New additions open at Poplar Creek, Fox Run courses

The Bridges of Poplar Creek has opened its new covered and heated practice area.

While most area golf courses are in the process of closing for the season, a couple are just kicking into high gear thanks to the completion of some major construction work.

The Bridges of Poplar Creek, an 18-holer in Hoffman Estates, has opened its new Toptracer Range. It features 10 covered, heated hitting bays. While a Grand Opening won’t be held until March director of golf Brian Bechtold has set a six-day-a-week operating schedule.

It’ll be open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.  Fee is $25 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, $40 per hour Wednesdays and Fridays and $50 per hour on Saturdays and Sundays.  A maximum of six golfers per bay is permitted. Reservations can be made seven days in advance and food and beverage service is available.

The 140-foot long facility, built at a cost of $750,000, is a Hoffman Estates Park District property.  It has two sets of heaters and was built adjacent to the first tee and driving range.

Bechtold said the original target date for opening the facility was in June but it had to be continually pushed back for a variety pandemic-related issues.

Fox Run, an 18-hole facility in Elk Grove, opens its new sports bar on Friday, Dec. 17.  It has a full service restaurant, 22 televisions and three simulators with fees of $45 on weekends and $40 on weekdays.

JOHN DEERE CLASSIC – Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour event was moved up a week on the circuit’s 2022 calendar to June 27 through July 3, making it opposite the Fourth of  July Weekend, and that’s not all.

In recent years the JDC chartered a jet to take its players directly to the following week’s British Open. The earlier spot in the schedule makes that unnecessary, as players will have more time to get to the year’s final major championship, but more will have the opportunity to play in the British next year by doing well at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis.

The top JDC finisher among the top five finishers not previously qualified for the British Open were given a spot in the field in previous years.  In 2022 that opportunity will be awarded to three players from the top 10. No such exemptions were offered in 2021 due to pandemic concerns but Jordan Spieth (2013) and Bryson DeChambeau (2017) with recipients in the past.

JDC executive director Clair Peterson also announced the charity payoff from last year’s 50th anniversary playing of the tournament.  It raised $12,568,038 for 470 local charities in the Quad Cities area.

CDGA – Chicago golf organizing groups rarely announce the following year’s event schedule until the spring, but the Chicago District Golf Association broke with tradition and unveiled an 86-event schedule complete with the sites  for 2022.  There are 55 on the championship slate and 31 on the social side.

Key dates and sites are July 19-21 for the 91st Illinois State Amateur, to be played at Westmoreland in Wilmette, and June 27-30 for the 102nd Chicago District Amateur, to be played at Glen Flora in Waukegan.

The CDGA is also coming out with a commemorative yardage book, this one a coffee table version produced by PuttView Books of Delaware, listing its Dream Eighteen holes. Olympia Fields, with its Nos. 2 and 6 chosen, is the only course with more than one hole honored in the voting by CDGA members.

HERE AND THERE: The Eskimo Open, the annual cold weather tournament for golf diehards, is coming up on Jan. 2 at Cog Hill, in Palos Park….Tony Anderson, a Chicago Golf Club member, has been nominated for a second three-year term on the U.S. Golf Association’s Executive Board.  The election is Feb. 19 at the USGA’s annual meeting in California….Tristyn Nowlin, a stalwart on the University of Illinois women’s teams and the reigning Illinois Women’s Open champion, missed getting her LPGA playing privileges by two strokes in last week’s finals of the circuit’s qualifying tournament in Dothan, Ala….Inverness Golf Club is getting a grounds makeover with the addition of resort-like facilities. Paddle and pickleball courts, indoor golf simulators, a sports par and casual dining room are under construction at the private club….Eagle Ridge Resort, in Galena, is in the process of moving its Stonedrift Spa – located in the clubhouse for nearly 20 years – to a stand-alone location.  The move will increase the spa’s size from 3,500 square feet to over 8,000 and Abi Porter, formerly of Elms Hotel in Missouri, will manage the new facility.









Olympia Fields will host another BMW Championship in 2023

The PGA Tour’s 2021 season concluded on Sunday, but the circuit – along with the Western Golf Association – made an announcement on Monday that will have a huge effect on the Chicago golf community for years to come.

After a two-year absence the PGA Tour will be back in the Chicago area in 2023 with Olympia Fields named as the site for another playing of the BMW Championship.

