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.