55 players got their marching orders after last week’s The Northern Trust in New Jersey and another 40 will be gone by the end of this week’s BMW Championship in Baltimore.

The tournament, which was originally known as the Western Open, marks the first time in almost 60 years the Tour has staged an event in Baltimore though the Caves Valley course has hosted two senior majors and an LPGA teams event.

DEFENDING CHAMPION: Jon Rahm need extra holes to defeat Dustin Johnson in 2020, just one week removed from Johnson’s own dominant victory at The Northern Trust.

Johnson levelled Rahm’s 72-hole score with a long birdie putt at the last, before Rahm produced his own theatrics, holing a putt from over 60 feet on Olympia Fields’ 18th hole to claim the title.

RELATED: So-called expert golf tips for this week

COURSE: The Caves Valley Golf Club is a Tom Fazio design of the early 1990’s which fits the requirements of the PGA Tour perfectly.

The exclusive private club boasts plenty of room for the infrastructure required to host the world’s biggest circuit and the membership has shown a willingness to upgrade facilities in readiness for the event.

Caves Valley welcomes the PGA Tour for the first time this week, the par-3s certain to play a factor in determining the eventual winner. PHOTO: Rob Carr/Getty Images.

A recent overhaul of the course saw length added and tweaks made to accommodate the strong field this week with the nines also being reversed to allow for better spectating.

The course sits on a partially hilly site outside Maryland’s largest city and is a tale of two styles with several narrow, heavily wooded holes on the steeper sections mixed with more generous playing corridors on the flatter areas.

All four par-3’s will play 200 metres or longer for the week, but that challenge is somewhat offset by three shortish par-4’s, one potentially driveable at the fifth.

Those wanting to find the putting surface from the tee at the 300-metre hole will need to hit a high bomb over trees guarding the inside corner of the left to right dog leg then avoid five greenside bunkers.

Water is in play on just four holes, the 200-metre par-3 13th the most intimidating with a long forced carry to a shallow target.

The caddies will earn their money this week calculating yardages as several holes feature severe elevation changes, particularly the one shotters which share relatively small targets.

RIGHT: Jon Rahm poses with the BMW Championship and Western Open trophies after defeating Dustin Johnson in sudden-death in 2020. PHOTO: Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

Scoring at the U.S. Senior Open when it was played here in 2002 was decent with Don Pooley beating Tom Watson in a play-off after both finished 10-under.

The 2017 Senior Players was predictably more generous with Scott McCarron triumphant that week at 18-under.

PRIZEMONEY: US$9,500,000

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Look for strong showings from the top and bottom end of the standings this week with two ‘tournaments within a tournament’ going on.

At the pointy end, the top ranked player heading to Atlanta will start with a two-shot cushion, a significant advantage at this level of competition and one that all those within touching distance will covet.

At the bottom, the race is on to qualify for East Lake and a share of the rich season ending spoils.

Rahm and our own Cam Smith are the players of the moment inside the top-five (second and third respectively) and both also have momentum.

RELATED: Cam comes up just short in sudden-death

Rahm is in the midst of a stellar season and despite two late bogies at Liberty National to miss the play-off by two he will be short odds to defend this week.

Smith, now clearly established as Australia’s best PGA Tour player, has also been in rich form more recently and despite a poor drive in New Jersey to all but hand the trophy to Tony Finau, the Queenslander won’t carry any scar tissue from that into this week and expect him to be at the business end of the leaderboard come Sunday.

At the bottom end of the list Rory McIlroy sits 28th and no guarantee to book a place at East Lake, while Max Homa is the bubble boy entering the week at 30th.

Three Australians, Marc Leishman (35), Cameron Davis (36) and Matt Jones (42) also start the week on the outside looking in but well within reach of a top 30 berth.

72-HOLE RECORD: Keegan Bradley and Justin Rose set the tournament scoring record in 2018 at Aronimink Golf Club in Pennsylvania. Both players finished four rounds with a total of 260 (20-under), before the American prevailed in a play-off.

PREVIOUS AUSSIE WINNERS: Marc Leishman (2017), Jason Day (2015), Robert Allenby (2000) and Bruce Cramption (1971).

AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Cameron Davis, Matt Jones, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith.


Round 1: Friday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 5am – 9am)
Round 2: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 5am – 9am)
Round 3: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 2am – 8am)
Round 4: (Fox Sports 503 LIVE 2am – 8am)

*AEST, check local guides