The 2013 BMW Championship features 70 of golf's biggest stars, but several golfers have been playing a class above their elite competitors.
The two-week break between this event and the previous FedEx Cup playoff tournament has given those who were struggling a chance to regain form and make a run for the Tour Championship next week in Atlanta by getting into the top 30 in the point standings.
While those subplots will be interesting to monitor, most fans won't care about them as much as they'll care about who ultimately emerges victorious at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill.
The game's biggest stars in Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy—the defending champion—aren't in the best of shape. An idle week may have been just what they needed, but it's all too speculative to give either a ringing endorsement.
So let's take a look at the golfers entering the third leg of the PGA Tour postseason in the best competitive form and who will seriously challenge for the trophy.
Note: Statistics, video and information are courtesy of PGATour.com.
No. 4. Graham DeLaet
The Canadian is both long and extremely straight off the tee, with an enviable iron game and a putter that is heating up.
His joint runner-up finish at The Barclays and third-place effort at the Deutsche Bank Championship qualified him for the Presidents Cup.
It's been a meteoric rise for Graham DeLaet, but now that he's fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, he has a shot to do even more.
DeLaet is ranked this low only because of the pedigree of the players ahead of him and his lack of experience. He has never won on this circuit, but he keeps showing signs he's ready to take that next big step and elevate himself into the upper echelon of the game's best.
DeLaet's playoff beard has been a hilarious development.
Apparently, it's working very well.
On the season, he ranks just ahead of Henrik Stenson in total ball-striking. Now that something has clicked on the greens, look for DeLaet to push hard again for his first PGA triumph.
No. 3. Justin Rose
The only player in the world ranked ahead of Deutsche Bank Championship winner Henrik Stenson who had a solid effort at TPC Boston is Justin Rose.
After finishing tied for second at The Barclays, the reigning U.S. Open champion finished tied for 16th in Norton.
Rose could very well push himself into the Player of the Year conversation with a victory, given that he'd already have the previous stellar result at the FedEx Cup opener to go with his maiden major trophy.
Those should be driving factors for the Englishman to put forth a stellar effort this week. Putting is usually his biggest shortcoming, but when Rose is hot with the flaststick, few can keep up with him.
No. 2. Steve Stricker
Speaking of players who can putt lights out at any time, that pretty much describes Steve Stricker's greatest asset in a nutshell.
A limited schedule on the PGA Tour this season has worked well for the cagey veteran. Hunting is a known hobby of his, but Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman suggests the work he does on the course could curb his need to catch his own game:
In his past five starts, Stricker hasn't finished worse than 13th, perpetually knocking on the door for his first win of the season.
Stricker is too experienced and has been playing too well this year not to win, it seems.
Only two more opportunities remain for him to capture that elusive win in the current tour campaign.
But given how strong he's looked and the consistency with which he's finished near the top since a close call at the U.S. Open, look for Stricker to be in striking distance coming down the stretch.
This par-71 course isn't terribly long at just over 7,100 yards, so the shorter-hitting Stricker isn't at a significant disadvantage in that regard, either.
1. Henrik Stenson
Considering the regularity with which Henrik Stenson was finishing near the top of so many high-profile events, it seemed like only a matter of time before he broke through.
He entered 2013 ranked No. 61 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and he's now sixth.
The win at the Deutsche Bank Championship confirmed Stenson's status as the hottest golfer on the planet at the moment. Conway Farms is a ball-striker's paradise, and the Swede's devastating combination of power and precision has been serving him well lately.
As long as he's able to hold his own on the greens, Stenson should be in contention for the hardware yet again in Lake Forest.
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