Here are the two main reasons why Europe claimed the Ryder Cup

There’s no need to rehashing this Ryder Cup.  Europe’s 16 ½-11 ½ win in Italy on Sunday was marked by extraordinary emotion, some controversy and more frustration for Team USA, which hasn’t won on foreign soil since 1993.

It was, at least, great theater and there’ll be more of that when the competition is played next at Bethpage Black in New York in two years.

For now it’s most appropriate to focus on just two things: what was the main reason Europe won again, and why did the USA get soundly beaten just two years after its record 19-9 romp at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits two years ago.

The biggest reason the Euros won was obvious.  Luke Donald was by far the superior captain. And to think that the former Northwestern great wasn’t the guy the European selectors really wanted.  They gave the job to Sweden’s Henrik Stenson first, then took it away when Stenson joined the LIV Tour. Only then did Donald get the job he so badly wanted – and deserved.

Donald played on four European teams and compiled a 10-4-1 record as a player.  He most memorably played a key role in his team’s come-from-way-behind win in the “Meltdown at Medinah’’ in 2012. He also served as a vice captain on two European teams.

No wonder he was choking back tears moments after Rickie Fowler conceded a match to Tommy Fleetwood, which gave Europe the points needed for victory.

“This was always something I dreamed about,’’ said Donald, “and it’s been a wave of emotions, starting with asking myself if I could really do this.’’

Once he got the job Donald had to build a roster without some mainstays of the past.  Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and the six other DP World Tour members who defected to the LIV circuit were ruled ineligible for Ryder Cup selection. U.S. captain Zach Johnson was allowed to pick them, though he selected only Brooks Koepka with his captain’s picks.

Donald built an interesting roster that included Justin Rose, at 45 by far the oldest player in the latest Ryder Cup, and two very young untested rookies in Robert McIntyre and Ludvig Aberg. Then came the speeches at opening ceremonies.  Donald’s was outstanding and inspirational.  It carried over to the competition.

What was the main reason the U.S. lost this time?  That’s pretty obvious, too.  Nine of the 12 U.S. players didn’t compete for five weeks prior to the matches.  If it were one of the four major championships there’s no way any of those players would have bypassed five weeks of tournaments leading in. This year it was vacation time after the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Prior to Whistling Straits there was only a three-week gap.

The U.S. could event get a full team to its lone early practice on the competition site. Two players – Patrick Cantlay and best friend Xander Schauffele – skipped the team trip to Italy because it conflicted with Cantlay’s bachelor party.

The DP World Tour had tournaments right up until the Ryder Cup, and European  team members competed.  Europe players were simply more committed than the U.S. players were. Simple as that.



Only Illinois alum Adrien Dumont de Chassart has advanced from the Korn Ferry Tour to the PGA Tour for next season.  The top 75 on the point list still have a chance, and Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger (No. 61) and Illinois alum Brian Campbell (75) have qualified for the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship. It tees off on Thursday at Victoria National in Indiana. Only the top 30 move on to the premier circuit.

The last championship of the Chicago District Golf Association’s 110th season concludes this week when the CDGA Senior Amateur Four-Ball ends its four-day run at Elgin Country Club on Thursday. The CDGA will also conduct the qualifier for the U.S. Four-Ball on Oct. 10 at Bittersweet, in Gurnee.

The Illinois PGA will determine its Player of the Year at the Oct. 9-10 Players Championship at Twin Orchard, in Long Grove.  Mistwood’s Andy Mickelson leads the Bernardi point standings followed by two Rockford players, Chris French and Kevin Flack.  Kyle Donovan of Oak Park and last year’s winner, Brian Carroll of The Hawk in St. Charles, round out the top five. Also on the line is the IPGA Senior Players Championship Oct. 16-17 at Ruth Lake, in Hinsdale.

Golfers on Golf, Chicago’s longest standing golf radio show, has concluded its 33rd season.

Northwestern concludes its two-day Windy City Classic women’s tournament on Tuesday at the Glen Club in Glenview.



DeChambeau adds to debate about U.S. Ryder Cup team picks

Bryson DeChambeau beat out his teammate, Aniban Lahiri, to win again on the LIV tour and also added to the debate about U.S. Ryder Cup team selections. (Joy Sarver Photo)

The results of Sunday’s LIV Chicago tourney at Rich Harvest Farms create the need for another look at the U.S. team for this week’s Ryder Cup in Italy.

Captain Zach Johnson has been criticized for passing on Keegan Bradley as a captain’s pick and choosing Justin Thomas, who had a disappointing (for him) season, instead.  Johnson also had detractors because he put a LIV player on the 12-man team.  Brooks Koepka had played in the last three Ryder Cups, won this year’s PGA Championship and finished second in the Masters.

Second-guessing the captains is always part of the Ryder Cup preliminaries, and European captain Luke Donald has taken heat for not picking Poland’s Adrian Meronk.

