but I can feel it inside of me."