When certain professional golfers are playing well and firing on all cylinders, the atmosphere at a golf tournament is often described as electric. The BMW Championship, a fixture of the PGA Tour and FedEx cup since 2007, is one of the most important events of the season, as it marks the final stop before the The Tour Championship, in which the FedEx Cup Champion is determined. While the last few years of the BMW Championship have delivered some of the most compelling moments in recent golf history, this year’s tournament was distinguished by a runaway performance and an electric atmosphere—not unlike the new BMW models displayed around the host venue of Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland, the i4 and the iX.
As the penultimate event before the conclusion of the PGA Tour season, the BMW Championship hosts 70 of the top professionals, which effectively guarantees it as one of the more exciting tournaments of the year. This year’s venue, Caves Valley Golf Club, in Owings Mills, Maryland, stood in stark contrast to previous years, with soft, recently rain-soaked conditions leading to low scoring. By the conclusion of the final round, the entire field was under par, but the competition for the top spot remained fierce until the end. Even with a final score of –27 to par, the final pairing of Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay, both Californians, found themselves locked in a nail-biting six-hole play-off which had viewers, fans, announcers, and tournament attendees entranced.
In the end, it was the stoic and composed Patrick Cantlay who won the 2021 BMW Championship, thanks to his long-range clutch putting. This kept the flamboyant DeChambeau at bay, even though the powerful 2020 U.S. Open Champion used his unorthodox playing techniques to effectively dismantle the golf course, cutting new paths to fire a second-round score of 60—which could have been a 59—on Friday, and at one time holding a five-shot lead on Saturday afternoon. Nevertheless, by the conclusion of the tournament on Sunday evening, the contrasting personalities of the two players with completely different playing styles made for a riveting six-hole play-off that went back and forth, with the golfers trading blows for nearly an hour and a half after the scheduled finish, before Cantlay sunk a long putt for birdie to claim victory. Cantlay’s putting performance was the best in PGA Tour history since the strokes-gained metric has been kept.
“I’m a little tired, but I’m very happy,” Cantlay said after his round. “I played really well all week. At the beginning of the week, I didn’t realize it would take that many under par to just force a playoff. But I hit a lot of good shots today and it was just enough.”
During the broadcast, on-course correspondent Roger Maltbie repeatedly described the atmosphere at Caves Valley Golf Club as “electric,” to the agreement of commentators Paul Azinger and Dan Hicks. Azinger summarized the 2021 BMW Championship as “the most exciting tournament of the year,” with people the world over sharing similar sentiments on social media. As the competition stretched into the evening hours, Hicks suggested the various BMW models displayed around the golf course (which included a few M8 Competition coupes) could be lined up with their lights on to provide illumination for the play-off, something that isn’t too much of a stretch considering just how good BMW’s adaptive LED laser headlights are. During the recap on Golf Channel’s Golf Central, Rich Lerner asked whether or not the conclusion of the BMW Championship was “one of the greatest non-major championship Sundays in the history of the sport.”
“On behalf of everyone at BMW, I’d like to congratulate Patrick Cantlay on winning the 2021 BMW Championship, and say thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make this event a success,” said Oliver Zipse, CEO of BMW. “We at BMW have long considered the U.S. to be our second home, and this event is an important part of what we do—beyond serving as a national platform for our brand and products, it also provides an opportunity to raise money for the Evans Scholars Foundation.”
The BMW Championship moves to the Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Delaware for 2022, and well be held from August 18–21.—Alex Tock
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]