And that’s not all. The announcement also included a five-year extension of the BMW Championship as the second event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs through 2027. That waylays any fears that the tour’s season-ending playoff series might be headed to a major revampment.

The FedEx Cup Playoffs were launched in 2007 and Chicago was part of it after the WGA agreed to discontinue the Western Open, a tournament first played in 1899 and a Chicago fixture since 1962. BMW took over sponsorship of the event then.

While the WGA considers the BMW Championship an extension of the tradition-rich Western, there are major differences in format and venue choice.  The Western was a full-field event, the BMW is limited to the top 70 players on the FedEx Cup point standings.  While the Western was a Chicago fixture, the WGA has taken the tournament out of town frequently.  It was played at Cave’s Valley, in Maryland, this year and will be played at Wilmington Country Club, in Delaware. The sites after 2023 have not been announced.

Those changes have been very beneficial to the WGA, which uses proceeds to benefit its Evans Scholars Foundation.  The Foundation has provided college scholarships for caddies since 1930.  Over the past 15 years the BMW Championship has raised more than $40 million on behalf of the Evans Scholars and that has helped send more than 3,000 students to college.  This academic year a record 1,070 caddies are attending 21 schools on Evans Scholarships.

The North Course at Olympia Fields was the last Chicago site for the tournament in 2020. That staging produced one of the most memorable playings of the BMW Championship, though it went on without fans due to pandemic concerns.  It ended with a one-hole playoff that was decided when Jon Rahm beat Dustin Johnson by sinking a 66-foot putt.

Olympia had a rich tournament history long before Rahm’s putt dropped.  Professional champions crowned there in one big tournament or another were Jock Hutchison (1920), Walter Hagen (1927), Macdonald Smith (1933), Jack Nicklaus (1968), Bruce Crampton (1971) and Jim Furyk (2003).  Current star Bryson DeChambeau also won the 2015 U.S. Amateur there and Danielle Kang captured the 2017 Women’s PGA Championship at the south suburban layout.

The BMW has also been an organizational success.  It has been named the PGA Tour’s Tournament of the Year four times (2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014).

“BMW has been our valued partner and a steadfast supporter of both our championships and the Evans Scholars Foundation,’’ said John Kazkowki, the WGA president and chief executive officer.  “As title sponsor BMW has fully embraced our mission, helping us transform the Evans Scholars Foundation into a truly national program.  We’re excited and grateful for the opportunity to continue working together to change the lives of you caddies nationwide.’’

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan also credited BMW for its role in the FedEx Cup Playoff series.

“BMW’s commitment to presenting a best-in-class event each year continues to elevate the Playoffs,’’ said Monahan.






Jin Young Ko’s epic win caps off a big week for the LPGA


No doubt about it: Korea’s Jin Young Ko is the best player on the LPGA tour in 2021.

NAPLES, FL. – The PGA and LPGA tours concluded their 2021 seasons on Sunday, and the women went out with a bigger bang than the men.

The PGA Tour reached its high point a couple months ago with the staging of the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the Ryder Cup. Those were tough acts for the remaining tournaments to follow. On the other hand, the LPGA took the more traditional route. The biggest event was the last one.

Korea’s Jin Young Ko won that big event for the second straight year, but her win was much different than the one in 2020, when the tourney was played without fans because of pandemic concerns.

Ko started the final round in a four-way tie for the lead with American Nelly Korda, Japan’s Nasa Hataoka and France’s Celine Boutier.  Ko fired a 63 to edge Hataoka by one stroke.  Korda, the other member of the final threesome, wound up in a tie for fifth place.  Boutier, who played in the next-to-the-last threesome, tied for third.

A left wrist injury bothered Ko since May and she considered withdrawing in the days leading into the tournament, but she was awesome in the last event of the season.  She reached the green in regulation in her last 63 holes.

“I didn’t practice much,’’ said Ko, “but I played really well.  The whole week was amazing.’’

“She made everything,’’ said Korda.  “I just stood back and watched her all day.’’

In addition to winning the Race to the CME Globe Ko also overtook Korda for the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year Award.The Race to the CME Globe has brought together the LPGA’s top players for that calendar year since 2011.  This year’s had 60 players chasing a $5 million purse and Ko received a record $1.5 million.

As a footnote, Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol became the first Chicago area golfer to even qualify for the LPGA’s biggest event.  She shot her best round of the week — a 69 — on Sunday and tied for 51st place.

