BMW Championship Notebook: Indy might stay in FedExCup rotation

Crooked Stick Golf Club
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The reception at Crooked Stick has been so good that the BMW Championship could return in a few years.
By
Michael Marot
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

CARMEL, Ind. -- The PGA Tour waited 21 years to come back to Crooked Stick.

Judging by the reception, Indiana golf fans might not have to wait that long again.

On Saturday, during the third round of the BMW Championship, tournament organizers were already talking about putting suburban Indianapolis into the rotation to host the tournament again.

"We'd love to come back to Crooked Stick, it's really up to Crooked Stick and if they want to have us back as well," said Vince Pellegrino, the Western Golf Association's vice president of tournaments. "The Indiana golf community has shown it will support a major sporting event, and we'd certainly be interested in coming back in the future."

The WGA won't make that decision by itself.

PGA Tour officials and the tournament sponsor would have to sign off on the site, too.

Based on this week's performance it may not be hard to get those approvals.

Pellegrino said he was impressed by the corporate support for the tourney and local fans ignored the heavy rain, soggy grass and stinky mud. They have shown up in droves. Saturday's crowd was estimated to be about 35,000, and Pellegrino expects the four-day total to jump to about 75,000 when Sunday's final round is finished.

Players have enjoyed playing on the course's soft greens and the roar of the large crowds that have made the tournament feel like a major, too.

"I've heard a lot of players talking about the crowds that have come out and they say it's a neat town. It is," Indiana native Bo Van Pelt said after finishing the day at 12 under, four shots behind the two leaders. "Hopefully, we'll get it back on the schedule."

How soon can it happen?

Next year's BMW Championship is already scheduled to be played at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Ill., near the tourney's traditional Chicago home. In 2014, the tourney will be played at Cherry Hills in Colorado. The sponsorship deal expires after the 2014 season, and until that is finalized, organizers are unlikely to start picking future sites.

"The corporate support has been great in Chicago, great for a long time, but we've had a lot more people show up here than we've had in recent years in Chicago," Pellegrino said. "The locals into golf here said this would be big, but till you see it in person, you're not really sure."

The only real issue has been weather.

Heavy rain Wednesday prompted tour officials to allow players to clean their golf balls in the fairway, and after nearly three inches of rain was recorded Friday night when severe weather moved through the area, players were given the same benefit Saturday.

Fans spent much of the day walking through swampy grounds.

"There's nothing you can do about weather," Pellegrino said. "Just make the appropriate adjustments and we've done that."

STILL STINGING: The last time the PGA Tour came to Crooked Stick was the 1991 PGA Championship when John Daly was the surprise winner.

Phil Mickelson almost had a chance, too.

Winning the 1991 Tucson Open would have given him an opportunity to play -- except that amateurs have never been eligible to play in the PGA Championship.

Instead, Mickelson wound up playing in the U.S. Amateur that summer and never got a shot to play for the PGA Championship, an omission that still stings.

"I wasn't allowed to play because I went to graduate college and stay an amateur," he recalled. "I would have loved to have competed. I felt I deserved to after I had already qualified, and I look back on that 20 years later, and I'm still upset."

Since the 1991 PGA, Crooked Stick also has hosted the 2005 Solheim Cup, the 2007 U.S. Women's Amateur and the 2009 U.S. Senior Open.

BAGGIN' IT: Dustin Johnson has hit into some unusual spots on golf courses over the years. Saturday's tee shot on No. 8 might have been a first.

As he walked up the fairway, he already knew the ball had landed in a woman's purse. So when he reached the landing spot, reached into the purse, pulled the ball out and took his free drop. It didn't faze him a bit.

"I've hit into people's chairs and a trash can, so year, I mean some interesting things happen out here," Johnson said. "When you've got so many people out watching, things like that happen."

Johnson made par on the final two holes of the front nine and started the back nine with two more birdies en route to a 5-under 67. He's tied for fifth, two shots behind co-leaders Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh.

THE CHASE: Two big story lines will be running side-by-side when Sunday's final round begins: Who will claim the BMW title and who will qualify for the playoff finale at Atlanta in two weeks.

Nine players will start the day within four shots of the lead, creating a veritable final round shootout on a course where at least one golfer has shot 64 each day this week.

Just as tense will be the race to earn of the coveted 30 qualifying spots to play for the $10 million prize.

Kyle Stanley, the 24-year-old from Washington state, started the tournament in the 30th spot and is still there.

And less than 150 points separate the players from No. 27 (Rickie Fowler) to No. 34 (Scott Piercy). If the race ended Saturday, Bill Haas (28th) would become the first FedExCup champ to have a chance to defend his title at Atlanta, and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell (33rd) would be out.

"I'm no scoreboard watcher," he said. "I know I've got to play as well as I possibly can and score as well as I possibly can," McDowell said. "I'm not going to be watching the scoreboard. I certainly won't be looking at my projected FedEx. I'll be more concerned how I stand in this golf tournament."