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.



Low scores are commonplace when BMW is played in Chicago

Sunday’s rousing finish to the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields was a lot like the wrapup to the tourney’s previous Chicago area staging when fans were allowed through the gates.

Based on the scoring, two of Chicago’s premier private courses didn’t seem so tough for the PGA Tour’s best players then.  Soft conditions took the teeth out of Medinah No. 3 in 2019 when Justin Thomas shot 25-under-par 263 to get the victory, and the birdie-fest that year was likely a consideration when Medinah members approved a $23.5 million renovation of the course.

Olympia Fields hosted the BMW the following year, but without spectators due to pandemic concerns.  The finish that year was still memorable.  Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson had to decide the winner in a playoff.  Johnson made a 44-foot putt on the 18th green to force extra holes, then Rahm outdid him with a 66-footer to win it.

Scoring wasn’t noteworthy that year, as Rahm and Johnson were both 4-under for the regulation 72 holes.  When the tourney returned to Olympia last week champion Viktor Hovland was 17-under and – like Thomas at Medinah – included a record 61 in his road to victory.  Thomas posted his in Round 3, Hovland in the final 18.

As was the case at Medinah, Olympia offered soft conditions for the BMW due to recent rains. Its course record took a beating during the week, as Max Homa and Sam Burns shot 62s — one better than the number posted by Vijay Singh in the 2003 U.S. Open and Rickie Fowler and Thomas Detry in the Fighting Illini college event held there — before Hovland charged in with a 28 on Olympia’s back nine on Sunday.

All those great moments will have to suffice for Chicago golf fans for a while. The BMW might come back to the area, but it’ll take a while.  Last week the Western Golf Association announced that the BMW will be played at Liberty National, in New Jersey, in 2027. It had already been assigned to Castle Pines, in Colorado, in 2024; Cave’s Valley,in Maryland, in 2025; and Bellerive, in St. Louis, in 2026.

So, in a seven-year span from 2021 to 2027, Chicago will have hosted only one PGA Tour tournament, and no sites have been announced after that. Medinah will host the President’s Cup team event in 2026.

SO WHAT’S NEXT?  There’s plenty of golf left in 2023, though the PGA Tour schedule beyond this week’s FedEx Cup finale at The Tour Championship, in Atlanta, hasn’t been announced. This week’s 30-player Tour Championship will include John Deere Classic champion Sepp Straka.  He was informed that he was No. 30 on the qualifying list while waiting in a security line at O’Hare.  His phone died moments later, but he had a peaceful flight to Alabama for a night’s sleep in his bed at home before making the drive to Atlanta on Tuesday.

ANOTHER ILLINOIS player will be on the PGA Tour in the 2024 season. Illinois alum Adrien Dumont de Chassart assured himself a spot with a tie for 11th in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Magnit Championship in New Jersey on Sunday.

“It feels amazing,’’ said the Belgium native who needed just three months to earn his PGA Tour card.“One of my goals was to just keep my card on the Korn Ferry Tour, but that changed a lot in the last month.’’

He won in his Korn Ferry debut, lost in a playoff in his second start and then had four straight top 10 finishes. He’ll play in two DP World Tour events in Europe before returning for the final three tournaments on the Korn Ferry schedule.

The Korn Ferry playoffs start this week with the Boise Open and PGA Tour spots for next season are still up for grabs.  Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger, Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, Deerfield’s Vince India and Illinois alums Brian Campbell and Michael Feagles are all qualifiers for the playoffs.

BIGGEST EVENT left in the Chicago season is the LIV Tour’s next stop, Sept. 22-24 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. By then two LIV members, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, will know if they’ll be on the 12-man U.S. team for the Ryder Cup matches Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 in Italy.

The first six – Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele – earned their spots off point standings that ended with the BMW Championship. Koepka and DeChambeau, as a LIV members, could accumulate Ryder Cup points only in the major championships but were under consideration for the six captain’s picks available to U.S. captain Zach Johnson.

