The PGA Tour heads to Maryland this week as the top 70 players advanced to the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Caves Valley Golf Club is the host this week after Jon Rahm took the title at Olympia Fields in 2020. Caves Valley has not hosted a PGA Tour event, but the course was the host for the first edition of the LPGA’s International Crown, the men’s and women’s NCAA Championships as well as the USGA Mid-Am and several other high-level amateur events.
Ryan Palmer, who is far from a long hitter, said Tuesday that the course heavily favors players who can drive the ball well. Caves Valley will also place a premium on strong iron play, as the course has the 12th smallest greens on Tour and has three potentially drivable par 4s.
“It’s a big boy golf course, especially as soft as it is…it’s going to benefit a lot of your bigger hitters for sure,” Palmer said.
Players will be looking to get inside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings to qualify for next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. This week’s picks are players who I think have a good chance to break into the top 30 and qualify for East Lake.
Current Standing: 31, Minimum finish needed to advance: 39th
Kisner has been a bit inconsistent of late—besides his win at the Wyndham Championship, his finishes in the other three of his last four starts were 73rd, 63rd, and missed cut. Kisner is typically a top-25 machine, and he has seven top-25s this season even in a down year. I expect him to come through with a good finish and advance to East Lake.
Current Standing: 40, Minimum finish: 15th
Swafford led the field in strokes gained off the tee last week and gained over five strokes on the field with his irons. He had a rough week with his short game—losing over six strokes around the greens—but still managed to finish T11. If his ball striking remains solid and his short game picks up a bit, the Georgia Bulldog could return to the Peach State next week.
Erik Van Rooyen
Current Standing: 45, Minimum finish: 12th
Van Rooyen is in good form as he played in the final group with Jon Rahm and Cameron Smith at Liberty National Monday. A final round 72 led to a solo 7th finish, but Van Rooyen’s game is clearly in a good place—he won the Barracuda Championship just three weeks ago—and he could contend this week.
Current Standing: 47, Minimum finish: 10th
The 2019 Open Champion finished T11 at Liberty National after tying the previous course record of 62 Saturday. He has also been in good form of late, as the Irishman has three straight top-25 finishes, including a T12 finish in his Open title defense. He has saved his best game for the biggest tournaments, finishing T4 at the PGA Championship and T6 at The Memorial. Lowry has been a solid ball striker and chipper—19th in Strokes Gained: Approach and 15th in Strokes Gained: Around the green this season—and if his putter shows up he could post another top-10 finish at a very opportune time.
Current Standing: 52, Minimum finish: 9th
I was surprised to see Simpson this far down in the standings. He has been in good form of late, with top-20 finished in three of his last four starts, and he has six top-10s and 12 top-25s in 20 events overall. Simpson has another motive to play well this week, as a high finish could get him back on the radar for a captain’s pick for the US Ryder Cup team for the second straight competition.