In Johnson’s case, the debate resumed after Bryson DeChambeau shot 63 at Rich Harvest to rally for from an eight-stroke deficit to get the victory.  Just a few weeks ago DeChambeau won the LIV stop at Greenbriar, in West Virginia, with a 58-61 performance in the weekend rounds on a course that had hosted the PGA Tour in recent years.

Johnson tweeted about how he was impressed by DeChambeau’s accomplishment at the Greenbriar and strongly hinted he would put him on the U.S. team.  His opinion apparently changed after that but DeChambeau’s play didn’t tail off.  After his win Sunday DeChambeau said he was playing “the most consistently good golf of my life’’ and said he is in better form now than when he won the U.S. Open at New York’s Winged Foot in 2020.

“This stretch is pretty sweet to me,’’ he said, but he’ll miss playing in the Ryder Cup.

“It would have been nice to at least have a call from Zach,’’ said DeChambeau.  “That stings a little.  After all, we’re still golfers out here.  I don’t know who made the decisions, but it would have been nice for him to consider a few more of us because we’re pretty good out here.’’

The future of LIV remains a mystery despite the announcement of a “merger’’ with the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.  There’s no merger yet, and negotiations have been hush-hush. The PGA Tour announced its schedule for 2024.  LIV didn’t.

Rich Harvest owner Jerry Rich declined interview requests on the status of the two-year old stop on his course, and LIV’s Greg Norman was very evident at the tourney, even walking with the leading players on Sunday, but he wasn’t making any comments, either.

A LIV source said the circuit’s schedule for next season would be announced “in four-to-six weeks.’’ LIV has two more tournaments in October to complete its 14-tournament season. It had only eight events in its first campaign.

The PGA Tour’s 2022-23 season ended with the FedEx Playoffs in August, ending its wrap-around scheduling.

As for DeChambeau he’s not reached the level of Hale Irwin in success on Illinois courses yet.  Irwin won the Western Open at Butler National, the U.S. Open at Medinah and took several titles in PGA Tour Champions events, most of them at Kemper Lakes. He retains the title of “Mr. Chicago.’’

DeChambeau’s three in-state wins are impressive, though, and he’s hard-pressed to explain it, just like Irwin was.

“It’s the bluegrass, baby!’’ DeChambeau said.  “It’s really the grass, the air.  I don’t know, but there’s something about the greens.  I’m comfortable.  I grew up on grass like that.’’

Like all the LIV players questioned about the future of their circuit, DeChambeau was quick to defend his tour.  The others, questioned in casual conversation, all said they wanted to stay with LIV rather than go back to the PGA Tour.

Sooner or later, there’ll be a breakthrough and we’ll see what golf will look like in 2024 or 2025.

DeChambeau volunteered a tantalizing picture in his final thoughts before leaving town:

“I’m not going to describe it too much, but a lot of work in the offseason is going on. What I can tell you is that something special is going to happen next year.’’



DeChambeau beats his own teammate to win LIV title


Bryson DeChambeau and Aniban Lahiri waged a friendly duel at LIV Chicago. (Joy Sarver Photos)

Golf drama doesn’t get any better than this.

Bryson DeChambeau delivered it in Illinois for the third time on Sunday to win the LIV Chicago tournament at Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Grove. In 2015 he won the U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields, and in 2017 he captured the first of his seven PGA Tour titles at the John Deere Classic in downstate Silvis. His victory on Sunday was more dramatic than both of those.

DeChambeau trailed second-round leader Sebastian Munoz by eight strokes going into the final round. Things changed quickly after he covered his face in a gleeful celebration as an 80-foot downhill, bending birdie putt dropped on the No. 12 hole.

That would get any player going, but DeChambeau took it to extremes.  He birdied No. 14, made pars at Nos. 15 and 16 and then birdied the 17th and 18th.  That was his winning stretch in his round of 8-under-par 63, created in the LIV’s shotgun format. His winning total over the tourney’s 54 holes was 13-under-par 200.

“The most consistently good golf of my life,’’ said DeChambeau.  “This stretch has been pretty sweet to me.’’

Amazingly, Rich Harvest wasn’t his best tournament of the year.  In the LIV’s Greenbriar stop DeChambeau shot 58-61 on the weekend to win.  That defies the imagination, but Sunday’s win did, too.

To get the win DeChambeau had to overtake Aniban Lahiri, his teammate on the Crushers – one of the 12 four-man teams competing in LIV tourneys.  After DeChambeau finished Lahiri needed a birdie on the 18th hole to win the tournament or a par to force a playoff with his Crushers’ captain.

Lahiri got neither. His approach on the tough par-4 was short, stopping on the front fringe of the green.  His first putt was weak, stopping nine feet short of the cup.  His par putt missed, too, and that made DeChambeau a somewhat reluctant champion.

