Tiger Woods has fond memories of the seven PGA Tour victories he’s chalked up in Chicago, especially those involving his two major triumphs at Medinah in 1999 and 2006. But the 79-time tour winner will have to depend on the local knowledge his caddie Joe LaCava picked up on Monday and Tuesday to make his way around the cozy confines of Conway Farms, the site of this week’s BMW Championship.
"It helped that Joey has been out here a couple days getting the lines out, and we were discussing a lot of it today," Woods told reporters after the pro-am on Wednesday, which marked his first time at the 7,149-yard, par-71 track that’s hosting the third of four FedExCup playoff games. "It was a little bit of work. 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 [Tuesday]."
Woods enters the week in second place in the FEC standings after finishing T65 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, which the leader of the pack, Henrik Stenson, won two weeks ago. He noted then that the extra day off to rest his sore back (the TPC Boston event began on Friday, with a Labor Day Monday finale) was helpful, though any benefit he gained from it did not show up in the box score.
On Wednesday, the favorite to advance to the 30-man Tour Championship with another W on his resume, No. 1 in points and player of the year honors nailed down said the bye week between tourneys gave him additional time to bounce back from his most recent injury.
"That was nice," he said. "It was nice to have that week of treatment, strengthening, so that was all good, and practicing towards the end of the week."
As for this week’s venue, a course with which Conway Farms member Luke Donald is most familiar among the 70 surviving FEC contestants, Woods said it was a "nice track" that was in "absolutely perfect shape."
The course was, he noted, quite different from Cog Hill, where he won five BMW Championship/Western Open titles, and Medinah, where he notched PGA Championship wins in 1999 and 2006. Those two major wins, Tiger said, were the high points of his Chicago career.
"It's a little confined in the sense that it's going to be interesting to see how they're going to get the gallery around here, especially on the front nine, the bottlenecks over on five and six," Woods said.
Tiger-speak for Get me outta here "@GCTigerTracker: Says course is "very different" from Cog Hill and Medinah. Calls it more "confined."— Robert Lusetich (@RobertLusetich) September 11, 2013
Though Woods remains the oddsmakers’ pick to regain his No. 1 spot in the FedExCup standings with a win on Sunday, he’ll have to do so on a course he’s never played. The last time he accomplished that feat was in the 2006 WGC-American Express Championship on England’s Grove Golf Course, according to USA Today’s Steve DiMeglio.
While he has won 25 times on tour since then, Bob Harig of ESPN.com observed each of those Ws was on a course with which Woods was familiar, and just two (the 2007 Wachovia Championship and 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills) were on layouts where he had not won before. That track record elevates the importance of LaCava’s role this week.
"That's where I have to rely on Joey a little bit," Woods said. "We were discussing the weather forecast and how it's going to change a little bit, and discussing the different lines and different options. ... We did a little bit of work today, more so than we normally do."
The mercury’s been in the 90s in Chicago, but weather reports for Friday through Sunday are calling for temperatures in the 60s.
"The scores are going to be low. It'll be interesting to see what happens on Friday, if the weather is supposed to be what it's supposed to be and if we get a different wind and a different temperature to where the ball’s not traveling like it is now," Woods said. "It'll be a totally different golf course."