This week’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., isn’t one of the bigger PGA Tour events but it’s huge for Luke Donald.
The former Northwestern star, who was once No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, needs a good showing to assure himself a spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. The top 125 players in the season-long point race are eligible for the first of the four playoff events, The Barclays in New Jersey in two weeks. Donald’s ranking climbed from 131 to 124 with a tie for 43rd in last week’s PGA Championship.
“I want to be one of those annoying guys who just gets in to the FedEx Playoffs, has a hot week and then has a chance to win at East Lake,’’ said Donald, whose game has slowly improved after he reunited with long-time swing coach Pat Goss.
Actually, Donald wants to do much more than get into the lucrative postseason series. The third of the four events, the BMW Championship, will be played from Sept. 17-20 on his home course – Conway Farms in Lake Forest.
“I’d love to play at Conway Farms,’’ he said. “It got a good reception from the players (when the BMW moved there in 2013), and they’ve made some great changes since then.’’
Donald had some influence on those upgrades.
“There were a few minor changes on the course,’’ he said, “but they completely changed and much improved the practice facility.’’
If Donald maintains or improves his standings position this week he’ll get into the playoffs. Then he’ll have to play well enough at The Barclays to crack the top 100, who will be eligible for the second playoff event – the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. The top 70 after that event qualify to play at Conway Farms and the top 30 after that event go to The Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.
All four of the no-cut tournaments have an $8.25 million purse and a $10 million payoff awaits the winner of the series, so a ton of money is on the line. Donald said he’d be at Conway — whether he qualifies or not — to participate in fund-raising efforts for the First Tee of Chicago but he’s hopeful that his improved play will continue and he’ll be among the competitors.
“We’re just trying to keep building,’’ he said. “I’ve had a string of steady rounds, lots of 2-, 3-, 4-unders. Now I’m looking for that breakout round to get me going.’’
Here and there
The LPGA Legends Championship. scheduled Aug. 29-30 in French Lick, Ind., has lost the player who shocked the field last year. Sherri Steinhauer shot a 63 – the lowest round, man or woman on the rugged Pete Dye Course – but was deprived of a chance to win the title when the final round was cancelled due to weather problems. A broken ankle will keep Steinhauer out of the field this month.
Five college stars competing in this week’s U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields have been named to the 10-man U.S. Walker Cup team. They are Bryson DeChambeau (Southern Methodist), Beau Hossler (Texas), Lee McCoy (Georgia), Maverick McNealy (Stanford) and Hunter Stewart (Vanderbilt). The other five players on the squad will be announced after the U.S. Amateur ends on Sunday.
Ivanhoe’s Jim Sobb successfully defended his Illinois PGA Senior Championship with a playoff win over Doug Bauman of Biltmore, in Barrington. Richard Tilgham captured the Chicago District Super Senior Amateur at Schaumburg Golf Club.