In a sense, however, the biggest news of the week came before the first ball was struck at Tiburon Golf Club.  Mollie Marcoux Samaan, who replaced Mike Whan as the LPGA commissioner four months ago, had taken a low-key approach to her new role until the CME’s pre-tournament banquet.

Samaan had been athletic director at Princeton when Whan was finishing up his successful 11-year stint with the LPGA.  Whan became the executive director of the U.S. Golf Association when Samaan started tackling LPGA issues, and she finally shed some light on where she’ll be taking the women’s circuit. It looks like it’ll be to a better place.

In 2021 the LPGA purses totaled $67.5 million, with the $5 million at the CME event topping the list. Last week’s tournament announcement revealed a season boost in purses to $85.7 million for 2022.  Nine of the 34 tournaments boosted their purses, most notably the CME.  Its purse will climb to $7 million with the first prize boosted to $2 million.

“This is our time,’’ said Samaan.  “Momentum is with us.  There’s even more growth to come in so many different areas.’’

For now, though, those who want to watch the pro golf tours will have to endure at least a six-week waiting period.  The PGA and LPGA will hold their Tournament of Champions in January. The PGA, as well as PGA Tour Champions, will hold theirs in Hawaii.  The PGA version is at Kapalua Jan. 3-9 and the Champions will tee it up at Hualalai Jan. 17-22.

The women’s version will be slightly later and at a new site.  It’ll move to Lake Nona, in Florida, with dates of Jan. 20-23.  The first three events on the LPGA’s 2022 schedule will be in the Sunshine State.



Szokol makes it into the LPGA’s most lucrative tournament

The golf season has a series of climax events these days. The PGA Tour had its season climax in either September, when the FedEx Cup Playoffs concluded, or October, when the Ryder Cup ended. Take your pick.

PGA Tour Champions concluded its season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs last Sunday when Phil Mickelson won the last tournament and Bernhard Langer captured the series title  for the sixth time.

That leaves only  the last of the “climax’’ events – this week’s CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, FL.  With a $5 million purse and $1.5 first-place prize, it’s the biggest money event in the history of women’s golf and Elizabeth Szokol, the Chicago area’s only LPGA player, will be right in the thick of it.

Szokol, 27, qualified for the event for the first time.  Created in 2011, it’s limited to the top 60 players and ties in a season-long point race.  Szokol, in only her second LPGA season, missed the cut in last week’s regular season finale – the Pelican Championship — but it didn’t keep her out of the big-money wrapup to the season. She was a comfortable 44th in the standings going into Pelican and safely into the Naples shootout that begins on Thursday at Tiburon Golf Club’s Gold Course.

Chicago golfers have found it tough to break into the LPGA over the last three decades. Other than Szokol the only one to do it was Berwyn’s Nicole Jeray, who starred at Northern Illinois before spending a long career on the LPGA and its satellite tour.

Jeray, though still competing on the LPGA’s Legends Tour for senior members, has taken on a heavy teaching load at Mistwood, in Romeoville.  Szokol’s road to the LPGA was similar.  She was a high school star at New Trier, then spent two seasons at Northwestern before concluding her collegiate career at Virginia.

She turned pro in 2017, won an event in her second year on the LPGA’s Symetra Tour and gained LPGA membership in 2018 with four top-10 finishes in her last five starts. Her rookie LPGA season in 2019 was somewhat of a struggle but she improved in 2020, making seven cuts in 14 starts and earning $110,873.

The improvement was much more dramatic this year when she had three top-10s in 21 starts, the last coming in October – a third-place finish in the $3 million Founders Cup in New Jersey.  It earned her a $198,627 paycheck, a big factor in the $515,640 she has earned for the season.  That figure could grow in a hurry, given the money on the line this week for the LPGA’s best players.

While Szokol’s missed cut last week was a disappointment, her time spent at Pelican – a Donald Ross design that opened in 1925 – may have played a positive part in her strong 2021 showing.  Szokol had her best finish (11th) of 2020 in the Pelican.  It was a new event then and was played without spectators because of pandemic concerns. This year she is spending more time at the Pelican club because her swing coach, Justin Sheehan, is the director of golf there.