Johnson admitted to being impressed by DeChambeau’s 61-58 weekend rounds in a recent LIV event, but he won’t make his picks official until an Aug. 29 press conference in Frisco, TX.




No Small feat; Illini coach wins 14th IPGA title

Hopefully the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship, which teed off on Thursday at Olympia Fields, won’t have the problems that affected one of the biggest competitions for local players this week.

Mike Small, the men’s coach at the University of Illinois, won the Illinois PGA Professional Championship for the 14th time and became the winningest PGA Professional at a section championship across the PGA of America’s 41 sections nationwide.

His feat came with some unexpected problems, however.  The Illinois PGA was to have a Monday-through-Wednesday run at a new site, Thunderhawk in Zion. Bad weather forced the cancellation of the first round, and that forced the IPGA to reduce the event from the usual 54 holes to 36.

More rain left the course still unplayable on Tuesday morning. Ten of the 103 players entered withdrew, and the rest played in a shotgun start format on Tuesday afternoon. They were able to complete the first round and the event concluded under more normal weather conditions on Wednesday.

Small posted a 66-69 – 135 total, which was 9-under-par and paid $10,000 .  Andy Mickelson, of Mistwood in Romeoville, and Jeff Kellen, of Butler National in Oak Brook, were one shot back in a tie for second.

“It’s fun to compete, it’s fun to come up here and play,’’ said Small, who birdied two of his last three holes to get the win.  “I appreciate the PGA of America and the Illinois Section that provides us the chance to play for some money and a championship.  I don’t get up here a lot during the summer, but this one I refuse to miss.’’

The IPGA had nine qualifying sports for the 2024 PGA Professional Championship in Texas on the line.  Small and fourth-place Chris French of Rockford had both qualified previously and didn’t count against the qualifiers at Thunderhawk.

In addition to Kellen and Mickelson, the other qualifiers for next year’s national tourney were Kyle Donovan, or Oak Park; Matthew Rion, Briarwood; Jim Billiter, Ivanhoe; Chris Green, Glen View; Brian Carroll, The Hawk of St. Charles; John Varner, Beverly, of Chicago; and Steve Orrick, Bloomington.



PGA Tour returns to Olympia Fields but will miss Nick Hardy


The BMW Championship returns to Olympia Fields this week, but without a local hopeful.  University of Illinois alums Nick Hardy and Thomas Detry didn’t survive the first event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, though Hardy made a great run at it.

Hardy was on the bubble for advancement entering the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, ranking No. 50 of 70 starters.  The top 50 after Sunday’s round advanced to Olympia Fields, and Hardy was in the hunt until his par putt on the last hole failed to drop.

A second-year PGA Tour player from Northbrook, Hardy opened Sunday’s round with three birdies, ended the front nine with three bogeys and then made a double bogey at the par-3 eleventh when his tee shot found water. Still, he didn’t give up.

With birdies at Nos. 13, 14 and 17 Hardy moved back into top 50 contention.  His tee shot at the finishing hole couldn’t quite clear a water hazard but his approach put him in position for a par-saving putt that would have kept his hopes alive.

In the end Hardy tied for 49th in the tournament, but dropped from 50th to 52nd in the FedEx standings. He showed the emotions of his near miss in front of microphones as he left the green.

“It definitely stings going to Chicago and not competing,’’ he said.  “It was super tough, because I really wanted to play Chicago (at Olympia Fields).’’

Hardy, 26, had to survive the Korn Ferry Tour Finals last year to retain his card but earned his first PGA Tour victory in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans to highlight a much-improved second season on golf’s premier circuit. He boosted his career earnings over $3.6 million and made the FedEx Playoffs for the first time.

“I know I’m getting better,’’ he said.  “Even though I didn’t make it, I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I came out on the wrong side this time, but I love competing.’’

Detry, who grew up in Belgium and turned pro in 2016 — two years earlier than Hardy, tied for 61st in Memphis.  He started the playoffs in a tie for 52nd and finished 55th. Both relished a return to Olympia Fields, the site of Illinois’ annual big event – the Fighting Illini Invitational.

