University of Illinois product Thomas Pieters is in, and former Northwestern star and world No. 1 Luke Donald is out.
That summed up Tuesday’s announcement of the European team’s three captain’s picks for the 41st Ryder Cup, coming up Sept. 27 through Oct. 2 at Hazeltine National in Minnesota. Darren Clarke, captain of Team Europe, revealed his picks in England and two of the selections – Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer – were obvious. On a team loaded with six Ryder Cup rookies, those two provide much-needed experience.
Then it came down to Pieters, Scotland’s Russell Knox (ranked No. 20 in the world), Donald and Graham McDowell – another veteran Ryder Cupper.
Clarke ruled out Donald and McDowell, saying on The Golf Channel that “Neither is firing on all cylinders.’’ Then it came down to Pieters, from Belgium, and Knox.
“I had to go with my gut feeling,’’ Clarke said. “When I told (Pieters) he was over the moon. He’ll be a world No. 1 at some stage.’’
Pieters, 24, is one of the many budding professional stars to come through coach Mike Small’s powerhouse program at Illinois. After starring for the Illini Pieters opted to play predominantly on the European PGA Tour where he has won three times, the most recent win coming on Sunday in Denmark.
Donald, who last played the Ryder Cup at Medinah in 2012, jumped into contention with a solo second place finish two weeks ago in the Wyndham Classic. He had a dismal final round on Sunday, shooting 75 to drop 26 places into a tie for 53rd place at The Barclays – first of the four FedEx Cup Playoff events in New York.
The last day at The Barclays was also difficult for Wheaton’s Kevin Streelman. He also shot 75 after being in contention for three rounds and wound up tied for 22nd place. Both, though, remained well into the top 100 in the FedEx overall standings and are in the field for the Deutsche Bank Championship, which tees off on Friday in Boston.
Donald is No. 53 and Streelman No. 57 entering the second $8 million playoff event and they must remain in the top 70 to play in the third – the BMW Championship, which will be played Sept. 8-11 at Crooked Stick in Indianapolis.
Pieters’ Ryder Cup selection culminates a big week for ex-Illini golfers. Brian Campbell clinched his PGA Tour card for the 2016-17 season by finishing 15th on this season’s Web.com Tour money list. Thomas Detry, another Belgian, won the European Challenge Tour’s Bridgestone event in England on Sunday by a whopping 12 strokes. He opened that event with a 60 en route to claiming his first professional victory.
Ryder Cup visits Cog Hill, Wrigley
The first-ever Ryder Cup Trophy Tour, a month-long 5,000-mile journey to promote the team matches between the U.S. and European stars, will include stops at both Cog Hill, in Lemont, and Wrigley Field.
Cog Hill’s PGA Junior League will welcome the trophy on Sept. 7 and it will be at Wrigley Field Sept. 16 during the Cubs-Brewers game. A day later the trophy will be in South Bend, Ind., during the Notre Dame-Michigan State football game. Those represent three of the 20 appearances the Cup will make in 13 American cities.
IPGA, Mid-Am wrap up
The final rounds of both the 94th Illinois PGA Championship and the 24th Illinois State Mid-Amateur Championship are on tap for today (WEDNESDAY).
The IPGA Championship ends its 54-hole run on Olympia Fields’ South Course while the final 18 of the 36-hole Mid-Am concludes at Flossmoor Country Club, the tourney site for the sixth straight year.
Here and there
Emily Fletcher, the very successful coach of the Northwestern women’s team, will receive the coveted Woman of Distinction Award from the Women’s Western Golf Association at the organization’s annual meeting Oct. 6 at Indian Hill in Winnetka
Brian Payne and his wife Elizabeth, both former Northwestern golfers from Flossmoor, qualified for their respective U.S. Mid-Amateur national championships. The men’s and women’s finals will be played Sept. 10-15 at courses in Pennsylvania.
Batavia club manufacturer Tour Edge has named Australian John Craig as its executive vice president effective Jan. 1.
The American Junior Golf Association named Megan Furtney, of South Elgin, as one of 20 players in the 12-15 age group to its 15th Junior All-Star team. The team consists of players from nine states and three countries.