HERE AND THERE: Michael Feagles, a stalwart on the University of Illinois teams the last four years, is guaranteed 12 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2022 thanks to his tie for fifth place finish in the final stage of the circuit’s qualifying competition.  The Illinois Open champions of the last two years, Bryce Emory and Tee-K Kelly, aren’t guaranteed any starts but do have conditional status on the circuit for next season because they made it through all three stages of qualifying….The Illinois PGA had three of its members qualify for last week’s PGA Assistants Championship in Florida but only Kevin Flack, of Mauh-Nah-Tee-See in Rockford, qualified for all 72 holes.  He tied for 42nd…..All the Chicago area gang – Kevin Streelman, Luke Donald, Doug Ghim, Nick Hardy and Dylan Wu – will play in the last full field PGA Tour event of the year, this week’s RSM Classic in Sea Island, Ga…..Bernhard Langer will have knee surgery in Germany this week and won’t hit aa golf ball for at least six weeks.  The 64-year old star still plans to be a full-time player on the Champions Tour in 2022, however.









Flavin claims first PGA Tour check — almost $100,000 — with his Dad on bag

Monday qualifiers are a way of life for Patrick Flaviin, the budding golf touring pro from Highwood.

One of only two players to win both the Illinois State Amateur and Illinois Open in the same year, Flavin estimates he’s played in 30 such nail-biting rounds in hopes of getting into tournaments on either the PGA Tour or the Korn Ferry Tour, its developmental circuit. Never have his efforts paid off as handsomely they did last week’s in Bermuda.

The 18-hole session to determine four qualifiers for the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, a PGA Tour stop, was held a full week early because of pandemic-related protocols related to travel.  Many players skipped the qualifier and even the tournament proper because of difficulties in inherent in getting to Bermuda.

Flavin, though, finished third in the early qualifier – only the second time he earned a spot in a PGA Tour stop. (He qualified for the Waste Management Open last year  in Phoenix but didn’t survive the 36-hole cut).

After qualifying in Bermuda his father Mark gave him a further boost by volunteering to be his caddie. They made a great team.

In the first three rounds Flavin shot 69-66-68.  After eight holes on Saturday Flavin was tied for the lead – the first time that has happened on the PGA Tour.  A 72 on Sunday dropped him into a tie for 17th place but the 9-under-par performance for the week earned him $99, 125. That’s more than three times the size of his previous biggest check, $30,000 for a victory on the PGA Latinoamerica Tour.

Mark Flavin has caddied for his son only occasionally. He was on a road trip on the West Coast when he learned that Patrick had survived the Monday qualifier in Bermuda. He immediately drove back to Chicago, then caught a flight to Bermuda.  Word of the father-son hookup spread among the gallery at Bermuda.

“It was awesome. I felt a ton of support all week,’’ said Flavin.  “The whole week changed my perception of my game.  Now I’ll try to get more sponsor exemptions, and that could change my career.’’

A solid college player at Miami of Ohio,  Flavin’s stock soared when he won the Illinois Amateur and Open in 2017, a feat pulled off only once previously – by former PGA Tour journeyman David Ogrin 37 years earlier.

After turning pro the following year Flavin won on the Latinoamerica circuit and earned membership on the Forme Tour, a temporary substitute for the Canadian circuit. Last year his fifth-place in the Evans Scholars Invitational at The Glen Club, in Glenview, gave him temporary membership on the Korn Ferry circuit. He had hoped to earn full-time status for 2022 but didn’t survive the second stage of qualifying in Tampa, FL., a week before the trip to Bermuda.

“That was a huge bummer, but I’m proud of the bounce-back,’’ he said. “I just never got it going (in Tampa), and that was pretty devastating, but I handled it well.’’

Now he’ll be a travelin’ man who may not know where he’s going from one week to the next. Flavin is a member of the Latinoamerica and Canadian circuits but will squeeze in as many PGA and Korn Ferry qualifiers as he can.  The next one is next Monday, for the PGA’s Houston Open.

“I’ve got a lot of places to play, for sure,’’ said Flavin, who is spending this week in Phoenix before heading to Houston. In December he’ll play in Latinoamerica tournaments in Argentina and Chile.  Then, who knows?

Small, Biancalana will play in a golf major in 2022

Mike Small considers himself a golf coach first and a player second,  but he proved again how good a player he can be in qualifying for another major championship last week — this one of the senior variety.