“I still can’t believe it,’’ he said.  “I wanted ‘Ban to make that putt and settle things in a playoff, but it is what it is.  He’s an unbelievable player.’’

Lahiri has yet to win on the LIV circuit but he had three runner-up finishes. Sunday was his fourth.  He kept grinding  but “I was fighting my swing all day.’’

There was a good consolation prize for both. The Crushers won their second team title of the season and clinched a bye in the circuit’s championship.  The team was comprised by DeChambeau, Lahiri, Paul Casey and Charles Howell III.

“As a team together we’re a pretty dominant force,’’ said DeChambeau, who stressed that over his latest individual accomplishment.

Bryson DeChambeau posted a 58 a few weeks ago but his 63 was just as stunning at Rich Harvest.

“All four of us would rather win (as individuals) but the team got a win that we should pull off,’’ said Lahiri.  “I don’t think we’ve ever been off the podium (LIV’s style of honoring the top three teams and individuals at the conclusion of each tournament).’’

Another strong showing made DeChambeau’s absence from this week’s Ryder Cup matches in Italy more noticeable.  U.S. captain Zach Johnson declared DeChambeau as a captain’s pick after the 58-61 performance at Greenbriar but apparently changed his mind. The only LIV player named to a Ryder Cup team was PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka. He was deserving, but his 26th place finish Sunday doesn’t suggest great things should be expected from him this week in Italy.

The Rich Harvest stop, which drew enthusiastic crowds again, didn’t impact LIV’s player-of-year race much.  DeChambeau, with $4 million won for his individual title and his share of the $3 million prize for the Crushers’ team victory, moved him into third place with $12,995,833.  Leader Talor Gooch has won $15,070,012 for the season’s 12 events and Cameron Smith, last year’s Rich Harvest winner, has $13,755,417.

Last tournament to improve on the individual money list is in Saudi Arabia Oct. 13-15.  The LIV season, up from eight to 14 events this year, concludes with its team championship Oct. 20-22 at Doral, in Miami.





Munoz leads LIV; Koepka struggles with Ryder Cup closing in

Brooks Koepka has found Rich Harvest a long walk with the Ryder Cup closing in.


You’d think this week’s LIV tourney would – with all its crowd noise, music and other distractions – offer Brooks Koepka good preparation for next week’s Ryder Cup in Italy.

Koepka is the only LIV player on either the U.S. or European teams and he’ll be in his fourth straight Ryder Cup. LIV has arranged a special flight for him directly from Chicago to Rome, and he’ll be on his way as soon as his final round at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove is over on Sunday.

The rest of the U.S. team will be on a charter that takes off earlier on Sunday so Koepka is traveling solo.  The question is, will he be ready for the craziness that the popular team competition always creates. His play over two days at Rich Harvest hasn’t been encouraging, though he was greeted with chants of “USA! USA!’’ as Round 2 wound down on Saturday.

Koepka goes into Sunday’s final round in a tie for 14th place, and is eight strokes behind leader Sebastian Munoz of Colombia. Not only that, but Koepka departs with some concerns.  He has a new-born son in Florida with wife Jena and his younger brother Chase is struggling with his own golf game.

Chase, 29 and four years younger than Brooks, is in LIV’s dreaded Drop Zone. Brooks and Chase are teammates on LIV’s Smash team – but may not be for long.  Chase ranks 48th in the circuit’s point standings and those ranked 45 or higher will be relegated out of the league after the last two tournaments.

Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz was all smiles after his 63 on Saturday. (Joy Sarver Photos)

In effect, Brooks, the Smash captain, may have to drop Chase from his roster. Last year Chase tied for eighth at Rich Harvest and made a hole-in-one in the stop in Australia.  He needs two strong finishes this year, however, and he enters Sunday’s round in 46th place among 48 starters.

“We spent the last two weeks together.  He’s come to practice with me every day,’’ said Brooks.  “He works hard.  I’ll give him that.  That’s why I haven’t gotten on him.  I’m proud of him.’’

Brooks has his own issues now. U.S. captain Zach Johnson made him a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. His LIV status threatened to make him ineligible but a loophole – he’s also a member of the PGA of America – made his selection possible.

“I would have liked to make it on my own, but I’m just happy to be on the team,’’ said Brooks.  “My whole mindset has been to practice for it the last few weeks.  It’s one of the six-seven biggest sporting events.  I like it when there’s a little more eyeballs, a little bit more pressure.’’

He’ll get plenty of that in Italy and figures to be paired with a Ryder Cup rookie, U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark.  They were regular playing partners in practice rounds at PGA Tour events before Brooks joined LIV on June 22, 2022.

Beset by injuries in recent years, Brooks got healthy again and won this year’s PGA Championship – his fifth major title – and tied for second at the Masters. He was no threat to Munoz in the third round, and only India’s Anirban Lahiri was.

