Observations from The BMW Championship

So this past Friday, thanks to a boss with a mini cooper and too busy of a schedule, I was able to head out to Conway Farms and check out second round action at the BMW Championship. What follows is an account of the happenings interspersed with observations from the first Tour event I’ve been to in person in a surprisingly long time. Also note the lack of clickbait in the title of this. I easily could have called it “15 Observations from the BMW Championship You Won’t Believe”. But I didn’t and I should get credit for that.

Observation 1 — There are an impressive amount of brand new BMWs parked in spots you wouldn’t really expect to see parked BMWs

I’m really just realizing this out now, and wish I had made a pictorial account of all the cars on the property. When walking into the tournament grounds, you’re greeted with a couple BMWs on this track with a giant hill in the middle that’s supposed show how versatile a BMW is even though, let’s face it, these things are only going to be used to drive around the suburbs after dropping off the kids to private school.

Then there was the BMW in a glass cage in the main area near the practice facility like it was an animal in a zoo. Then there’s the BMW (or two I can’t remember) on the platform of the BMW owner’s box. The only thing that was missing was a giant lake with a car floating in the middle. Though since I didn’t see the whole course, there very well could have been.

Observation 2 — It’s probably a good idea to check if the tee times have been moved up because of possible weather.

Dumb me only looked on Tuesday and saw that tee times started at about 10:30 (since it’s only a field of 70) and planned the day around that. Well because of possible storms later, they bumped the times up a couple hours and everyone was off by the time we got there. Not the end of the world, but range and warm ups are fun to watch cause the swings are so damn pretty.

Observation 3 — The percentage of people in the BMW Owners Area who actually owned a BMW had to be about 41%

Since I work for a prediction market company, and deal with making forecasts on a daily basis, I figure I’ll go through my analysis in coming to this decently precise number.

Said area. 17 tee is down and to the left

Said area. 17 tee is down and to the left

First, the only thing that you need to get in that area is a BMW key, and with that you’re allowed to bring one guest with you. So right there, the prior probability is 50% in that one of those people actually owns the BMW, and the other is probably related, but not on the title.

Now for adjusting that prior probability based on other factors. There could be the case that there are two friends there who each own a BMW, but who went together, so that should push the number up. However, I’m guessing there are more people like my mom and I who borrowed a spare BMW key from a friend and merely faked being owners to get to use the fancy bathrooms instead of the port a potties that scattered the grounds. Further confirmation of this was made after overhearing an old man exclaim loudly, “Oh so this is why they said we should take their BMW key to the tournament.”

The urinals. See how two are lit up and one isn't? That's cause some guy opened the door as I was taking this picture. #noregrets

The urinals. See how two are lit up and one isn’t? That’s cause some guy opened the door as I was taking this picture. #noregrets

Combining those pieces of evidence I’m putting the percentage of people in that area that own a BMW at 41%. I was able to read an advanced copy of Superforecasting, a book about to be released that talks about how , and in it they outlined this method of generating probabilities and also mentioned that good forecasters put their guesses on more exact numbers than those ending in 0 or 5. Too bad we don’t have a prediction market or a way to verify that number.

Observation 4 — QR codes are apparently still a thing

Want to go into that BMW Owner area near 16 green and 17 tee? Gotta have a QR code. Want to try to make a 155-160 yard shot to win a 2 year lease on a BMW (more on this later)? Gotta have a QR code. Want to watch Jordan Spieth hit a shot? Gotta have a QR code.

If you’re really bad at detecting sarcasm, that last one was a lie. But it really felt like it was the case. People in BMW Championship polos were stationed everywhere armed with iPads ready to scan that code just so they could know what you did all day at the tournament.

Then there was the issue of actually getting a QR code in the first place. Since I was too dumb too check beforehand what kinds of things to expect at the tournament, I didn’t realize I could’ve signed up and downloaded one and instead had to wait in line for another BMW Championship polo wearing woman to take down information about where we lived and if we ever wanted to be contacted about buying a BMW.

Observation 5 — Best place to watch golf is finding a spot where the players are forced to be close to you

I do like following a group for a while, especially if there aren’t many people. But it’s really fun when the players are forced to be near you. This was the case when we went to the 13th green and the pin was tucked back and left really close to the ropes. We watched a bunch of groups go through there.

Steven Bowditch stuffed it to two feet, Justin Thomas also birdied (and promptly sniped his ball out of bounds on the next tee shot). Paul Casey made a standard double bogey that reminds you that even the pros have a bad hole or two. Then I realized he was still -7 which made the feeling of normality go away. We also saw the number one player in the world come by and make a really boring par. We were fortunate that his putt was coming directly at us from across the green since all the cameras they had set up had to be moved to the side so they weren’t in his line.

This is Steven Bowditch

This is Steven Bowditch

Like I said, following a group is fun, but watching a green where you get to see these guys up close is way more interesting in the end.

Observation 6 — Hideki Matsuyama could really do some damage in a fight

Yeah we all know that Hideki isn’t a skinny guy compared to a few others out there, but his listed height and weight of 5’11” 165 is just wrong. Dude must love his pizza or wear baggy clothes cause he looks way bigger in person. He’s also really good at lag putting because he had this 50 footer over and around a ridge and lagged it to 2 feet.