The University of Illinois men’s coach was free to compete after his Illiini concluded the 2021 portion of their season with a strong runner-up finish in the Isleworth Invitational in Florida, an event that saw Illini sophomore Piercen Hunt win the individual title.  Only No. 3-ranked Arizona State could beat the improving Illini at Isleworth

A  few days later Small and eight Illinois PGA members competed in the 33rd Senior PGA Professional Championship in Port St. Lucie, FL, a competition that sends the top 35 to the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores, in  Benton Harbor, Mich., next May.

Small finished solo third, one shot out of a playoff, when the 72-hole event wrapped up on Sunday and Roy Biancalana, teaching pro at Blackberry Oaks in Bristol, tied for 29th so the IPGA will have two of its best players in the national event next spring.

Tour Edge rewarded

Batavia-based club manufacturer Tour Edge has raised its profile by signing top players on PGA Tour Champions the last few years, but that payoff reached new heights on Sunday when Bernhard Langer became the oldest player to win on the 50-and-and-over circuit.

Langer, who joined the Tour Edge staff this year, won the Dominican Energy Classic in Richmond, Va., at age 64. It was his 42nd Champions Tour victory but first since March of 2000. The win came in the first of the Champions Tour’s three season-ending playoff series events. The second is next week — the TimberTech Championshiip  in Langer’s hometown of Boca Raton, FL.

Two other Tour Edge players, Tim Petrovic and Ken Duke, also finished in the top five at the first playoff event. The series ends with the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in November.


HERE AND THERE: Arlington Heights’ Doug Ghim, a rookie on the PGA Tour in the 2020-21 season, earned a spot in the 78-player Zozo Championship in Japan last week and tied for 66th place after a disappointing 74-73 finish on the weekend….Northbrook’s Nick Hardy, who earned $86,000 for making the cut in his first two events as a PGA Tour member, returns to action in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship this week.  Luke Donald and Northwestern alum Dylan Wu are also  in the field….The Illinois Open champions of the last two years, Aurora’s Bryce Emory and Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly, have reached the final stage of the Korn Ferry Tour qualifying.  The finals are Nov. 4-7 in Savannah Ga. , and Illinois alum Michael Feagles will also be in the field….A staff shakeup at the John Deere Classic has tournament director Clair Peterson moving up to executive director and Andrew Lehman assuming the tournament director’s role. Lehman had been the assistant tournament director….The Chicago District Golf Assn. has named Nick Tenuda, of Mount Prospect, as its Player of the Year and Frankfort’s Mark Small as Senior Player of the Year.


Pinns heads latest Illinois Golf Hall of Fame induction class

Gary Pinns is probably best known in Illinois golf circles for winning the Illinois Open five times.  No one else has done that.

Pinns has done much more than that, howeve3r. He gave the PGA Tour a four-year shot before making an instantly successful transition into teaching. He’s been doing that as director of instruction  at Oak Brook Golf Club for 31 years and has won numerous awards for his teaching prowess.

For those reasons he will be among six inductees into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame during ceremonies at The Glen Club, in Glenview, on Friday.

The Hall of Fame inducts new members every two years, and Pinns will   joined by one other teaching pro, Dr. Jim Suttie. Suttie’s pupils include PGA Tour players Paul Azinger, Chip Beck, Jeff Sluman, Kevin Streelman and Mark Wilson.

Other inductees, all deceased, include Phil Kosin, creator of Chicagoland Golf magazine and radio show as well as the Illinois Women’s Open; Bessie Anthony, the state’s first great women’s player in a career that was highlighted by a title in the 1903 U.S. Women’s Amateur; Mason Phelps, an Olympic champion and two-time Western Amateur winner more than a century ago; and Herbert James Tweedie, a pioneer architect who designed 21 Chicago area courses in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Pinns’ career is one that stretches through all phases of the sport. A Wheaton resident now, he won the Illinois high school title for Glenbard East in 1974, then was a two-year captain at Wake Forest on teams that featured eventual PGA Tour members Gary Hallberg, Scott Hoch and Robert Wrenn.

First of the Illinois Open wins came at age 19 in 1978 at Elgin Country Club.

“My last tee shot went right and hit a tree,’’ recalled Pinns.  “The ball came back in the fairway, and I won. Once you win one time you think you can win again.’’