Lucas Glover will go after his third straight tournament title when the BMW Championship tees off Thursday on Olympia’s North Course.  The 50 players competing there will be whittled to 30 for the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta next week.

NO SMALL FEAT:  Hardy’s college coach at Illinois, Mike Small, is back in playing mode.  Last week he won the Illinois PGA Senior Championship at Merit Club, in Libertyville, for the sixth time and on Monday (AUGUST 14) he began his bid for a 14th Illinois PGA Championship title at Thunderhawk, in Beach Park.

Small, 57, last won the Illinois PGA in 2020 at Medinah No. 1. Last year he lost the title in a playoff to Brian Carroll, of The Hawk in St. Charles, at Makray Memorial, in Barrington.

This week’s 54-hole event concludes on Wednesday. There’ll be a cut to the low 50 and ties after 36 holes.

Between his own tournaments Small announced this year’s Illini schedule and the addition of two fifth-year seniors to his roster.  The season begins on Sept. 9 with a new tournament at Washington’s Sahalee Country Club before the 17th annual Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invitational, which will be played Sept. 15-17 on the same North Course that is the site of this week’s BMW Championship.

Joining the Illini team for this season are Timmy Crawford, who played at Loyola, and Tyler Goecke, who was an undergrad at Wright State. Two Illini returnees – senior Piercen Hunt and junior Jackson Buchanan – are in the field for this week’s U.S. Amateur in Colorado.

HERE AND THERE:  Medinah Country Club has named David Schneider its new general manager and chief operating officer.  He’s had previous stops at Wakonda, in Iowa; Ventana, in Arizona; and Waikoloa, in Hawaii and arrives while Medinah is in the midst of a massive renovation of its famed No. 3 course.

The inaugural Paws for Patrick outing has been scheduled for Sept. 18 at Shoreacres, in Lake Bluff.  Paws for Patrick is dedicated to connecting young people with Emotional Support Animals and Therapy Dogs to aid them as they live with mental illness.

Julie Hovland, who had been a graduate assistant at South Alabama – her college alma mater, is now Renee Slone’s assistant coach on the Illinois women’s team.

John Ramsey, of Glenview Park, and Chadd Slutzky, of Royal Fox in St. Charles, successfully defended their title in the Chicago District Four-Ball Championship at Glen Flora in Waukegan.  Ramsey and Slutzky have now won that event four times.




Hardy will make his debut in a much different FedEx Cup Playoffs


The FedEx Cup Playoffs, which begin on Thursday at TPC Southwind in Tennessee, were designed to give the PGA Tour a grand climax to its season. Changes in the postseason format and  the arrival of the LIV Golf Tour have changed that, however.

In the past the FedEx Playoffs started with 120 players.  This week it’s only 70, and that number doesn’t include LIV players. They’ll be missed, as that batch includes Bryson DeChambeau, who won last week’s event in rousing a fashion – a 61 on Saturday and a record 58 on Sunday; Brooks Koepka, who won the PGA Championship and was runner-up in the Masters; Cameron Smith, the 2022 British Open champion; and Dustin Johnson, the U.S. hero in the last Ryder Cup.

DeChambeau’s stunning performance got him an immediate place on the U.S. Ryder Cup team from captain Zach Johnson, but he’s still out of the playoffs. Established in 2007, they have a $75 million purse this year and the eventual champion will pocket $18 million.

The reduction in field size meant that the popular Justin Thomas won’t be playing, nor with Chicago’s long-time PGA mainstay Kevin Streelman. Both came up short in the season-long point standings. Streelman had been a playoff participant the last 15 years and Johnson and Thomas are past FedEx Cup champions.

Those who did make it, though,  include a couple of young stars, both University of Illinois alums who starred on coach Mike Small’s powerhouse teams.  Northbrook’s Nick Hardy and Belgium’s Thomas Detry are Nos. 50 and 52 in the FedEx standings, meaning they are in a good position to survive at least the first playoff event and have an edge in the second if they do.