Observation 7 — Rory McIlroy’s pants are too tight

This observation courtesy of my mother. That’s just the style, Mom. Get with the times.

Observation 8 — If Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, and Rickie Fowler are in a group together, nobody is watching the player behind them

No offense to Russell Henley, but ain’t nobody come to Conway Farms to watch you. We could see the giant galeries a few holes down on 10 and 11, so we posted up on 12 green near the point where the players walk off to the next tee with the idea that they have to walk past us. The two Johnsons came by first, and then the group of chosen ones after and it was packed in that little area, but as soon as they made their way to the 13th tee box, the green area was a ghost town. Reasonable when you think about it, but still funny to experience in person.

Observation 9 — No wind, soft conditions, and perfect greens == low scores

These guys are good. I know it’s the PGA Tour’s slogan, but it really is the case. And when you get perfect conditions, everybody makes a bunch of birdies. The key to this really is their ability to make every single putt.

The greens at Conway were apparently redone a couple years ago, and since soft conditions mean the players can hold pretty much every green, you’re really looking at a putting contest. And it’s a contest where every one of these players can win.

Apparently some of the members were annoyed that the scores were so low, and that Jason Day shot 124 (!) in the first two rounds. But you gotta remember it isn’t the course that does this, it’s the conditions. Any course playing like it did on Friday would yield those numbers.

Observation 10 — Looking at the 11th hole at Conway Farms makes me have to pee

Remember in the preview how I mentioned that my girlfriend has a picture of the 11th hole above the toilet in her apartment? I confirmed that looking at that in person makes me have to go to the bathroom even if I didn’t before.


I can just picture the horses behind the green and the sound of me peeing into a toilet.

Observation 11 — People sweat a lot. And it’s kind of disgusting.

One part of the “fan experience” area was this 155-160 yard shot onto the range where if you made it, you’d get a two year lease of a BMW. First off, I don’t understand how they didn’t know exactly how far the shot was. This really posed an issue since I ended up taking too much club, pulling it, and putting it within 5 feet of another flag on the range. The main issue, and what I blame the pull on, was that the glove they gave me was just soaked from everyone else who had used it earlier in the day.

How am I supposed to hit a shot thinking about all the sweat from the fat guys earlier in the day who probably drop kicked a 7 iron 100 yards to the right of the target? Oh well, it’s not like I have a good spot for a BMW anyway. It’d probably look out of place sitting in the alley right next to where the Red Line rumbles past every day.

Observation 12 — Shouting out to a player’s wife on the range that they helped identify the brand of sunglasses her husband was wearing is probably not a good idea.

Luckily I realized this before I embarrassed myself, but I at least had the thought of doing this. Earlier in the year after Jimmy Walker won the Valero Texas Open and was driving back to his house, I saw a tweet of him and thought, “Man, I really could use some bro-sunglasses like that.”

So like a good investigator, I tweeted at his wife.

And she replied!

So when we walked by the driving range and noticed Jimmy hitting balls and a blond woman sitting next to him, I realized I had the opportunity of a lifetime to shout something relevant to someone who would probably like to hear that I made a purchase just because they were wearing a certain accessory. I refrained, but now I’m just left with the what if.

The couple.

Shoutout to Jimmy Walker for being the best early season player ever and not having anything left for the fall.

Observation 13 — There’s not much better than free food

Remember how I said the boss had a mini cooper? Well he apparently got those tickets through the dealership and they must really want him and his wife to renew their lease since the tickets we had were for some super restricted area with free food, and Bud Lite served in champagne glasses. This place was seriously top notch, and we weren’t exactly fitting in with the other BMW people with their button downs and well kept visages. Not that I cared cause there was free food!

They ran out of tortillas, so settled on a walking taco. Oh well

They ran out of tortillas, so settled on a walking taco. Oh well

Besides the taco bar (I had fish and steak), they also had sandwiches, a dessert / coffee bar, as well as a menu to order from that they would bring the food out to you while watching around the 18th green. We didn’t order anything off the menu, but you can bet your ass that I ate as much as I could. If only we had come to this place earlier instead of right as we were about to leave.

Observation 14 — The trick to getting on TV is being in the right place at the right time

For example, be watching on the 18th hole while wearing a bright yellow Packers shirt when Brendon Todd holes out for a walk off eagle.

Dumb pgatour.com doesn’t allow video embedding, but here’s the link to the hole out. The next day I made sure to catch a replay of the shot and find me. Turns out my bright yellow shirt made that easy. I’m in the upper right hand corner.

Picture of a tv replay of the shot. I'm in the upper right corner with that bright yellow shirt.

Picture of a tv replay of the shot.

Observation 15 — Friday is the best day of the week to go to a golf tournament

The reasoning is pretty simple. They’ve played one round so you can tell who’s playing well and who isn’t, but you also have the players spaced out so it’s not back loaded and too crowded to see everyone. And then come Saturday and Sunday, you’ve seen the course so you know what to look for and what some of the shots look like.

All in all, we were probably only there for 5 hours, but that was more than enough time for the full experience. If I was to do it all over again, I would’ve just made sure to get there on time to see the beginning of the rounds and to make sure to eat more of the free food. You live and you learn.

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