Clearly Curtis Malm is the player to watch in next week's 91st Illinois PGA Championship on Olympia Fields Country Club's South course.
Malm, first assistant professional at St. Charles Country Club and the IPGA's player-of-the-year in 2012, fired a 9-under par course record 63 at Elgin Country Club on Monday in the section's fifth stroke play event of the season.
In April he won the first of the section's majors -- the IPGA Match Play Championship at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove -- for the second straight year. Malm also tied for third in the second major, last month's Illinois Open at The Glen Club in Glenview, and is at the top of the player-of-the-year standings again.
"I haven't played as well as I did last year as far as consistency goes," said Malm, "but my game's getting there."
He took on expanded duties at St. Charles this year, adding the role of membership sales director, and that has reduced Malm's practice time. He is also lacking in knowledge of Olympia Fields' South course. Malm hopes to get in his first round there on Thursday. Otherwise his first will be on Monday in the first day of the three-day championship.
Malm's round at Elgin -- his lowest ever in competition -- featured seven birdies and an eagle. (He had a 62 in an informal round at Blackberry Oaks in Sugar Grove).
Other than Malm, the favorite at Olympia figures to be Illinois coach Mike Small, who won by 11 strokes the last time the event was played at the storied south suburban private club in 2010. Small has won the tourney a record nine times, but not since his runaway win at Olympia, where he is an honorary member.
Steve Orrick, from Country Club of Decatur, is the defending champion. He won last year at Stonewall Orchard in Gurnee.
FedEx Playoffs tee off:
Kevin Streelman, at No. 13, is the top-ranked of six players with Illinois backgrounds in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup Playoffs, which begin on Thursday with The Barclays tourney at Liberty National in New York.
The top 125 on the season-long PGA Tour points list qualified for The Barclays, a 72-hole no-cut tournament with an $8 million purse. It's the first of four such events, and the point winner after they're over will receive a $10 million bonus. The third stop in the series is the BMW Championship at Conway Farms in Lake Forest.
Joining Streelman among the Illinois hopefuls in The Barclays field are D.A. Points (ranked No. 25), Luke Donald (55), Luke Guthrie (72), Mark Wilson (102) and Scott Langley (124). Only the top 100 on the points list after The Barclays play in the following week's Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, and the top 70 after that one advance to Conway Farms.
Leader in the standings going into the playoffs is Tiger Woods, who won the FedEx Cup in its first year (2007) and became the only two-time champion with a victory in 2009.
Last year's winner, Brandt Snedeker, is No. 3 in the current standings behind Woods and Matt Kuchar. Phil Mickelson is No. 4, Bill Haas (FedEx Cup champion in 2011) is No. 5, U.S. Open winner Justin Rose is No. 7 and John Deere Classic champ Jordan Spieth No. 8.
NU's super freshman class:
Matt Fitzpatrick, who will begin his freshman year at Northwestern next month, continued a brilliant summer by winning the U.S. Amateur at Brookline, Mass., on Sunday. That means his first year of college could be a wild one. By virtue of his U.S. Amateur win, Fitzpatrick is eligible to play in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in addition to his college events.
Before winning the U.S. Amateur, the 18-year-old from Sheffield, England won the British Boys title in 2012, was low amateur in this year's British Open and runner-up in the English Amateur. His latest win elevated Fitzpatrick to the No. 1 world ranking for amateurs. He was also a shoo-in when the European Walker Cup selections were announced on Sunday.
The U.S. also made its Walker Cup selections. They feature Jordan Niebrugge, an Oklahoma State sophomore from Mequon, Wis., who won the U.S. Amateur Public Links, Wisconsin Amateur and Western Amateur titles in a three-week hot streak that preceded his first-round loss in the U.S. Amateur.
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