The top 50 after this week’s stop advance to the BMW Championship Aug. 17-20 at Olympia Fields. The south suburban club is the home of Illinois’ main event, the Fighting Illini Invitational, and Hardy and Detry would have some home course knowledge there.

Hardy had two top-five finishes in the college event on Olympia’s North Course, and the Western Golf Association brought him to its preview event for the event that was last played in the Chicago area in 2019.

“Coach (Small) always said about that golf course, you can’t really fake it around there,’’ said Hardy.  “You’ve got to play really strong tee to green.  It requires a great all around game.’’

Olympia hosted the BMW Championship in 2020. Because of pandemic concerns that tournament was played without fans, but it did produce one of the most dramatic finishes in FedEx history.  Jon Rahm and Johnson finished regulation play at 4-under-par 276 and went to a playoff. Rahm won it with a 66-foot birdie putt.

While Johnson is out because of his LIV membership, Rahm enters these playoffs as the game’s No. 1 -ranked player. The 30 survivors of the BMW Championship conclude the season with the Tour Championship the following week in Atlanta.

MOST NOTABLE: Mac McClear, of Hinsdale, made it to the Sweet 16 of last week’s 121st Western Amateur at North Shore Country Club, in Glenview.  That’s a great accomplishment but there’s a bit more to McClear’s story than that. Though he was a first-round loser to eventual champion Kazuma Kobori, of New Zealand, McClear gave Kibori his toughest match.  They went 20 holes before Kobori won.

Deerfield’s Vince India didn’t just win the 74th Illinois Open at Flossmoor Golf Club last week. His win was part of an extraordinary show of endurance.  India tied for 21st in the NV5 Invitational, the Korn Ferry Tour event at the Glen Club that immediately preceded the Illinois Open.  Then, after winning the Illinois Open for the second time, he headed to Utah and opened 68-67 in the Korn Ferry event there.  India faded in last weekend’s rounds, which would be understandable given that he wound up playing 11 straight days of serious tournament golf.

Only California and Texas had more players than Illinois in the 156-player field that teed off in the 123rd U.S. Women’s Amateur at Bel Air Country Club in California on Monday.  The host state had 29 and Texas 10.  Illinois’ six competitors are Geneva’s Sarah Arnold, DeKalb’s Emma Carpenter,  New Lenox’ Grace Curran, St. Charles’ Megan Furtney, Inverness’ Caroline Smith and Pontiac’s Ali Schrock. The tourney, which concludes with a 36-hole championship match on Sunday, drew a record 1,679 entries.

HERE AND THERE: Illinois alum Adrien Dumont de Chassart goes after a Korn Ferry Tour record of seven straight top-10 finishes in the Pinnacle Bank Championship in Nebraska, which starts on Thursday.

Tim Clarke, long-time president of Wilson’s Golf Division, is now the executive vice president of Callaway & Original Penguin Apparel.

The Illinois PGA Senior Championship concludes on Tuesday  at Merit Club, in Libertyville, and the Chicago District Golf Association’s Four-Ball Championship wraps up on Wednesday  at Glen Flora, in Waukegan.


Illinois Open has a crowded field at Flossmoor


The men’s 74th Illinois Open teed off on Monday with the potential of having too many players at Flossmoor Golf Club.

State-wide qualifying rounds largely determine the field in the Illinois Open. There are seven of those  and one couldn’t be completed because of rain delays.  With rescheduling deemed impossible, the Illinois PGA opted to give all potential qualifiers spots in the finals.

That meant 168 starters at Flossmoor instead of the usual 156, the maximum number permitted in both PGA Tour and Korn Ferry events.  Getting the full field through 18 holes rounds on Monday and Tuesday would seem a daunting task, but the first round was completed with former University of Illinois teammates Bryan Baumgarten and Dylan Meyer tied for the lead. Competition should be intense, as usual, when the 54-hole test concludes on Wednesday.

