Tour Championship will set the stage for the Ryder Cup

Get ready, get set…..

The golf season is reaching a climax, with The Tour Championship concluding the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs this week and the 39th Ryder Cup coming the following week to Medinah Country Club.

Medinah, though, will open its gates to the public on Saturday. There won’t be any PGA Tour players there, but spectators can check out the Ryder Cup merchandise offerings and watch the conclusion of the PGA Youth Skills Challenge, a summer-long competition for youngsters between the ages of 6 and 17.

The Challenge drew over 3,000 entrants, and 32 will participate in the two-hour finals, which start at 1:45 p.m. There’ll be no admission charge on Saturday or Sunday, with the course closing at 5 p.m. both days. It’ll open at 10 a.m. on Saturday and noon on Sunday. Spectators can park at 333 E. Lake St., and shuttle buses will take them into the club.

“It’s a chance for people without tickets to get a glimpse of what’s going to be going on here,’’ said tournament director Michael Belot. “They can’t roam the course. They can shop and leave, and they’ll see what’s been done.’’

And that’s quite a lot. It took four months for workers to prepare the club for the big event. There are 75 corporate hospitality tents set up for when the big crowds arrive on Tuesday (SEPT 25) for the formal Ryder Cup festivities, which begin with a Captains-Celebrity Scramble at 1 p.m.

Tickets, of course, were sold out long ago, but Belot said a “small number’’ still remain through the event’s charity arm, Tickets are more readily available for next Wednesday’s Ryder Cup Gala ($100, at Rosemont’s Donald E. Stephens Convention Center) and next Thursday’s (SEPT. 27) Bagpipes & Blues pep rally ($250 at the Field Museum).

Big money’s on the line

Twenty of the 24 players competing on the U.S. and Europe Ryder Cup teams will also be in this week’s Tour Championship, which tees off Thursday at East Lake, in Atlanta. Most will be rested, as the PGA Tour took a rare week off last week after three strenuous playoff events concluded with the BMW Championship in Indianapolis.

The BMW whittled the qualifiers for the Tour Championship from 70 to the 30 who will vie for the biggest money available in competitive golf. In addition to an $8 million purse for the 72-hole competition, the FedEx playoff champion will get an additional $10 million.

The big bonus will go to any member of the current top five in the FedEx Cup point race – Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson or Brandt Snedeker – if they win the Tour Championship. Only Watney isn’t in the Ryder Cup. Other finalists could still win, but would need help from other competitors.

All 12 U.S. Ryder Cuppers were among the 30 qualifiers for the last event of the playoffs. While the PGA Tour took the week off, three members of the European team competed in the Italian Open on the European PGA Tour.

Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who barely made his Ryder Cup squad after having a sub-par season, showed signs of regaining form in Italy. He shot 67-67 on the weekend to finish in a tie for fifth with Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, the only Ryder Cup rookie on the European side. It was Kaymer’s first top-five of the year.

Another European Ryder Cupper, Italy’s Francesco Molinari, only finished in a tie for 46th in the Italian Open but he shot a dazzling 65 on Sunday.

Here and there

Luke Guthrie, who completed his eligibility at the University of Illinois in June, clinched his PGA Tour card for 2013 with his first professional victory at the Tour’s Boise Open on Sunday…. Tartan Art on the Avenue, part of the Ryder Cup’s fundraising effort, includes an oversized golf ball painted by LPGA player Michelle Wie as part of its six-block stretch on Michigan Avenue….Blue Island’s Jerry Vidovic won his second Illinois Senior Open in a four-man playoff at McHenry Country Club. His playoff victims included past winners Mike Harrigan and Billy Rosinia and amateur Ron Waytula…..Charlie Waddell, representing the Glen View Club, won the 10th Chicago District Mid-Amateur at Bowes Creek, in Elgin. The CDGA’s 26th Illinois Senior Amateur concludes its three-day run today at Prestwick, in Frankfort, today.