Munoz, who played at Rich Harvest as a collegiate play at North Texas State and also represented Colombia in the 2020 Olympics, shot an 8-under-par 63 that started with three straight birdies and included two eagles after that. He’s at 13-under-par 129 for the first 36 holes and leads Lahiri by three shots.  Next in line are American Dustin Johnson and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer. They trail Munoz by five.

In the team competition Munoz’ Torque squad and Ancer’s Fireballs are tied for the lead. They are four shots ahead of Lahiri’s Crushers and Johnson’s 4Aces, who are tied for third.

Neither Munoz nor Lahiri has won on the LIV Tour.  Munoz was second at Orlando in April, edged out by Koepka.  Lahiri was runner-up in Australia and again in the last tournament at Bedminster, N.J. Munoz is 12th on the season money list, Lahiri 15th.




Garcia among LIV leaders after raucous round at Rich Harvest

Sergio Garcia moved on from Ryder Cup snub by shooting 66  in LIV tourney. (Joy Sarver Photos)

The second version of the LIV Tour’s Chicago stop at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove got off to a rousing start Friday, complete with blaring music and a countdown that created excitement for a crowd that resembled last year’s even less-than-ideal weather.

Four parachute jumpers landed on the 18th green seconds before defending champion Cameron Smith hit the first tee shot off No. 1. Then the focal point shifted to the new “Party Hole’’ – the par-3 seventeenth that was patterned after a hole in Australia but appeared a miniature version of No. 16 of the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open where over 40,000 can watch at once.

Welcome, again, to LIV Golf Chicago.  The fun atmosphere didn’t produce a clearcut leader in the first round, but one of the five co-leaders stood out.  Spain’s Sergio Garcia, usually a European mainstay in the Ryder Cup, wasn’t picked for next week’s team shootout in Italy because he was among the nine DP World Tour players who defected to the LIV Tour.  Winning at Rich Harvest might mitigate his disappointment, but the Ryder Cup snub still hurts.

“It is what it is,’’ said Garcia.  “I’m where I’m happy.  I’d love to be part of (the Ryder Cup) but we’ve got to move on. Europe has a great team.  Hopefully they’ll play well and win the Cup.’’

Garcia said he “might’’ watch the Ryder Cup on TV next week, but it’d help if won his first LIV title first.  He’s yet to win as an individual on the LIV circuit but his Fireballs team has won two wins in team play. Garcia’s 5-under-par 66 was matched by Louis Oosthuizen, of South Africa; Sebastian Munoz, of Colombia;  Jediah Morgan, of Australia; and Aniban Lahiri, of India.

In last year’s stop at Rich Harvest Garcia finished fourth behind Smith, Peter Uihlein and Dustin Johnson. Oosthuizen, a former champion in the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic, was sixth.

LIV commissioner Greg Norman mingled with young fans prior to the start of play.

Oosthuizen’s Stingers took the team lead Friday at 13-under-par with Garcia’s Fireballs and Lahiri’s Crushers a stroke back.  While the 48-player individual competition offers unusually big money — $4 million to Sunday’s champion from a $20 million purse, the team battle is lucrative, too, with $5 million on the line in that category.

Nineteen players are within two strokes of the individual lead.  The group a 3-under includes Brooks Koepka, the only LIV player in next week’s Ryder Cup; Dustin Johnson, who dominated LIV’s first season; and Talor Gooch, who is seeking his fourth win of 2023.  Gooch is one swing ahead of Smith, his lone rival for LIV’s tour champion in its second season.  Phil Mickelson, paired with Koepka and Smith, finished 48th (dead last) with a 4-over-par 75. Last year he was eighth in the tournament.

LIV broke with tradition by initiating a new scoring procedure.  Players no longer sign their scorecards in a tent after their rounds.  They signed off on the 18th green Friday, a measure seemingly designed to cut the waiting time for fans wanting to attend the post-round concerts.

That was a fan-friendly alteration, but it wasn’t as noticeable as the “Party Hole.’’ The fans fed off this one, set up at 160 yards. Covered bleachers lined both sides of the fairway and the players enjoyed the atmosphere.

In Friday’s round the team captains were paired in the first four groups.  On Saturday Munoz, Oosthuizen and Morgan will start at No. 1 and Lahiri and Garcia will join Jason Kokrak on No. 2. Kokrak is one of 10 players one stroke off the lead, and the others include Illinois alum Thomas Pieters and former Masters champion Patrick Reed.

The new “Party Hole,” the par-3 seventeenth, was a big hit with the fans at Rich Harvest.


Gooch is the man to watch at Rich Harvest

The big stars were Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson when the LIV Tour made its Chicago debut at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove last year.  No surprise there.