East Peoria’s David Perkins is the defending champion and his rivals include two former winners now toiling on the Korn Ferry circuit – Wheaton’s Tee-K Kelly and Deerfield’s Vince India.  Kelly, a two-time Illinois Amateur champion, won the Open in 2021 at Stonebridge, in Aurora.  India, coming off a tie for 21st in the Korn Ferry’s NV5 Invitational at the Glen Club, in Glenview, on Sunday, was the Illinois Open winner in 2018.

Illinois men’s coach Mike Small, who won four Illinois Opens between 2003 and 2007, is also in the field along with Curtis Malm, the director of golf at White Eagle in Naperville, who won as an amateur in 2000. White Eagle hosted last year’s Illinois Open and two of Perkins’ top rivals there – Varun Chopra and Ethan Farnam – are back in the field again.

Flossmoor, meanwhile, gives the tournament a special new venue.  The club opened in 1899 and was a country club until a group headed by George Goich took it over four years ago and changed the name.  Goich is part owner, general manager and director of golf now. Flossmoor struggled as a neighbor to Olympia Fields, which hosts the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship later this month (AUG 17-20).

“When we bought the club it had only 89 members,’’ said Goich.  “Now we have 274. We’ll never compete with Olympia.  It’s a monster. We’re a golf country club trying to attract golfers who want to play golf.  I didn’t need 3,000 people. I needed 300.’’


FED EX PLAYOFFS: Illinois-connected players collectively made their best showing of the year at last week’s 3M Open in Minnesota.  Kevin Streelman tied for second, Dylan Wu tied for fifth, Nick Hardy tied for 13th and Doug Ghim tied for 27th.  That’s the good news.

Unfortunately, with only this week’s Wyndham Championship in North Carolina remaining before the FedEx Playoffs, the only local to get into postseason play appears to be Hardy.  He’s No. 48 in the FedEx standings and the top 70 qualify for the first playoff event.  Streelman (84th) and Wu (85th) might slip in with a good showing in the Wyndham.

The field there also includes Illinois alum Thomas Detry, who is 50th in the FedEx standings.

HERE AND THERE:  The 121st Western Amateur begins on Tuesday (AUG 1) at North Shore Country Club, in Glenview.  Austin Greaser, of Vandalia, Ohio, is the defending champion in the talent-rich event won in the past by the likes of Chick Evans, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Hal Sutton, Curtis Strange and Ben Crenshaw. One of the most physically demanding events in golf, the Western Am calls for 72 holes of stroke play qualifying to determine 16 qualifiers for two days of match play.  The champion will be crowned on Saturday.

Adrien Dumont de Chassart tied a Korn Ferry Tour record with his tie for 10th in the NV5 Invitational at the Glen Club on Sunday.  The former Illini star had his sixth consecutive top-10 on the circuit since turning pro.  That matched the record for consecutive top-10s set by Doug Martin in 1993 and later tied by Tom Gillis in 2009 and John Mallinger in 2011.

Medinah Country Club, embroiled in a massive renovation of its famed No. 3 course, has lost its director of golf.  Marty DeAngelo, who spent 11 years at Medinah, has announced he’s taking a position as senior director of golf course operations at Grey Oaks in Naples, FL.

Grace Curran, a fifth-year senior at the University of Minnesota from New Lenox, made up for a playoff loss in the Illinois Women’s State Amateur by winning in extra holes at last week’s Illinois Women’s Open at Mistwood, in Romeoville. Geneva’s Sarah Arnold, who won the State Am, finished third.  Low pro was Canadian Belinda Lin, the loser in the playoff.  Only 10 pros were in the 73-player field.



Illini star, in Korn Ferry stop at the Glen Club, is ready for PGA

The Korn Ferry Tour, which visits the Chicago area for the fifth straight year this week, provides a path for young golf stars to get to the PGA Tour.