He dd – again and again and again and again. Pinns  picked up three more titles in the 1980s and the final, most dramatic one on his long-time home course at Village Links of Glen Ellyn in 1990. That one led him to enter qualifying for the Ben Hogan Tour – one of the predecessors of what is now the Korn Ferry Tour. From the developmental tour Pinns went on to the PGA circuit.

“I probably played in 75 tour events and made the cut in 30 of them,’’ he said.  The highlight was his lone top-10 finish at the now defunct Greater Milwaukee Open. Eventually, at age 33, the realities of the real world set in. Married with two children by then, Pinns needed another means of support and teaching was it.  His brother Doug has long been a teaching pro at Village Links.

“I got busy right away in the first month  because my name was known,’’ said Pinns.  “I needed it to happen then, and it’s turned out that teaching has been a better life than tour life. It’s been very satisfying, and  I ‘ve been very fortunate.’’

He now has three adult children and has been working 60-hour weeks during this busy summer for recreational golfers. Tournaments are a thing of the past.

“I lost interest in competition because I couldn’t work at it,’’ said Pinns, who believes his record five Illinois Open titles will withstand the tests of time.  Mike Small the University of Illinois men’s coach, has won the Illinois PGA Championship 13 times and is Pinns’ only challenger since he stopped playing. Small won four Illinois Opens but is now playing mainly in the senior ranks.

“My record won’t be broken,’’ predicted Pinns.“It’s harder now because there’s a lot of good players. When I was working at it I had just a few good club pros to beat.’’


WWGA honors Fullmer

Sandra Fullmer, an Illinois Golf Hall of Fame inductee in 1997, will add the coveted Woman of Distinction Award from the Women’s Western Golf Association on Thursday at Lake Shore Country Club in Glencoe.

Fullmer had an outstanding playing career, winning four Mexican Amateur titles as well as the Spanish and German amateur crows in 1959 before moving to Chicago.  She kept winning here,  claiming four Chicago Women’s District titles, three Northern Illinois Women’s titles and five Illinois State Senior crowns as well as the National Club Championship for Women in 1991.

She’s also been a long-time WWGA board member and a past president of the organization that has been a leading organizer of women’s events since 1899.


HERE AND THERE: The Chicago District Golf Assn. championship season concludes on Thursday with the end of the four-day Amateur Senior Four-Ball at Ravinia Green in Riverwoods….The leading assistant professionals from Illinois and Wisconsin will collide in a four- ball match play competition  on Friday at Strawberry Creek, in Kenosha…..White Eagle Country Club, in Naperville,  has announced plans for  a $12.5 million upgrade of its facility.  The club, site of the Illinois Open in 2020, will be the site of the Mid-American Conference tournament next April.


U.S. dominates in this Ryder Cup

The U.S. enjoyed this Stanley Cup-style end to the 43rd Ryder Cup.

HAVEN, Wis.—The longstanding U.S. frustrations in the Ryder Cup are over.  After losing to Europe in four of the previous five meetings and seven of the last nine captain Steve Stricker found a combination of young  players who dominated the 43rd staging of golf’s premier team event at Whistling Straits.

In fact, this American team dominated like no other.  The 19-9 victory was underscored by the fact that the American side set the modern day point record. The winning 1981 U.S. team had 18 ½ in its victory at Walton Heath in England.

“It sure feels like this is the start of a new era,’’ said Stricker, who used a roster that included six first-time Ryder Cup players.  “The Ryder Cup means a lot to everybody, and this is the greatest team of all time.  These guys are unbelievable. They  came in with a lot of fire, had a mission and did it.’’

Stricker has been an emotional leader.  He has been a vice captain of the U.S. side since he stopped playing on the team and also captained the President’s Cup team. Winning the Ryder Cup, especially in his native Wisconsin,  was a well-deserved reward for one of America’s most popular golfers

“You’re trying to make me cry, aren’t you?’’ said Stricker, who played collegiately for the University of Illinois.  “This is very special.  I never won a major, but this is my major right here. ‘’

After building up an 11-5 lead in two days of foursome and four-ball matches the U.S. made quick work of reclaiming the Ryder Cup.  The clincher came when Ryder Cup rookie Collin Morikawa holed a four-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole to assure the Americans had the necessary 14 1/2 points to win.

The U.S. side had a well-deserved celebration after years of waiting.

In a battle of the game’s brightest young stars Morikawa had a spirted duel with  Norway’s Viktor Hovland in the fifth of the 12 singles matches. Their match ended in a tie with seven matches left on the course but the tension remained with the point record on the line.