Smith was the reigning British Open titlist and will be the defending champion when the Saudi-backed circuit returns to Rich Harvest this week. Johnson, winner of two major titles and the hero of the U.S. Ryder Cup romp in 2021 at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits, was the big money winner in LIV’s first season and his 4Aces team won at Rich Harvest en route to topping the season standings.

When the circuit makes its Rich Harvest return this week, however, they must share the spotlight with  Talor Gooch.  He was one of Johnson’s 4Aces teammates last year but now plays for the RangeGoats. He also has won more individual titles than any other LIV player in the first 12 tournaments of the season. Succeeding Johnson as the individual champion is very much a possibility, as only Smith is a serious challenger with two individual events left.  Smith leads in the point stands but Gooch — with over $14 million in season winnings as an individual and team member — tops the money race.

“For sure, to be able to beat those guys over the course of a season is no easy task,’’ said Gooch, a 30-year old Oklahoma State product who turned professional in 2014.  “If you’re able to do it, that speaks volumes, so hopefully we can do that over the next two tournaments.’’

There’s big money on the line in both the individual and team events.  The purse for each of the two remaining individual competitions is $20 million, with the champion receiving $4 million.  There’s also $5 million available in team play at each event.

Rain or shine, Talor Gooch has contended on the LIV Tour this season. (Joy Sarver Photos)

The individual season champion will be decided in the next two tournaments – at Rich Harvest and the finale Oct. 13-15 in Saudi Arabia.  The team winner will be finalized after the season-ending team championship Oct. 20-22 at Trump National Doral in Florida.

Gooch won his three individual titles this year in a five-week stretch – in Australia, Singapore and Spain. Then Smith mounted a late season charge, winning twice in the last three events – in London and Bedminster, N.J.

This week’s Rich Harvest stop is thus key for Gooch, particularly on the individual side.

“I didn’t have a great tournament there last year, so I’m ready to go try and up for it,’’ he said.  His best finish in 2022 was a sixth-place at Boston, so his improvement this season has been dramatic. Once Smith got hot, however, Gooch cooled off with finishes of 22nd, 11th and 15th in the last three events.

In addition to chasing Smith Gooch is hopeful his RangeGoats team can get to the top of the leaderboard.  It’s now in fifth place with Johnson’s 4Aces still on top.  Gooch’s teammates this year are captain Bubba Watson, Harold Varner III and University of Illinois alum Thomas Pieters. The team battle remains very much up for grabs with three tournaments left.

“It’s just got to be us,’’ said Gooch.  “We’ve got four guys who can win any week.  Thomas hasn’t had a great season, but we all know he’s a great player, and Bubba has shown signs of being Bubba again.  Obviously Harold and I have played well, so at any point in time any of the four of us can carry the torch for this team.  Harold and I have to keep being us, and we know Bubba and Thomas are going to be great.  It’s just a matter of time.’’

It might be Pieters’ turn at Rich Harvest. His college career at Illinois ended 10 years ago and he joined LIV late, so didn’t play at Rich Harvest last year. He did spend time there in his college days, however

This week’s 48-man field includes 13 major championship winners, among them 2023 PGA Championship titlist Brooks Koepka who will join the U.S. Ryder Cup team for next week’s matches against the Europeans in Italy as soon as the last putt drops at Rich Harvest.



LIV Tour has found Chicago a welcoming place


The LIV Tour was a controversial mystery when it made its first Chicago appearance last year at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove.

This week the Saudi-back circuit returns and its TV host, Jerry Foltz, can’t wait.  Pre-tournament festivities are on tap for Wednesday and Thursday before the 54-hole tournament tees off on Friday. (SEPT 22)

Foltz, who worked for The Golf Channel for 27 years, took a chance in signing on with what was immediately a serious rival for the long-established PGA Tour. He calls his decision “agonizing.’’

“Last year no one knew what to expect, and we were pleasantly shocked when we got to London for our first tournament,’’ said Foltz. “But, in every place we went, we were facing a strong campaign against us from a public relations standpoint from the monopoly that had gone on before us.’’

It wasn’t easy, given LIV’s limited TV coverage and the unusual format. LIV had only eight tournaments in its first season, and its shotgun starts, no-cut formats and team concept required some adjustment.

“It was tough from the TV standpoint because golfers were all over the course at the same time,’’ said Foltz. “Before that we only knew one way to cover golf.  In London we had these weird team names but the players like Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter were completely for it.’’

Still the fans turned out in big numbers for the sixth tournament of the inaugural season at Rich Harvest.

“When we got to Chicago the world changed,’’ said Foltz.  `Everyone had a great time.’’

Working in LIV’s favor was the fact that the PGA Tour had not held a tournament in the Chicago area since 2020 and only sporadically in the few years before that.

“In Chicago that was an absolute shame,’’ said Foltz.  “The fans were so thirsty for it.  They deserved more than they have been getting.  I can’t see us ever leaving Chicago.’’

