Whistling Straits is ready as the Ryder Cup closes in


KOHLER, Wis. –Patrick Cantlay dominated the PGA Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup Playoffs and the final PGA Tour cards were determined at  the Korn Ferry Tour Championship on Sunday. Coupled with Team Europe’s 14 l/2-13 l/2 win in the LPGA’s Solheim Cup on Monday, the golf season would seem to have reached its climax, right?


Last weekend only triggered the prelude to golf’s most emotional event. The 43rd Ryder Cup matches are Sept. 24-26 at Wisconsin’s Whistling Straits, and that area was hopping over the Labor Day weekend.

The pro shops at both Whistling Straits and nearby Blackwolf Run were buzzing with golf fans wanting to pick up Ryder Cup merchandise early. The courses at both resorts had heavy play as well, including The Baths — the new, unique short course that was squeezed in between the existing courses at Blackwolf.

What separates The Baths from the array of other innovative short courses being built around the country is that owner and co-designer Herb Kohler wanted the water holes to be open to those wanting to take a dip when play was in progress.  The Baths, a walking-only course, has 10 fun holes, ranging in length from 62 to 171 yards.

I’ve played most all of these new, non-traditional short courses around the country, and The Baths may  be the most beautiful.  It is also one of the more difficult and the bathers weren’t in evidence, at least not on the day we played. That will likely change over the next few weeks as visitors from all parts of the U.S. and Europe start arriving.

There’ll be plenty of those.  That’s been the case since the matches became competitive. That became the case starting in 1979 when players from Europe expanded their roster possibilities.  Though the U.S. holds a 26-14-2  overall edge in the series, the Europeans have an 11-8-1 edge since the most recent  of several format changes and have won four of the last five meetings.

No loss was more disheartening for the U.S. side than the 2012 event at Medinah, when Europe needed to win eight of the 12 singles matches on the final day to just retain the cup.  They wound up getting 8 ½ points to win it again, and that event became known – depending on your loyalties – as either “The Miracle at Medinah’’  or “The Meltdown at  Medinah.’’

Europe won the last staging two years ago in Paris by a whopping 17 ½ -10 ½ margin and that affected U.S. captain Steve Stricker’s planning for the next one at Whistling Straits.  Six players are assured on Stricker’s roster – Cantlay, Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas.

Stricker will name the other six at a press conference today (WEDNESDAY) and then wants all of them to report to Whistling Straits Sept. 12-13 for an early team practice session.

“(Europe) had us over a barrel because we didn’t have enough practice rounds (in Paris),’’ said Stricker. “The other team knew the course better than we did.’’

The Paris course was a frequent site of the French Open, a boost for the European Tour players.  Whistling Straits has been the site of the PGA Championships – 2004, 2010 and 2015 – but this will be a young U.S. squad and many of the U.S. players haven’t been at the course.

As the excitement builds over the next few weeks lodging will become scarce, and very expensive, here.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Sunday that almost all area hotels and rentals are already completely booked for Ryder Cup Week and prices are starting at $300 per day in secondary markets.

At Sheboygan’s Blue Harbor Resort rooms that ranged from $190 to $330 per night are now going for $4,500. Most local options are expected to go for more than $1,000 per night by the time the event tees off.

HERE AND THERE:  Medinah will host a regional qualifier the the nation-wide Drive, Chip and Putt finals on Saturday (SEPT. 11). Those competing will be survivors of 316 local qualifying rounds, which began in May, and 60 sub-regionals.  Four boys and four girls will advance from Medinah to the national finals, to be held on April 3 – the Sunday before Masters Week begins  — at Georgia’s Augusta National….Roy Biancalana repeated as champion of the Illinois Super Seniors tournament at Pine Meadow in Mundelein.  The St. Charles-based professional shot an 8-under-par 136 for 36 holes and won by three strokes over North Barrington amateur Vince Antoniou…..Mistwood, in Romeoville, will hold a Celebration of Life next Wednesday (SEPT 15) to honor the facility’s late owner, Jim McWethy. The reception will be held from 2-8 p.m.