September 19, 2014
He’s won a pair of PGAs at Medinah. He’s hoisted trophies four times at Cog Hill — twice in the Western Open and two more times in its successor event, the BMW Championship.
And now, Tiger Woods will try to add another title here on Thursday when the BMW debuts at its new venue, Conway Farms in Lake Forest.
“It’s very different compared to Cog Hill and Medinah, but it is a nice track,” Woods said Wednesday. “It’s a little confined. It’s going to be interesting to see how they’re going to get the gallery around here, especially [with] the bottlenecks on [holes] 5 and 6. But it’s a great sporting town. They come out and support their events. This will be a fun crowd.”
Woods, who already has won five times this year to rise to No. 1 in the world rankings, will be the headliner at the third leg of the FedEx Cup, which will wrap up in Atlanta next week.
The field also includes others who have enjoyed success in the Land of Lincoln. That would be the trio of Steve Stricker (2009-11), Zach Johnson (2012) and Jordan Spieth (2013), who have won the last five John Deere Classics.
All three figure to draw gallery interest.
“I’ve left nine packets at will call,” said Iowa native Johnson, unable to count the total number of tickets in those packets.
Stricker, an Illini golf hero from Madison, Wis., has fond memories of winning the 1996 Western Open as well as three John Deeres.
“It always feels special when I come back,” he said. “My wife was on the bag and we had a great time winning. And I get a lot of support here, so it’s always fun.”
Spieth, 20, is having a dream season for a rookie. Besides his dramatic playoff win at the John Deere, he finished second in a playoff at Greensboro and has six other top-10 finishes. He was picked for a berth on the Presidents Cup team that will play at Muirfield in Dublin, Ohio, in October.
The Dallas native is coming off a final-round 62 that left him tied for fourth in Boston on Labor Day.
“It’s an honor to make this field,” said Spieth, who’s drawing raves for his youthful poise. “I’m just a competitor. It doesn’t matter what the stage is. It doesn’t matter if it’s playing with my buddies or a major championship or a big PGA Tour event. When I need to make a putt, I’m solely focused on the putt.”
Beyond wondering about front-nine crowd congestion, Woods, who was a combined 41-under par in his two previous BMW victories, is expecting another low number to be required this week.
“We know we’ve got some easier holes out there,” Woods said. “If you drive the ball well, you’re going to have a lot of 8-irons on down, and those are some scoring clubs. Yeah, the scores are going to be low.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.