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updated: 8/14/2013 10:15 AM

Donald, Wilson have work ahead to make BMW

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  • PGA Tour pros Mark Wilson, left, and Luke Donald, center, joined Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich and Northwestern University basketball coach Chris Collins, right, for a BMW Championship exhibition Monday at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. The event raised $45,000 for the Evans Scholars Foundation. The BMW Champion will take place Sept. 9-15.

       PGA Tour pros Mark Wilson, left, and Luke Donald, center, joined Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich and Northwestern University basketball coach Chris Collins, right, for a BMW Championship exhibition Monday at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. The event raised $45,000 for the Evans Scholars Foundation. The BMW Champion will take place Sept. 9-15.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Former Chicago Bears player Brian Urlacher talks to fans as they watch PGA Tour pros Luke Donald and Mark Wilson play an exhibition match with Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich and Northwestern University basketball coach Chris Collins at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. The exhibition was held in advance of the 2013 BMW Championship from Sept. 9-15.

       Former Chicago Bears player Brian Urlacher talks to fans as they watch PGA Tour pros Luke Donald and Mark Wilson play an exhibition match with Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich and Northwestern University basketball coach Chris Collins at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. The exhibition was held in advance of the 2013 BMW Championship from Sept. 9-15.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • PGA Tour pro Mark Wilson hits his approach at the first hole as he plays with pro Luke Donald and Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich and Northwestern University basketball coach Chris Collins during an exhibition Monday at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest.

       PGA Tour pro Mark Wilson hits his approach at the first hole as he plays with pro Luke Donald and Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich and Northwestern University basketball coach Chris Collins during an exhibition Monday at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Video: Luke Donald on the BMW

 
 

Luke Donald and Mark Wilson, Chicago-based PGA Tour players and members of the Western Golf Association board of directors, put on an exhibition this week to promote next month's BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest.

The nine-hole closed-to-the-public event, which included Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins and Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, raised $45,000 for the WGA's Evans Scholars Foundation. It also underscored the PGA players' uncertainty about their status regarding the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs.

Only this week's Wyndham Championships in North Carolina preceded the four-tourney FedEx Playoffs -- the biggest money opportunity in all of golf. Each of the four events -- the BMW is the third -- offers an $8 million purse and limited fields. Financial windfalls await the players who play the best at this time of the year.

Naturally, Donald and Wilson want to cash in, but need to improve their current position to do it. The top 125 on the season-long FedEx point stands get into The Barclay's, the New York-based first playoff event that tees off on Aug. 22.

The top 100 after points are awarded in The Barclay's qualify for the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, which begins Aug. 30. The top 70 after the Deutsche Bank go to Conway Farms and the top 30 after that one will play in the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Based on the current standings, Wilson will be hard-pressed to survive the first playoff event and Donald will have a challenge qualifying for the BMW Championship that will be played on his home course.

Donald, the world's No. 1 player barely a year ago, dropped to No. 54 in the FedEx standings after missing the cut at last week's PGA Championship. Wilson didn't play in the PGA and is No. 95. He entered the Wyndham in hopes of boosting his playoff position.

"My game's a work in progress at the moment," said Donald. "Golf's like that with its ups and downs. It's been trying at times, but I'm looking forward to the FedEx events. Each tournament offers five times as many points (as the previous ones). There's always a chance to make big leaps and bounds, and one great week can turn around your year."

The playoff format can also create volatile swings in the point standings, so Donald and Wilson could fall or climb dramatically depending on how they play beginning in two weeks.

"The last two years I came into the playoffs in great position," said Donald, who was No. 3 in the FedEx standings when he held the top world ranking. "This time I'm a little further back, so it's a different mindset. One good tournament can shoot me up the board. I'm excited about that chance."

Wilson, hampered by a sore ankle, is also having a somewhat down season. He tied for ninth in his last start at the Canadian Open, though, and that was cause for optimism.

"I've worked through some swing thoughts," he said, "and I'm rounding into form."

Wilson had spent much of his practice time in Chicago at Cog Hill, the Lemont facility that hosted the BMW Championship for 20 years before the WGA's decision to move it to Conway Farms this year. He's not nearly as familiar with Conway as Donald is, but welcomes the change and believes the 70 players who make it will, too.

"I played in the NCAA Championship there (in 1997) and have come on a regular basis," said Wilson. "We play a lot of new courses every year on tour, and there'll be a little learning curve, but our games travel."

Look out for Hardy:

Nick Hardy, a 17-year-old senior at Glenbrook North High School, shot a stunning 65 on Monday to lead the first round of the 36-hole stroke play qualifying at the U.S. Amateur in suburban Boston.

Hardy, who plans to attend the University of Illinois and recently played a practice round with Michael Jordan, shot his six-birdie opening round at Charles River Country Club. Hardy shot 73 in Tuesday's second round to finish at 138 and a tie for sixth place in stroke play qualifying. The only other Chicago player among the 312 starters to make the final 64 for the match play portion of the event was Andrew Price of Lake Bluff, who covered the 36 holes in 143.

Tuesday's round was at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., a former U.S. Open site that will be the venue for six days of match play beginning today. The title match is on Sunday.

To follow the progress, check the leaderboard at usga.org.

Did you know?

Emily Fletcher, who coached the Northwestern women's team to its first Big Ten title and was the league's coach-of-the-year, had her contracted extended through 2015.

Michael Smith of Palatine's Twin Lakes course defeated Midlothian's Frank Hohenadel in a three-hole playoff for the Illinois PGA Assistants title.

Top area amateur Blake Biddle of St. Charles has transferred from Nevada Las Vegas to Arkansas.

• For more golf news, check out lenziehmongolf.com. Len can be contacted by email at lenziehm@gmail.com.

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