Luke Donald and Kevin Streelman weren’t part of this year’s Masters, which climaxed with Sergio Garcia’s pulsating playoff victory on Sunday. Chicago’s top two touring pros have had their moments at Augusta National in the past but didn’t qualify this year.
Look for both to be back in the limelight, soon, however — perhaps as early as this week’s RBC Heritage Classic at Hilton Head, S.C. Donald, once the world’s No. 1-ranked player and a top-five finisher twice in the Masters, has made the Heritage one of his favorite tournaments. Last year marked his fourth runner-up finish at Harbour Town and he also was third twice. He’s always a player to watch in that tournament.
Streelman, a past winner of the Par-3 contest at the Masters, wasn’t happy to have last week off.
“It was a bummer not playing the Masters after I’d been there five of the last six years,’’ he said. Still, Streelman won’t play this week, either. He’s making a schedule change and expecting the hot spurt that has marked his summers of the past.
“If I’d played Hilton Head it would have been five tournaments in a row,’’ he said. He deemed it too much and will play at San Antonio (the Valero Texas Open) in two weeks after a two-week break. After that he’ll compete in a revitalized tournament at New Orleans (the Zurich Classic) and play the usual weekly stops at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., and The Players in Ponte Vedra, Fla.
The decision to go to New Orleans is interesting in that the tournament has changed its format. It’ll be a two-man team event this time, with Streelman teaming up with Russell Knox.
“It’ll be great for television,’’ predicted Streelman. “The tour was looking for something outside the box.’’
Streelman is a member of the PGA Tour policy board now, and that’s just one of the extra issues on his plate. He’s also been the main tour player using the much-publicized new driver that his equipment sponsor Wilson introduced during the winter.
“I’ve had it in and out of my bag. I’ve used it in four of my nine events (in 2017),’’ said Streelman. “I’ve been pleased with it. It’s a high-quality product but it’s a club I’m very hard on because I’m such a perfectionist. I’m still trying to dial it in.’’
As a policy board member he’s also followed the latest controversial ruling affecting all of golf – the four-stroke penalty assessed LPGA star Lexi Thompson for an incorrect mark in one of her circuit’s major tournaments two weeks ago after a fan called in to report the infraction.
“It would have ben a nightmare if the decision had been made on Monday,’’ said Streelman. “There’s a lot of inconsistencies because not everyone is on camera at the same time. I don’t like people calling in and affecting our play, but I don’t know that it’ll change on our tour for now.’’
Here and there
Chicago’s longest-standing golf radio show, Golfers on Golf, will start its 22nd season this weekend. The show, featuring a host foursome of Rory Spears, Mike Munro, Ed Stevenson and Bill Berger, will move from Sunday to a 9 a.m. start on Saturday and be carried on a new station, WNDZ (750-AM).
The Illinois PGA has decided on its alternate course for the finals of the Illinois Open. Briarwood Country Club, in Deerfield, will be used in two of the three rounds of the finals with The Glen Club, in Glenview, the sole site for the last round. The finals run Aug. 7-9 and Briarwood will be a site for the first time since 1966 when Emil Esposito won the title.
Harborside International, the premier course in the Chicago city limits, will undergo a major transformation this season that management firm KemperSports says won’t interfere with play. Nine holes will be worked on at a time, and Harborside is a 36-hole facility. Main focus will be on the bunkers with the Better Billy Bunker technology instituted to improve drainage..
PGA Tour star Jason Day will headline the Golf Gives Gala on May 22 at St. Charles Country Club. He’ll join Olympic swimming star Michael Phelps in the new event.
Registration is now open for one of the biggest annual charity events, the May 30 Illinois Patriots Day at Medinah.