“I’m pumped to get back there,’’ said Australian Cameron Smith, last year’s individual champion.  “Obviously I had a good time last year.  I love the golf course, and the fans were awesome.  That’s what I remember the most.’’

This week’s tourney will be the 12th of the 14 slated for LIV’s second season with the individual tourney climax at Trump National Doral in Miami Oct. 20-22 and the team championship Nov. 3-5 in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier this year the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and LIV announced a “merger.’’   It’s hardly that, as no contracts have been signed and negotiations between representatives of the tours have been hush-hush. The PGA Tour has announced a schedule for 2024, LIV hasn’t.

“Next year we were told it’ll absolutely be business as usual,’’ said Foltz, “but there could be some change if they hammer out an agreement.  It would be nice if we could have interchangeable players and everybody got along.’’

That may be difficult, but Foltz insists “the team format won’t go away.  It brings in new fans. Golf had been stagnant for so long, but 30 percent of the people who attend LIV events had never been at a golf tournament before.’’

As per last year, LIV Golf Chicago will have 12 four-man teams competing.  The 48 players will also compete as individuals over 54 holes. Foltz predicts the names of teams and players will change for the 2024 campaign.

“Our first year of free agency will get crazy,’’ he predicted.  “There’ll be potential new signings and our owner/captains will have financial decisions that will go into it. They are completed invested in the team concept.  They all feel like renegades, but it brings a different passion to golf.’’

Donald is taking some heat for his Ryder Cup picks

The rosters are set for the Ryder Cup matches and, as usual, the captains are catching heat for some of their selections. Europe’s Luke Donald, though, is catching much more than Zach Johnson of the U.S. with the biennial competition beginning Sept. 29 in Italy.

Most obvious contrast between the sides involves players who defected from the U.S. and DP World Tours.  Johnson picked one, Donald couldn’t pick any – and that may be a boost for the tourney immediately preceding the matches.

LIV Golf Chicago, which tees off on Sept. 22 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, will offer Brooks Koepka from the U.S. team.

“We have a Ryder Cup player in LIV Golf who will be off to the Ryder Cup the next week,’’ said Doug Habgood, event organizer for the LIV event.  “This will be a great sendoff for him.’’

Johnson didn’t have to use one of his captain’s picks on Koepka, but he did, and even considered choosing Bryson DeChambeau, who posted the most spectacular weekend in golf this year with his 61-58 rounds in LIV’s event at Greenbriar in West Virginia.

Donald couldn’t select long-time European Ryder Cuppers Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Martin Kaymer or Henrik Stenson because the DP World Tour ruled against using any of its LIV defectors unless they applied for reinstatement by May 1. None did.

Koepka won the PGA Championship and was runner-up in the Masters this year. To build a strongest possible team Koepka needed to be on it.

Zach Johnson bypassed LIV stalwart Dustin Johnson but was criticized for taking Justin Thomas. A U.S. mainstay in team competitions the previous four years, Thomas missed the cut in three of this year’s four major championship and failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

The backlash for his choosing of Thomas was nothing compared to the detractors Donald had for snubbing Poland’s Adrian Meronk.

Meronk was third in the DP World Tour’s standings on its Road to Dubai, the lucrative climax to the European season.  He had 2022 wins in the Irish and Australian Opens and won the Italian Open this year.  It was played on the Ryder Cup site, Marco Simone Country Club.

Instead Donald, went for two pro rookies, Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg and Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard. The U.S. hasn’t won a Ryder Cup on foreign soil since 1993 and Donald, who rose to the No. 1 world ranking as a player after an outstanding collegiate career at Northwestern, played on four winning Ryder Cup teams for Europe. He was also Europe’s vice captain in the last two editions of the Ryder Cup.

RICH HARVEST UPDATE: Habgood has been part of organizational efforts for events on the PGA, LPGA and PGA Tour Champions but insists“LIV is different.  It’s unlike anything else.’’

The biggest evidence of that at Rich Harvest will be at No. 17, a par-3 that is being labelled “the party hole.’’

“It was built in late July and has a lot of video screens and all sorts of things fans will enjoy’’ said Habgood.  “It’s been a new challenge, but we’ll have the volume up anyway with speakers on every tee and green. It’ll be quite the atmosphere out there.’’

HERE AND THERE: Don Wegrzyn, a Northern Illinois alum who spent 46 years at Old Elm in Highland Park, was an Illinois Golf Hall of Fame honoree in 1999.  Now he has a new honor. He was recently named to the PGA of America Hall of Fame.

A multi-year renovation involving all three nines at Cantigny, in Wheaton, is scheduled to start next June and be completed in the summer of 2027.  Quitno Golf Designs and KemperSports will co-lead the project with the Hillside nine, halfway house and putting lawn getting the attention first.