The U.S. team, had much more lofty goals than just winning the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2016.  Haunted by the Europeans’ domination of the event, U.S. players wanted a one-sided win. They needed. That was a possibility after Europe’s Rory McIlroy won the first match of the day.  At that point 11 matches were on the course and the U.S. led in nine.

In 1979 the Ryder Cup format switched to allow a team from all of Europe instead of just Great Britain and Ireland.  Two years later the U.S. team piled up 18 ½ points  at Walton Heath.   Such American successes were few and far between after that, the most painful defeat coming at Medinah in 2012 when they fizzled in singles after going in with a 10-6 lead.

This time singles success came in abundance.  Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger were winners and Morikawa and Jordan Spieth tied in their matches to get the record point total.

The celebration is on, as the U.S. completes a record Ryder Cup win.

The Europeans took the loss hard.  McIlroy and Ian Poulter, for years the mainstays on the European team, were in tears even though both scored their only points of this year’s Ryder Cup on Sunday.

While the U.S. win was an obvious team effort, there were special performances.  Johnson, at 37 the oldest American player, won all five of his matches.  In 2019  Scheffler won the Evans Scholars Invitational, a Korn Ferry Tour event held at The Glen Club in Glenview.  That helped him advance to the PGA Tour and on Sunday he was the man of the hour at the Ryder Cup, beating world No. 1 Jon Rahm.

“I got off to a nice start – five birdies in the first six holes –and kept the pressure on him the whole day.  I was super happy seeing a lot of red on the scoreboard,’’ said Scheffler.

Rahm took the loss in stride, but downplayed the magnitude of it.

“It not what any of us wanted,’’ said Rahm.  “We all tried our hardest and just got beat. You lose by a half-point or by 10, it doesn’t matter.’’

Cantllay, another of the U.S. rookies, won the FedEx Cup two weeks ago and kept the momentum going at Whistling Straits.  His win over Shane Lowry started Sunday’s 7-0-2 run in the singles matches.

“I wanted to send a message,’’ said Cantlay.  “We sent out four rookies in the first five matches.  That’s unheard of.  We’re young, but most of us have  played together since we were teen-agers.’’

Obviously the future of American golf is bright. They’re already looking ahead to the next Ryder Cup, in Italy in 2023.

Not all the spectators at the 43rd Ryder Cup were on the grounds at Whistling Straits.







Could this be the day the U.S. reclaims the Ryder Cup?

HAVEN, Wis. – If it wasn’t for a nightmarish day nine years ago the United States golfers and their supporters would already be in a celebratory mood at Whistling Straits. The U.S. went 3-1 in Saturday’s morning foursome matches for the third straight session to open a 9-3 lead.

The Europeans had their best session of the week in the afternoon four-ball, winning two of the matches, but the U.S. will have an 11-5 lead  going into Sunday’s concluding 12 singles matches

Europe will need to go 9-3 in singles to retain the Ryder Cup, which might seem insurmountable were it not for the haunting memory of the “Meltdown at Medinah’’ In 2012. The U.S. had a 10-6 lead after the two days of foursome and four-ball competition that year but fizzled in singles and left with a stunning defeat that’s hard to forget.

Michael Jordan, the basketball legend and golfing addict, showed up for his 12th Ryder Cup this week. and he hasn’t forgotten.  Jordan  hasn’t been as active with this Ryder Cup team, but he isn’t ready to celebrate just year.

“I m a little nervous,’’ he said. “I was there when it was 10-6 at Medinah and things changed in a moment.’’

They certainly did. The U.S. has lost four of the last five and seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, but none of the defeats was more painful than that one

On the brighter side this Ryder Cup might go down as the “Whipping at Whistling’’ based on the U.S. domination the last two days, but that’s not a done deal yet..

With six rookies on this American side captain Steve Stricker, a player on the losing side at Medinah, had a radically different roster than the teams that have been dominated by the Europeans in recent years. Despite the comfortable lead, Stricker is warning his players about relaxing too much.

“We want to just keep building on the lead,’’ he said. “We’ve got them down a little bit, and our goal is to continue that, and continue that momentum.’’

Immediately after Stricker’s warning the American players were openly celebrating.  Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger chugged beers and doubled as cheerleaders to the delight of the loud partisan gallery surrounding the first tee before the start of the final afternoon session of the competition.

