The gates of Medinah Country Club open to the public for the first time since 2012 today. This week’s big event, the BMW Championship, will be much different than the last one held there – a devastating loss for Team USA in the Ryder Cup matches against Europe.
The BMW is a 70-player, 72-hole no-cut stroke play event that is the next-to-the-last event of the PGA Tour’s 2018-19 season. It’s also a FedEx Cup Playoff event with only the top 30 in the standings after it ends on Sunday advancing to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta next week.
Those 70 players competing at Medinah won’t include Kevin Streelman, Chicago’s best PGA Tour player, or established stars like Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson or Henrik Stenson. They couldn’t stay or climb into the top 70 after The Northern Trust, first of this year’s three-tournament playoff series. It concluded with Patrick Reed’s victory on Sunday at Liberty National in New Jersey.
The win enabled Reed to climb to No. 2 in the FedEx standings behind Brooks Koepka.
Medinah might also be missing Tiger Woods with the first tee shot is hit on Thursday. He withdrew after one disappointing round at The Northern Trust, citing an oblique injury and said then that he was hopeful of playing at Medinah. His status is still uncertain.
Because of his WD last week Woods slipped from No. 28 to No. 38 in the FedEx Cup standings. If he doesn’t play at Medinah his season is over. If he does play he’ll need a goods finish to qualify for The Tour Championship, an event he won last year.
All that is plenty to digest in the short-term, but there’s more to it than that.
The PGA will have a playoff event in the Chicago area in 2020. The WGA has Aug. 20-23 dates for next year and a site secured at Olympia Fields, a private club in the far south suburbs with a tournament history almost as rich as Medinah’s.
Putting on a PGA Tour event is an expensive proposition, and BMW did it for 12 years (this will be the 13th). Prize money this week is $9,250,000, which is much more than that of a standing tour stop. The John Deere Classic, Illinois’ other PGA Tour event which will hold its 50th anniversary staging in 2020, had a purse of $6 million for its last staging in July.
The WGA, which has been putting on tournaments since 1899, has been boosting its profile in recent years. The organization, which raises money for its Evans Scholars program, took over management of the two Women’s Western Golf Association’s amateur events and a tournament on the Korn Ferry (former Web.com) Tour this year. The organization is also building a new headquarters building in Glenview.
WGA leadership, however, has been tight-lipped about the BMW tourney’s future beyond the announcement of Olympia Fields as the next site. That, however, was a significant disclosure in that it broke a recent policy of shifting the tournament in and out of the Chicago area every other year. Prior to taking playoff status Chicago’s PGA event was an annual thing. It was played, as the Western Open, at a variety of Chicago courses beginning in 1962.
From 1974 to 1990 the home base was all-male Butler National, in Oak Brook. From 1991 to 2006 it was played at Lemont’s Cog Hill, Chicago’s biggest public facility. Then came the switch in dates – the Western was traditionally played over the Fourth of July weekend at that time – and the name change to reflect BMW’s involvement.
As a fall event the BMW Championship has rotated in and out of Chicago since 2012 and Medinah took it on for the first time this year. Medinah has hosted bigger events than the BMW Championship, but the club has never been interested in giving up its course for a big event on an annual basis.
In addition to the Ryder Cup Medinah’s No. 3 course has hosted three U.S. Opens (1949, 1975, 1990) and two PGA Championships (1999, 2006). Woods won both of the PGAs contested there.
HERE IS THE BMW CHAMIONSHIP WINNERS AND SITE.
2007 – Tiger Woods, Cog Hill.
2008 – Camilo Villegas, Bellerive (St. Louis).
2009 – Tiger Woods, Cog Hill.
2010 – Dustin Johnson, Cog Hill.
2011 – Justin Rose, Cog Hill.
2012 – Rory McIlroy, Crook Stick (Indianapolis).
2013 – Zach Johnson, Cog Hill.
2014 – Billy Horschel, Cherry Hills (Denver).
2015 – Jason Day, Conway Farms.
2016 – Dustin Johnson, Crooked Stick.
2017 – Marc Leishman, Conway Farms.
2018 – Keegan Bradley, Aronimink (Philadelphia).