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.