“I don’t think any of us really expect anything,’’ said Thomas.  We just expect to go out and play well. We are all good friends and know each other’s games.’’

“Other than a couple of us we have known each other since high school, or even grade school,’’ said Jordan Spieth.  “We are having a blast off the course, and that’s feeding into the lightness in our rounds.’’

Stricker has his players in position for success on Sunday.  Only Dustin Johnson, at 37 the oldest player on the team, played in all four sessions of the foursome and four-ball matches and he won them all. The others had at least one session to rest.

The Europeans, in sharp contrast, are struggling and it showed in captain Padraig Harrington’s match pairings.  He sat Ian Poulter, the ringleader in Europe’s comeback at Medinah, for two consecutive sessions and his partner, Rory McIlroy, didn’t play on Saturday morning. They figured to be mainstays on the European team but neither score a point.

Only the Jon Rahm-Sergio Garcia pairing was a problem for the U.S. team. They won twice on Saturday, and that had historical significance for Garcia.  He notched his 24th and 25th victories in Ryder Cup play. Garcia started the day tied for the most wins with Nick Faldo at 23 apiece. Rahm is the only European player to compete in every session.











At least there’s hope for the U.S. after great start in Ryder Cup

There couldn’t have been a more perfect day to open the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

HAVEN, Wis. – Beautiful weather greeted the 40,000 spectators when the 43rd Ryder Cup teed off Fridays. So did massive traffic jams on the rural roads that surround Whistling Straits. At the end of the day, though, there was at least hope for the American side that has been dominated by the Europe  in  in the  recent years of this biennial competition.

The U.S. ended day one of the three-day event with a 6-2 lead, the country’s biggest first-day lead in 46 years, but there’s a long way to go.  There’ll be another day on Saturday like Day 1 – four foursome matches in the morning and four four-ball matches in the afternoon.  Then all 12 players on each team will decide the outcome in singles play on Sunday.

Friday was an extraordinary one on a day in which late afternoon winds topped 30 miles per  hour.  In the last Ryder Cup three years ago in Paris the U.S. took a 3-1 lead after the first morning session but the Europeans swept the afternoon matches and went on to a one-sided victory.  This year’s Day 1 was much different.

The high profile Spanish pairing of Jon Rahm. the world’s No. 1-ranked player, and Sergio Garcia, the highest point-scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup, opened the day with a 3 and 1 win over Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.

Europe had won four of the last five Ryder Cups and seven of the last nine , and that start didn’t bode well for the Americans. After that, though, it was a banner day for Team USA.  The U.S. won the last three foursome matches of the morning session and went 2-0-2 in the afternoon four-ball play.

What was particularly notable was the drubbing the U.S. administered to the fearsome Ian Poulter and his partner, Rory McElroy. England’s Poulter became a Ryder Cup legend after his showing at Medinah in 2012.  That year he won all four of his matches in dramatic fashion.

Poulter, with McIlroy as his partner,  birdied the last five holes of a critical four-ball match and then won in singles on the final day when the Europeans pulled off “the Miracle at Medinah’’ or – as the American fans call it — “The Meltdown at Medinah.’’  Europe came from 10-6 down after the two days of team play to pull off the victory with a Poulter-inspired run in singles.“

Despite his 14-6-2 career record in Ryder Cup play and his 5-0-1 mark in singles, the U.S. had no trouble with Poulter on Friday. Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, both playing in their first Ryder Cup matches, won the first five holes – four of them with birdies – and took a 5 and 3 win over Poulter and McIlroy.  Euro captain Padraig Harrington sat Poulter in the afternoon four-ball matches.

“It was a shame, because we actually played quite well,’’ said Poulter.  “It’s not nice to get off to a 5-down start after five.  It’s not easy to come back from that, and they finished the match off.’’

McIlroy was called on to play again in the afternoon and he (along with partner Shane Lowry) were hammered again, this time 4 and 3 by Ryder Cup rookies Tony Finau and Harris English.  Finau and English weren’t part of the morning matches.

A couple oddities:  American Cantlay and Norway’s Viktor Hovland of Europe played most of the day without caps. It could be both feared the wind would blow off their caps in a crucial situation.  Also, for the first time in Ryder Cup history, no pairings from the morning session were brought back intact for the afternoon.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker and Harrington both used their entire roster on Day 1.