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Len Ziehm On Golf

Streelman, Points, Donald are in FedEx Cup Playoffs — but for how long?

The busiest Chicago golf season in at least twenty years is approaching its climax. The BMW Championship is headed back to Conway Farms, in Lake Forest, next month and the Western Golf Association called on England’s Paul Casey to be the focal point of last week’s preview to the FedEx Cup Playoff event.

As per usual, the field at Conway Farms will be only 70 players and they won’t be determined until after the first two FedEx Cup tournaments. The series begins on Thursday with The Northern Trust, the new name for the New York stop. It’ll have the top 125 in the season-long FedEx point race, and the field includes three players with Chicago connects.

That trio – Kevin Streelman, D.A. Points and Luke Donald – will have to play well to stay in the competition after the first tournament. Streelman is No. 83, Points 104 and Donald 107. The top 100 in the standings after the New York event advance to the Dell Technology Championship Sept. 1-4 at TPC Boston and the top 70 after that tournament are eligible to play at Conway Farms from Sept. 14-17.

The 30-player Tour Championship concludes the series at East Lake in Atlanta from Sept. 21-24.

While Casey isn’t guaranteed a spot at Conway Farms, there’s a good chance he’ll be there. His game has thrived in both the Playoffs and the BMW Championship. Last year he finished in the top five in all four FedEx tournaments and he’s been runner-up to Dustin Johnson twice in BMW Championships – at Cog Hill, in Lemont, in 2010 and at Crooked Stick, in Indiana, last year.

“If you could make sure that (Johnson) is not in the field, that would be great,’’ deadpanned Johnson. “But I’m really excited. This (FedEx Playoffs) has built through the years. It’s a great time of the season to get hot, and I typically do.’’

Each of the four Playoff events offers a purse of $8,750,000, and then there’s a $10 million bonus to the overall champion after the Atlanta stop.

The FedEx Cup Playoffs started in 2007 and the BMW Championship is an outgrowth of the Western Golf Association’s Western Open. With fall dates it took a while for the series to catch on, and Casey still rates the four-tournament climax to the season in importance behind the four major championships and The Players Championship.

“The system is still being tweaked’’ said Casey, “but the players really enjoy (the Playoffs). It is now something which is really etched in our minds all season long and is very, very exciting for us.’’

And it’ll stay around for a while, since FedEx recently renewed its financial commitment to the series.

“That’s massive for us,’’ said Casey. “It shows what place it has within the golfing community with the professionals. It’s now very, very important to us.’’

The BMW Championship is just as important to the Western Golf Association, which uses the tournament as a major way to fund its Evans Scholarship program. The last time the BMW Championship was played at Conway Farms, in 2015, it raised $2 million for the charity.

This year’s tourney ends Conway Farm’s three-year run as tourney host. Medinah will be the site in 2019 after Aronimink, in the Philadelphia area, hosts next year.

Vince Pellegrino, the WGA’s senior vice president for tournaments, announced some new features for this year’s BMW Championship. Reserved seating will be available beside the 18th green for the first time. Visitors will also be able to participate in the Top Golf Crush experience, the first time it’s been held at a PGA Tour event. Fans can compete for prizes in a five-ball challenge on the Conway practice range during the championship.

Here and there

The 95th playing of the Illinois PGA Championship concludes on Wednesday on Medinah’s No. 1 course.

Doug Ghim received a consolation prize after his loss to Doc Redman in the dramatic U.S. Amateur final on Sunday. The Arlington Heights resident was named to the U.S. Walker Cup team, which will take on a European contingent at Los Angeles Country Club next month. University of Illinois golfer Dylan Meyer is the third alternate for the 10-man U.S. squad.

The Chicago District Golf Assn. will conduct the 25th Illinois State Mid-Amateur Championship Monday and Tuesday (AUG 28-29) at Exmoor, in Highland Park.