Chicago’s stop on the circuit, the NV5 Invitational, has one player – and one with Illinois connections to boot – who has, for all intents, earned his spot on golf’s premier circuit in an amazingly short period of time.

Adrien Dumont de Chassart, the mainstay of coach Mike Small’s recent teams at the University of Illinois, got his first Korn Ferry start at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in South Carolina in June. He’s been nothing short of sensational ever since, and his great play coupled with a rule change suggests that Dumont de Chassart could  be on the PGA Tour before this year is out.

His collegiate career barely over, Dumont de Chassart won in his first professional start, beating Josh Teater in a playoff. The next week he was in a playoff again, at the Wichita Open.  He didn’t survive the three-man shootout there but came back with a tie for eighth at Illinois’ other Korn Ferry stop, the Memorial Health event in Springfield.

Then, after returning to his native Belgium for a week’s break, he gained another top 10 with a tie for sixth at The Ascendants in Colorado and a tie for seventh in last week’s Price Cutter Championship in Missouri.

So, after playing in just five Korn Ferry events, Dumont de Chassart is ranked No. 6  on the point list that determines the 156 in the four-tournament Korn Ferry Finals.

In previous years the top 25 during the Korn Ferry season earned PGA Tour cards as did the top 25 in the Finals.  This year the top 30 after the last putt drops in the finals on Oct. 8 earn PGA Tour membership so Dumont de Chassart is in great shape to take his skills to golf’s next level.

Not so for the other Illinois connections on the Korn Ferry, though five would at least be in the first of the four-tournament playoff events with their present status in the point race. All are entered in the NV5 Invitational.

The top 156 in the point standings get into the first playoff event – the Boise Open, which tees off on Aug. 24. Currently Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger is 47th, Highwood’s Patrick Flavin is 81st and Deerfield’s Vince India 128th. Illinois alums Brian Campbell (68th) and Michael Feagles (109th) are also in the hunt. Unlike previous years the field will be reduced each week in the playoffs.

The NV5 Invitational, which tees off on Thursday at The Glen Club in Glenview, has produced four winners now playing on the PGA Tour and two of them are doing more than just participating.  Scottie Scheffler, who won the first event at The Glen in 2019, has won a Masters title and is the current No. 1 ranked player in the world.  Cameron Young, the winner in 2021, was the PGA Tour’s rookie of the year in 2022.

The other winners were Curtis Thompson in 2022, when the tourney shifted to Chicago Highlands in Westchester for a year, and England’s Harry Hall, who beat Northbrook’s Nick Hardy in a playoff for last year’s title. Hardy bounced back to get a taste of victory on the PGA Tour this year, at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans’ two-man team event.

This week’s tournament has a $1 million purse with $180,000 going to the  champion on Sunday. Play begins at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday and Friday and 7:30 on the weekend rounds.

HERE AND THERE: Illinois’ only LPGA Tour player, Elizabeth Szokol, teamed up with Cheyenne Knight to win last week’s Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational team event in Michigan.  Szokol, who grew up in Winnetka and played for two seasons at Northwestern, joined the LPGA circuit in 2019. Her first victory earned her $408,497 and boosted her career winnings over $1 million ($1,287,628).

Hinsdale’s Mac McClear successfully defended his title in last week’s 92nd Illinois State Amateur at Bloomington Country Club. Finishing the 72-hole competition with a 63, McClear won by five strokes in becoming the tourney’s 11th repeat champion.

Jasmine Koo, a 17-year old who has committed to Southern California, won the 123rd Women’s Western Amateur at White Eagle in Naperville, beating Sadie Englemann, a senior at Stanford, 4 and 2 in the finals.

Members of the 2023 Illinois Golf Hall of Fame will be announced on Wednesday (JULY 26).  The selection committee has whittled 26 nominees down to 10 finalists for the final voting on Tuesday night.

