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Our week at the 2018 BMW Championship

The Western Golf Association brought the 2018 BMW Championship east to Philadelphia’s Aronimink Golf Club, and we made the trip north for the week’s festivities. Extreme weather on opposite ends of the spectrum complicated an already pressure-packed week, with players jockeying for a spot in East Lake’s Tour Championship. A summary of of our experience is below…

A couple of us headed up to Philly a couple weeks before the tournament to see the course firsthand. Gil Hanse recently restored the layout, adding a significant amount of bunkers, expanding the greens, adding new tees, and expanding the fairway width. Here’s a look at how the course has changed:

The restoration was carried out primarily with the club’s members in mind (as discussed on our podcast with Gil Hanse below), as many of the bunkers are simply not in play for professionals using modern equipment. We also tested our egos, playing the course from the back tees to see how we would fare. Here is that experience:

Tuesday

After arriving we got word of a Tiger/Rory practice round that was going down. We raced to the first tee and followed that entire round, capturing these photos along the way:

Tiger on #3 tee:

Tiger on #6 tee:

Rory on #6 tee:

What up ‘Portrait Mode’

This looks like a Nike ad:

The bros hamming it up:

It was cool to see this two interact up close, and to listen in on the conversations. You’ll be disappointed to hear that they’re rather mundane (at least, anything we were in ear shot of). Equipment, the heat, etc. A bit of a letdown on that front until this exchange:

The second hole was a true litmus test for the bombers, and to hear Big Cat admit that he couldn’t keep up with Rory off the tee was a bit jarring.

Wednesday

I got a last minute Pro-Am spot playing alongside Tommy Fleetwood with musician Kelley James and his dad. Tommy was a guest on our podcast back in May, and is as nice and as genuine as he appears in public. I was happy to hear that he has really enjoyed his first year in the states, and in particular, has been very surprised with how much positive feedback he’s received from American fans.

The pins in Pro-Ams are notoriously generous, but this was still noteworthy. Tommy shot a stress free 60 without making a putt from outside of 10 feet. It was an absolutely clinical ball striking display. In the sweltering heat, I believe he hit every fairway and every green. He barely missed from about 20 feet on our 17th hole (the 8th), which would have given him the 59 assuming he still would have birdied the last. Man that was a treat to watch.

Tron got paired up with Kevin Kisner. But his day started with this:

Here’s Tron’s recap: “Imagine mindlessly standing there daydreaming and staring at the wall, then out of the corner of your eye you realize Tiger is standing next to you. Bizarre. I quite enjoyed the day with Kisner, who had his entire team out there (his physio, Adam Kerley, carried the bag, while coach John Tillery and normal caddie Duane Bock also walked along.) Duane is scheduled to have a hip replaced in the next six weeks, so he was thankful for a respite. Talking to him was one of the highlights of the week for me – he’s a supremely thoughtful guy with an interesting backstory on mini-tours and the Canadian Tour. That he’s been with Kevin for virtually the entirety of his professional career speaks volumes about their comfort level together. Tillery was gracious enough to help me with some swing advice (I’m getting worse the more I play), which was much appreciated/needed. I made three natural birds, and a few more net birds, most of which didn’t matter since the group all played well on the same holes.”

Kis gave Tron a proper roasting:

One of the overriding themes of the BMW Championship is the charitable element, with proceeds usually benefitting the Evans Scholars Foundation, which provides caddies with college scholarships. This year’s beneficiary was the Philadelphia-based Platt Evans Scholarship, providing full scholarships for local caddies to Penn State University. It was cool to stand on the first tee and witness the deserving scholars be recognized by the players:

In keeping with the caddie theme we also shot a video with some of the tour caddies, who imparted lessons on their sauciest moves:

Wednesday night’s festivities included a surreal Oktoberfest celebration behind the 9th tee, looking back up to the stately clubhouse:

Marc Leishman and Matty Kelly Podcast

Matty was a guest on the podcast previously this year, and we finally fulfilled the goal of having the two of them on at the same time. Marc is the defending BMW Champion, and their friendship has always fascinated us. The podcast goes to some extremes, from a raucous celebration of their first big paycheck together, to Marc nearly losing his wife to sepsis and the miracle it took to save her. This is among the best podcasts we’ve done:

Gil Hanse Podcast

We also got a chance to sit down with Gil Hanse, the man responsible for the restoration work being performed at Aronimink, and a great deal of the restoration work going on across the country at premier venues. We talked about the philosophy behind this restoration, and picked his brain about many of his other projects.

The Eagles played host to the Falcons on Thursday night to open the regular season (and raise their Super Bowl banner) and we lucked into some tickets. The game was a disaster…our seats were not.

The Tournament

Tiger put the Scotty back in the bag:

It went well:

Tron was living wayyyyyy under par:

The Rory/JT/Day group was an easy one to follow Saturday:

It included this highlight (or lowlight depending upon your vantage point):

The weather was brutal on Thursday, Friday and Sunday (Saturday was actually quite nice despite a little moisture). We were told it’s been that kind of summer in Philly: either really hot or raining biblically. Sunday was a complete wash-out, which gave us a chance to celebrate a “caddie holiday” at a local bar with Matty, Fino, and a few others under the

Incredible that they got the golf in. Which gave us this moment:

And they nailed the fourth pick:

Signing off:

Special thanks to BMW for having us out this week, and continuing to be a perfect partner to work with. Excited for Medinah in 2019!

About the Author

Inventor of #TourSauce, always waits for the green to clear, and club twirl savant.

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