Sunday’s rousing finish to the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields was a lot like the wrapup to the tourney’s previous Chicago area staging when fans were allowed through the gates.
Based on the scoring, two of Chicago’s premier private courses didn’t seem so tough for the PGA Tour’s best players then. Soft conditions took the teeth out of Medinah No. 3 in 2019 when Justin Thomas shot 25-under-par 263 to get the victory, and the birdie-fest that year was likely a consideration when Medinah members approved a $23.5 million renovation of the course.
Olympia Fields hosted the BMW the following year, but without spectators due to pandemic concerns. The finish that year was still memorable. Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson had to decide the winner in a playoff. Johnson made a 44-foot putt on the 18th green to force extra holes, then Rahm outdid him with a 66-footer to win it.
Scoring wasn’t noteworthy that year, as Rahm and Johnson were both 4-under for the regulation 72 holes. When the tourney returned to Olympia last week champion Viktor Hovland was 17-under and – like Thomas at Medinah – included a record 61 in his road to victory. Thomas posted his in Round 3, Hovland in the final 18.
As was the case at Medinah, Olympia offered soft conditions for the BMW due to recent rains. Its course record took a beating during the week, as Max Homa and Sam Burns shot 62s — one better than the number posted by Vijay Singh in the 2003 U.S. Open and Rickie Fowler and Thomas Detry in the Fighting Illini college event held there — before Hovland charged in with a 28 on Olympia’s back nine on Sunday.
All those great moments will have to suffice for Chicago golf fans for a while. The BMW might come back to the area, but it’ll take a while. Last week the Western Golf Association announced that the BMW will be played at Liberty National, in New Jersey, in 2027. It had already been assigned to Castle Pines, in Colorado, in 2024; Cave’s Valley,in Maryland, in 2025; and Bellerive, in St. Louis, in 2026.
So, in a seven-year span from 2021 to 2027, Chicago will have hosted only one PGA Tour tournament, and no sites have been announced after that. Medinah will host the President’s Cup team event in 2026.
SO WHAT’S NEXT? There’s plenty of golf left in 2023, though the PGA Tour schedule beyond this week’s FedEx Cup finale at The Tour Championship, in Atlanta, hasn’t been announced. This week’s 30-player Tour Championship will include John Deere Classic champion Sepp Straka. He was informed that he was No. 30 on the qualifying list while waiting in a security line at O’Hare. His phone died moments later, but he had a peaceful flight to Alabama for a night’s sleep in his bed at home before making the drive to Atlanta on Tuesday.
ANOTHER ILLINOIS player will be on the PGA Tour in the 2024 season. Illinois alum Adrien Dumont de Chassart assured himself a spot with a tie for 11th in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Magnit Championship in New Jersey on Sunday.
“It feels amazing,’’ said the Belgium native who needed just three months to earn his PGA Tour card.“One of my goals was to just keep my card on the Korn Ferry Tour, but that changed a lot in the last month.’’
He won in his Korn Ferry debut, lost in a playoff in his second start and then had four straight top 10 finishes. He’ll play in two DP World Tour events in Europe before returning for the final three tournaments on the Korn Ferry schedule.
The Korn Ferry playoffs start this week with the Boise Open and PGA Tour spots for next season are still up for grabs. Lake Forest’s Brad Hopfinger, Highwood’s Patrick Flavin, Deerfield’s Vince India and Illinois alums Brian Campbell and Michael Feagles are all qualifiers for the playoffs.
BIGGEST EVENT left in the Chicago season is the LIV Tour’s next stop, Sept. 22-24 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove. By then two LIV members, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, will know if they’ll be on the 12-man U.S. team for the Ryder Cup matches Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 in Italy.
The first six – Scottie Scheffler, Wyndham Clark, Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, Max Homa and Xander Schauffele – earned their spots off point standings that ended with the BMW Championship. Koepka and DeChambeau, as a LIV members, could accumulate Ryder Cup points only in the major championships but were under consideration for the six captain’s picks available to U.S. captain Zach Johnson.
Johnson admitted to being impressed by DeChambeau’s 61-58 weekend rounds in a recent LIV event, but he won’t make his picks official until an Aug. 29 press conference in Frisco, TX.