The Korn Ferry Tour Playoffs resume Thursday in Tennessee with five Illinois-connected players among the 144 qualifiers. All will need to improve their play in the remaining three tournaments to get among the 30 who earn PGA Tour cards. Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger is No. 56 in the point standings, Highwood’s Patrick Flavin No. 96 and Deerfield’s Vince India No. 125. Illinois alums Brian Campbell (69) and Michael Feagles (96) are also still alive but the fields get reduced with each tournament.  Only the top 120 will play in the Sept. 21-24 tourney in Ohio and 75 will make it to the final event Oct. 5-8 in Indiana.

Perennial collegiate power Illinois was ranked No. 9 to start the season but the Illini were eight-stroke winners over No. 2 Arizona State in the season-opening Sahalee Players Championship in Washington.  Freshman Max Herendeen, who grew up minutes from Sahalee, led the Illini with a second place finish individually. The 17th Fighting Illini Invitational begins its three-day run on Friday (SEPT 15) on Olympia Fields’ North Course.



Rich Harvest is ready for the LIV Tour’s return


Last year’s Illinois golf season had a late addition – a tournament called LIV Tour Chicago staged at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. The LIV Tour was a new thing then, and Rich Harvest hosted one of just eight tournaments in the controversial circuit’s first season.

The Saudi-back LIV Tour is no mystery guest now, though. The Rich Harvest stop on Sept. 22-24 is the 12th of 14 LIV events this year, and Alex Kline-Wedeen, executive vice president-marketing at Rich Harvest, couldn’t be more excited.

“We’re on track to be bigger and better than last year’s very successful tournament,’’ said Kline-Wedeen.  “Last year ours was one of the best -attended events for their first-year launch.  We’re out to reset that bar and put on a good show for Chicago. LIV has been such an amazing partner, and we learned a ton.  We saw what the fans wanted.’’

What the Rich Harvest fans got was a taste of what pro tour golf can be like if the event isn’t staged by the PGA Tour. It’s different, to be sure.

Last year’s Chicago stop was won by Australian Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson’s 4Aces won the team title.  Team play is a major attraction in LIV events and sets the circuit apart from the PGA Tour as much as its shotgun starts, 54-hole events and 48-player fields.  The circuit’s battle cry is “Golf is Louder Here.’’ That says it all.

The same cast of players is expected at Rich Harvest in three weeks, but Johnson — the star of last year’s inaugural season – isn’t the top dog this time.  He’s down in eighth place individually with Smith, the winner in the last tournament in Bedminster, N.J., and Talor Gooch battling for the top spot this time around.

Brooks Koepka, named to the U.S. Ryder Cup team last week, is fourth in the LIV individual standings with Bryson DeChambeau, who shot spectacular scores of 61-58 on the weekend to win at West Virginia’s Greebriar two weeks ago, is seventh. LIV fields may be small, but the talent is there.

Johnson has Patrick Reed, a former Masters champion; Pat Perez and Peter Uihlein on his 4Aces – the team winner last season and front-runner so far in this one. After Rich Harvest the circuit competes Oct. 13-15 in Saudi Arabia and Oct. 20-22 at Trump National in Florida.

Beyond the golf side attractions at Rich Harvest include Club 54; the Birdie Shack on the 16th hole and “watering hole’’ at No. 17. There’ll be concerts in the Fan Village after play on Saturday and Sunday.  Three-time Grammy winner Nelly will perform on Saturday and Grammy-nominated Tiesto on Sunday. The Bulls’ Ray Clay will handle announcing duties on the course. For details check www.

DONALD’S DILEMMA:  Captain Luke Donald learned who half of his European team will be in this month’s Ryder Cup in Italy.  Europe’s six automatic berths were finalized when the Omega European Masters concluded in Switzerland on Sunday.  Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Tyrell Hatton had berths assured before the tournament and Scotland’s Robert McIntyre and Matt Fitzpatrick, a former U.S. Open champion who briefly attended Northwestern, landed the other two in Switzerland.

Fitzpatrick, who tied for third in the European Masters, got the last automatic berth off the point standings when  Tommy Fleetwood chose not to compete in Switzerland. Fleetwood will most certainly be one of Donald’s six captain’s picks with Justin Rose, Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka also likely to be chosen.

One of the other two captain’s picks could go to Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg, who won the European Masters.  He turned pro after completing his college career at Texas Tech.  Prior to that his best finish as a pro was a tie for fourth at the John Deere Classic.

HERE AND THERE:  In a departure from past years the Illinois PGA named only one honoree at its annual Senior Masters event at Onwentsia, in Lake Forest, last week.  Dave Erickson, head professional at St. Andrews in West Chicago for 32 years and a Jemsek Golf employee for 53 years, was the winner. In previous years there were two honorees selected.

St. Charles’ Roy Biancalana won the 13th playing of the Illinois Super Seniors Open at Pine Meadow, in Mundelein.  Biancalana, topping the tourney’s record-high field of 111 players, became the event’s first three-time winner.

