Chicagoland Golf Media
Photo courtesy of Evan Schiller
Excitement is reaching a fever pitch as Medinah puts the final touches on its Ryder Cup preparations
Author: Len Ziehm
Issue: September 2012
It's getting close now. The biggest event in Chicago's rich golf history tees off at Medinah Country Club on September 28, but plenty will be going on before then. Indeed, this will be a month like no other for golf excitement in Chicago.
Medinah knows what big-time golf is all about, having been the site of three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships. But Don Larson, the club’s Ryder Cup chairman, called the team event “the PGA times three.”
To put it mildly, Chicago is about to witness an emotion-charged display of patriotism that – in that regard—will likely put the recent Olympics to shame. There’s no event in all of sports quite like the Ryder Cup matches.
Players start arriving at Medinah on September 25 for practice rounds. Even before that, there’s a Junior Ryder Cup competition on Olympia Fields’ South course and a bevy of Ryder Cup-related events throughout the month.
There will even golf ball artwork, Tartan Art on the Avenue, that may wind up being the best-viewed of anything since it’ll be moved around the city and suburbs. It’s part of the “Magnificent Moments” fundraising campaign that includes a September 27 pep rally at the Field Museum called Bagpipes & Blues.
During Ryder Cup week, there will be the finals of a youth skills competition that will climax at Medinah. A celebrity scramble will also take place there. Needless to say, Medinah will be packed throughout the week, and don’t expect to get a ticket unless you’re willing to shell out big bucks. The event was a quick sellout long ago.
First in importance as the big event closes in is the determination of just who will be playing. Each team has 12 players, and the first phase to determine the U.S. squad came immediately after the last putt dropped at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, S.C., on August 12. Point standings accumulated over two years determined the eight automatic berths on the U.S. team, and those earning spots were Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson.
In past years, the U.S. captain named his picks the day after the PGA, but that was changed this time around. U.S. captain Davis Love III will name four (as opposed to just two in the past) picks on Sept. 4 in New York.The new system is much better than the old, in that it allows the captain to select the players who are hot leading into the biennial matches. That meant Love was able to analyze play in three tournaments, two of them part of the pressurized FedEx Cup playoffs, before filling out his roster.
Love was looking for experienced, as well as hot, players for his four selections, which are to be announced on the Tuesday of the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick, in Indianapolis. The automatic eight are short on experience. Dufner, Bradley and Simpson have never played in the biggest team competition in golf, while Watson and Kuchar have competed only once. Love will want some veterans to back them up, even though Mickelson—the last of the automatic qualifiers—will be making his ninth straight appearance. That’s a record for both consecutive and all-time, appearances. Woods has played on seven Ryder Cup teams, Zach Johnson on three. Otherwise it’s a pretty green U.S. team.
Though he wouldn’t say it initially—the PGA of America wanted to build excitement for his announcement—Love is sure to name Steve Stricker to the squad. He was 10th on the points list but is Woods’ preferred partner. Hunter Mahan, one spot in front of Stricker and a two-time winner this season, also figures to make the U.S. squad for the second time as a captain’s pick. The other two picks are up for grabs, with performances in the Wyndham Championship and the first two FedEx playoff events—The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship—critical in Love’s view.
If Love is worried about experience, he could pick Jim Furyk (11th in the point standings) or even dip into the Champions Tour ranks for Fred Couples. If he wants an exciting young star, Ricky Fowler or Dustin Johnson are possibilities.
Unfortunately there won’t be a local player on the U.S. squad. Mark Wilson, D.A. Points and Kevin Streelman loomed as possibilities, however remote, early in the year, but Wilson was down in 23rd place in the standings, Points was 31st and Streelman was 69th. All are too far back to merit consideration. If you put stock in the point list, Brandt Snedeker, Bo Van Pelt, Robert Garrigus and Bill Haas will be considered.
The European team was chosen differently, with captain Jose Maria Olazabal making only two captain’s picks on August 27, the day after the Johnnie Walker Championship concluded at Gleneagles in Scotland. That’s a highlight event on the European PGA Tour.
Ten members of the European team were chosen off point standings that were finalized after the Johnnie Walker event. Olazabal made his picks too late for the printing of this report, but the heart of the team figured to be PGA champion Rory McIlroy, former world No. 1s Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer, and past U.S. Open winner Graham McDowell.
One player who will likely make the team, Lee Westwood, will be particularly worth following. Westwood missed the cut at the PGA Championship and took the unusual step of firing his coach, Pete Cowens, and temporary caddie, Mike Waite, the day after the last major championship of the season ended.
So, one of Europe’s steadiest players may go into the Ryder Cup with his game shaky, no swing coach and a relatively new caddie. Mike Kerr took over Westwood’s bag after Waite’s firing, and Waite himself was a fill-in for Billy Foster. Foster was Westwood’s regular bag-toter until he injured his knee. He’ll be sidelined for the rest of the year.CG
Oakbrook Center Exhibit Highlights the Ryder Cup’s Splendor
Golf aficionados are in for a special treat with “The Ryder Cup Exhibit…Where Legends are Forged and Legacies are Made” at Oakbrook Center (100 Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook). The 4,000-square-foot exhibit, which runs until September 30 and is presented by The PGA of America and Oakbrook Center, showcases the storied history of the Ryder Cup. The last day of the exhibit coincides with the final round of the 39th Ryder Cup between the United States and Europe at Medinah Country Club.
The exhibit is open to the public, and admission is complimentary. It features more than 60 extremely rare items dating back to 1927 that celebrate the unbridled glory and excitement of the Ryder Cup. Among the artifacts included are:
• Personal Ryder Cup-related items of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Dow Finsterwald and 2012 captains Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal
• A lunch menu from 1929, signed by Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, as well as Samuel Ryder, the British seed merchant for whom the Ryder Cup is named
• A driver used by Hagen, a six-time U.S. Ryder Cup captain, during the 1920s
• Official Ryder Cup programs
• Golf bags through the years from both U.S. and European team members
• Clothing, headwear and money clips from past Ryder Cup competitors
• Historical photos and memorabilia from 1927 to 2012
“The PGA of America is delighted to partner with Oakbrook Center as we present this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit to the wonderful people of Chicago and its many visitors to enjoy and marvel,” said PGA President Allen Wronowski. “The items on display trace 85 years of Ryder Cup passion, pride and history.”
Exhibit hours are from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. 100 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook, Illinois