The 70-man field for next week's BMW Championship at Conway Farms in Lake Forest is finally official. It will feature four players with Illinois connections, including Conway member Luke Donald.
Donald's play has dropped off since he was the world's No. 1-ranked player in 2011, but he will go into the BMW Championship ranked No. 54 in the FedEx Cup point standings. Also owning ranking spots high enough to get into the select field are Steve Stricker (8), Kevin Streelman (16) and D.A. Points (21).
That's where they stood after Henrik Stenson won the second of the four $8 million playoff events on Monday -- the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. Stricker, like Points a University of Illinois alum, was the big newsmaker there.
When this PGA Tour season started, Stricker declared himself semiretired. Wanting more family time, he planned to play only 10 events and the FedEx Playoffs weren't in the mix. In fact, Stricker skipped The Barkleys -- first event of the Playoffs -- and came to Boston only because he had a chance to make the U.S. team for the season-ending Presidents Cup matches Oct. 3-6 in Dublin, Ohio.
Stricker needed a good finish in Boston to earn one of the 10 automatic berths on the U.S. team, and he got it with a second-place finish. That created another change in plans.
He had planned to go bow hunting for elk in Colorado with some of his buddies during the BMW Championship, but that trip was rescheduled because Stricker needed to stay sharp for the Presidents Cup.
"We pushed this trip back a couple days so I could play in Chicago," he said after his strong finish in Boston. "I'll play in Chicago, but I'm not sure about Atlanta (The Tour Championship and the last of the FedEx Cup Playoff events). We're supposed to leave on Monday after Chicago, but if I'm up there and have a chance to win or top-10 going into Atlanta I'll probably go to Atlanta."
The change of heart is understandable, given the money available in the playoffs. Each of the four events has a limited field and an $8 million purse. The 70 qualifying to play at Conway Farms will be reduced to 30 for The Tour Championship. In addition to the tournament purses, $35 million in bonus money will be disbursed after the Atlanta stop ends on Sept. 22. The FedEx Cup winner gets a $10 million bonus.
Heading to Conway Farms as the leader in the point race is Stenson, who moved ahead of Tiger Woods with his win in Boston. Also standing between Stricker and the big prize are Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Graham DeLaet, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. They'll all be teeing it up in Lake Forest to continue the chase for the biggest financial reward golf has to offer.
The Western Golf Association, which conducts the BMW Championship, has reported "brisk" ticket sales for the first PGA Tour event on the North Shore since the Western Open was played at Sunset Ridge in Northfield in 1972. Still, tickets in most categories are available through either BMWChampionshipUSA.com or by phone at (847) 724-4600.
BMW Week starts Monday and runs through Sept. 15, with the tournament proper conducted over the last four days. One-day grounds tickets are $40 online or $55 at the gate. Practice round tickets are $10, and juniors age 16 and young will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult.
Date-specific daily tickets are also available in the United Fairway Club, which features indoor seating and upgraded food and beverage options behind the 15th hole. They're priced at $75 per day for Sept. 12-13 and $85 for Sept. 14-15. Weekly badges for the United Fairway Club are $195.
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Two local competitions will be played during BMW Championship Week. The Illinois Senior Open is Monday and Tuesday at McHenry Country Club, and the Fighting Illini Invitational will be staged at Olympia Fields from Sept. 13-15.
The latter will feature some of the best college teams in the nation, headed by coach Mike Small's Illini squad, which finished second in last spring's NCAA Championship. Small is coming off his 10th win in the Illinois PGA Championship, which was played on Olympia's South course last week.
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