Cog Hill, in Palos Height, has altered the name of one of its teaching programs.  The Embarrassment Golf Schools now will honor the late Phil Kosin, a recently-named Illinois Golf Hall of Famer who created the Illinois Women’s Open and Chicagoland Golf newspaper.


Donald has the tougher job in Ryder Cup selections

The Tour Championship was supposed to be a climax to the PGA Tour season.  Not so this year, though Sunday’s duel between Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele  in Atlanta would normally suffice.

Hovland’s wins in the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields and Sunday’s in Atlanta the last two weeks will be hard to forget, but now the pressure shifts to Luke Donald.  The legendary star for Northwestern two decades ago is Europe’s captain in the Ryder Cup matches, which will be played in Italy Sept. 29-Oct. 1.

Ryder Cups are always popular but this one is different.  The emergence of the LIV Tour has taken some usual performers off both teams.  The U.S. is coming off its biggest win ever, a 19-9 whomping two years ago at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits, but the Americans haven’t won in Europe since 1993. That puts Donald on the spot.

U.S. captain Zach Johnson knows who half of his 12-man team will be.  Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Brian Harman, Patrick Cantlay, Max Homa and Schauffele made the team off the point standings that concluded after The Tour Championship.

Johnson will make his six captain’s picks official on Tuesday (TODAY) in Texas but they shouldn’t be difficult.  Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley and perhaps Sam Burns or Collin Morikawa seem likely. If not two LIV Tour possibilities – Brooks  Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau – are available with Koepka the better choice of those two.  And Justin Thomas, who has played well in the matches before but didn’t qualify for this year’s FedEx Playoffs, could be a controversial pick.

It’s not so clearcut for Donald. Europe’s selection system is different.  Donald gets the top three from the Official World Golf Rankings – they’re assured with Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Hovland – and the top three on the DP World Tour standings that be finalized after the Omega European Masters, which tees off on Friday ends on Sept. 3. Matt Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton or Justin Rose could come off the point list.

Between the European point list and captain’s picks Donald has a wide range of other candidates but LIV players won’t likely be considered.  That means Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter, European stalwarts for years, won’t be on the team.

Those who could include Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, Austria’s Sepp Straka, Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg and Alex Noren, Poland’s Adrian Meronk, Ireland’s Seamus Power and Shane Lowry and Denmark’s Thorbjorn Oleson.

Needless to say, Donald will send out a much different team than Europe has put  out in the past. He names his six captain’s picks on Sept. 4, and the uncertainty is wearing on him. Donald missed the cut playing in the Czech Masters last week after having trouble sleeping on the flight across the pond.

“I’m not sure if it was jet lag, or lots of things building up,’’ said Donald.  “I was up a couple of hours in the night with lots of things whirling through my head. It’s becoming more and more as the week gets closer.  There’s a lot of things to digest.’’

Both captains will take their teams to Marco Simone Country Club, near Rome, for scouting trips in September.  U.S. players won’t have other competitions to consider next month, but the Europeans will.  Their BMW PGA Championship in England will follow Donald’s scheduled practice round at Marco Simone on Sept. 11 and the French Open is Sept. 21-24.

SENIOR MOMENT:  Nicole Jeray, a teaching pro at Mistwood in Romeoville and coach at Nazareth Academy,  was in the spotlight for three rounds at last week’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Waverly, in Oregon.

A 12-year player on the LPGA Tour, Jeray covered the first 54 holes in 72-71-72.  She was solo second after 36 holes and fifth after 54, a stretch in which she led legendary Annika Sorenstam among others.  The three-day run earned Jeray considerable TV time and even surprised herself.

“I work a lot and my game was really not prepared for this event,’’ she said when media approached.  “It’s crazy I’m playing so good.’’

The magic disappeared in Sunday’s final round, however, as Jeray shot an 83 and finished in a tie for 22nd place.  Jamie Fischer, a teaching pro at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, tied for 35th in the national championship for women who have reached their 50th birthday.  The event was first held at Chicago Golf Club in 2018 and drew players from 11 countries this year. Scotland’s Trish Johnson won the title.

HERE AND THERE: Will Hickey, who moved from Minnesota to Burr Ridge in early August, won the 31st Illinois State Mid-Amateur last week at Biltmore, in North Barrington.

The Illinois PGA’s Super Senior Open concludes its two-day run on Wednesday (AUG 30) at Pine Meadow, in Mundelein.

Edgewood Valley, in Burr Ridge, has begun  work on  an $18 million renovation of its clubhouse.  The original one was built in 1926 and the new version, to be completed by July 1, 2024, will be 10,000 square feet bigger than the old one.

Royal Melbourne, in Long Grove, has added two pickleball courts to its racquet sports complex, which includes four clay court tennis courts.  Four heated paddle tennis courts will be added before the year is out.