LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Tiger Woods and Chicago used to be a great recipe for winning, or at least coming close.
He won two PGA Championships at Medinah. He won the Western Open three times and the BMW Championship twice, all at Cog Hill. Woods has finished out of the top 20 only one time in 15 tournaments in the Chicago area, including the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields.
But he has played the Windy City just twice since his last win (by eight shots) in 2009, and neither time was particularly memorable – a tie for 15th in 2010 that kept him from qualifying for the Tour Championship for the first time in his career, and an 0-3-1 record at Medinah last year in the Ryder Cup.
His next shot is at Conway Farms, a course Woods had never seen until the pro-am Wednesday at the BMW Championship.
“I normally don’t work this hard in a pro-am, but I had to do a little bit of work because I wasn’t out here yesterday,” Woods said.
Conway Farms, a Tom Fazio design north of Chicago, becomes the third course in as many years to play host to the second-oldest golf tournament in America. The 70 players are trying to qualify for the 30-man field at the Tour Championship.
Woods has won five times this year, bringing his PGA Tour career total to 79 as he closes in on Sam Snead’s record of 82. Woods doesn’t stray much from his schedule, and because he wins so often, he tends to win at the same courses.
The last time he won on a golf course he had never played was at The Grove outside London for the 2006 American Express Championship.
The BMW Championship is the third FedEx Cup playoff event.
For the first time during golf’s version of the postseason, there is no cut.
The goal is to get into the top 30 for the FedEx Cup finale at the Tour Championship, where everyone will have a shot at the $10 million prize, and they are guaranteed a spot in at least three of the major championships next year.
Better yet is getting into the top five in the FedEx Cup standings — those players only have to win at East Lake to capture the FedEx Cup.
Henrik Stenson, coming off a win at the Deutsche Bank Championship, is No. 1 by a small margin. Masters champion Adam Scott is right behind. The onus is on Rory McIlroy, who is No. 41 and figures a seventh-place finish is needed to get into the Tour Championship, a consolation prize for a season gone wrong. Donald, meanwhile, is No. 54 and faces a tougher task to avoid missing the Tour Championship for the first time in five years.
“I guess if there was ever a year to struggle, to coming into an event needing a big week, this is a good one to come to,” Donald said.