Illinois Open, PGA run back-to-back this week


Most golf tournaments didn’t allow spectators this year, but they turned out for the Illinois Open at White Eagle. (Rory Spears Photo)

The biggest tournament for Illinois residents, the 71st Illinois Open, concludes today at White Eagle in Naperville.   A day later the PGA Tour’s major championships for 2020, the PGA Championship, tees off at Harding Park in San Francisco.

Before August is over the PGA Tour will have completed its FedEx Cup Playoffs, which conclude the 2019-20 season, but this year’s U.S. Open and Masters still won’t have been played.  The Open was postponed until September and the Masters to November.

Locally, the Illinois PGA didn’t have a tournament until July due to pandemic concerns.  Now its second biggest of the section’s four major tournaments, the IPGA Championship, falls just three weeks after the Illinois Open.

Given all the postponements and cancelations caused by pandemic concerns, tournament pileups like this were inevitable. Big events for both pros and amateurs, local and national, will come fast and furious now and they’ll run all the way into December.  The Ladies PGA Tour has its two biggest events – the U.S. Women’s Open and Tour Championship – scheduled on back-to-back weeks that month.

Here’s some things to keep in mind from the standpoint of Illinois players while these tournaments seemingly run almost together:

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP:  Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman has handled the scheduling pileups better than most of his tour colleagues.  With two runner-up finishes and four top 10s, Streelman could contend for his first major title in this week’s PGA Championship.  He’s also No. 19 in the FedEx standings, so he’s in good position to stay in the top 30 and make it all the way to the Tour Championship, which concludes on Sept. 7. The three playoff tournaments are huge money events, and Streelman looks ready to cash in big-time. One of them is the $9.5 million BMW Championship, at Olympia Fields Country Club August 27-30.

PGA TOUR: Doug Ghim, the Arlington Heights product in his rookie season on golf’s biggest stage, has been struggling.  He’s survived only five of 15 cuts but things are looking up.  Though he didn’t qualify for the PGA Championship Ghim cashed the last two weeks in tour stops – a tie for 18th (his best showing of the season) at the 3M Championship in Minnesota and a tie for 48th in last week’s Barracuda Championship in California.

KORN FERRY TOUR:  PGA Tour cards won’t be awarded until the end of the 2021 season but Northwestern alums Dylan Wu (4) and David Lipsky (16) and Illinois product Nick Hardy (19) are all in the coveted Top 25 spots in the rankings now, and in position to move up to the premier circuit if they can stay there.  The Korn Ferry has two Illinois stops coming up next month – the Lincoln Land Championship at Panther Creek in Springfield Sept. 3-6 and the Evans Scholars Invitational at Chicago Highlands in Westchester Sept. 10-13.

ILLINOIS OPEN:  Whoever wins the title today didn’t have to beat the defending champion. Bolingbrook’s David Cooke, a two-time winner, had to call off his title defense when Chesson Hadley made the 36-hole cut (and finished in a tie for 17th) at the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship on Sunday.  Cooke is Hadley’s caddie now.

PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS: The 50-and-over circuit finally re-started its season last week with The Ally Championship in Michigan.  Jeff Sluman, the only Chicago player on the circuit, withdrew after a 74-72 start.

WOMEN: Winnetka’s Elizabeth Szokol suffered a similar fate as Sluman when the LPGA re-started its season with the Drive On Championship in Ohio.  Szokol shot 80-74 and missed the cut.