Two-time Illinois Women’s Amateur champion Sarah Arnold, of Geneva, heads the field in the 28th Phil Kosin Illinois Women’s Open, which runs Monday and Tuesday (JULY 24-25) at Mistwood, in Romeoville.  The amateur-dominated 74-player field is the biggest in recent years for the 36-hole competition.

Twin Orchard will again host the 52nd annual Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities outing on Aug. 9. The Long Grove club lost over 100 trees when a tornado touched down recently.


JDC win started Harman on his way to capturing the British Open

The John Deere Classic, Illinois’ only annual PGA Tour event, is known for its first-time winners.  It’s had 23 of those in its 52-year history, and Brian Harman was one of them.

Harman, who won the British Open by a whopping six-stroke margin on Sunday, made the JDC his first victory in 2014 at TPC Deere Run in downstate Silvis.  He had only one other victory – –  the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina — until his run-away win at England’s Royal Liverpool in the final major championship of 2023.

Only one of the JDC’s first-time winners, Jordan Spieth in 2017, went on to win the British and just one of the JDC’s other champions, Zach Johnson in 2015, captured a British Open title. That made Harman’s win unusual but it was even more than that.

Imagine two former JDC champions standing one-two much of the day in Sunday’s final round.  Austrian Sepp Straka, who won at TPC Deere Run earlier this month, tied for second in the British with Jon Rahm, Jason Day and Tom Kim. Straka was alone in the runner-up spot until he made bogey on the final hole.

Harman and Straka both played collegiately at Georgia and are hopeful their play in the British will lead to their selection to Ryder Cup teams.  Harman became a contender for the U.S. team, captained by Johnson, and Straka could be a selection the European squad captained by Luke Donald. The matches are Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Italy.

Regardless of what happens with the Ryder Cup Harman’s life will change.  Winning a major title always does that.

Now there will be fascination with his pre-shot waggles.  That could be disruptive.  Sergio Garcia was known for doing the same thing and the abrasive New York galleries at the 2002 U.S. Open were annoyed enough to count them when Garcia was preparing to hit a shot.

Harman’s waggles got up to 12 at the British. There were members of the world golf media willing to count them, and then chide Harman about it.

None of that mattered when the last putt dropped on Sunday, making Harman the 15th American to win the title in the last 40 years. It’s always rare when a left-handed golfer wins a tournament, and Harman was the third to win the British.  Bob Charles, in 1963, and Phil Mickelson, in 2013, were the others.

The John Deere Classic was just a starting point for Harman.  He was a tourney regular from 2012 to 2021.  In addition to his win he had a top-10 finish in 2017 but his last appearance was a downer.

Harman missed the cut in 2021 and opted to skip the tournament in 2022. He addressed that issue with the media earlier in the week in England. His first British appearance came off his JDC win and it was also at Royal Liverpool.

“I won the John Deere and got in at the last minute,’’ recalled Harman.  “I had the 4:15 tee time on Friday and finished my round at 10:15.  I made the cut and loved the golf.  I was really excited because I had missed four or five cuts in a row before coming over and I couldn’t figure it out why I wasn’t playing well.’’

After his missed JDC cut in 2021 Harman decided to skip the tournament the following year and head overseas early.

“I came early for the Scottish (the Scottish Open, held the week before the British) last year, and I beat two people in the Scottish Open.  I played horrible,’’ said Harman.  “It was like, `Golly, I love coming over but I’m getting me teeth kicked in.’’

This year Harman initially entered the JDC, as it had dates a week earlier than in previous years, but he was a last-minute withdrawal, apparently to play the Scottish Open again with a little extra time for on-site preparation.

After a slow start to the season his game was starting to improve.  He finished second at the Travelers event on the PGA Tour and followed that with top-15 finishes at both the Rocket Mortgage Classic, in Detroit, and the Scottish.

The magic carried over to the British, a win he labelled  “overwhelming joy.’’

“This is the best tournament in the world, and I’m thrilled,’’ he said.

Whether the JDC will see him again remains to be seen. His change in scheduling paid big dividends on Sunday.  Why change a routine that works?