The last time the PGA Tour conducted a tournament in Chicago the champion was England's Justin Rose. He won the last BMW Championship played at Cog Hill in 2011.
Two years later, the third leg of the FedEx Cup Playoff series has a new Chicago home. It'll tee off at Conway Farms on Thursday, and Rose spent the last three days trying to learn the nuances of the Tom Fazio-designed course in Lake Forest while not forgetting the good times at Cog Hill. He also played in the 1997 U.S. Amateur there when he was 16.
Contact information ( * required )
"Chicago's been a good town for me," said Rose. "I won that BMW here. I played a great Ryder Cup here (a year ago at Medinah). I've got friends here. It's a feel-good factor place."
Especially Cog Hill. A segment of PGA Tour players didn't like the renovation work that architect Rees Jones did on Cog's Dubsdread course in 2008 and said so for two years, a factor in the Western Golf Association moving the BMW Championship to the north suburbs. Rose wasn't among the gripers.
"I always enjoyed Cog Hill," he said. "Visually it's a fantastic golf course. Obviously the bunkering got too extreme -- that's what the guys were talking about -- but visually that created an appealing golf course. The bunkers stood out. They told you what to do. You had to be incredibly disciplined to play that golf course. You couldn't challenge it too much. That played into my favor."
With Cog Hill playing to a par-71, Rose posted a winning score of 13-under 271 to beat Australian John Senden by two strokes. It's unlikely that 13-under would win at Conway Farms this week. Scoring is expected to be much lower than that. Adam Scott was 11-under in winning The Barclays, first event of the FedEx playoff series, but Henrik Stenson was a whopping 22-under to win the second -- Deutsche Bank Championship.
Rose tied for second at The Barclays and tied for 16th at the Deutsche Bank. He'll start the BMW Championship at No. 7 in the series ranking behind Stenson, Tiger Woods, Scott, Matt Kuchar, Graham DeLaet and Phil Mickelson.
While Cog Hill spurs good memories, Rose also got good vibes from his first look at Conway Farms.
"It has a mixture of short holes, medium holes, long holes -- six, six and six. In a sense that's like Merion, because that's how that course felt," said Rose. "And the bunkers around the greens are set back; they aren't green-side traps. I've got to figure how I'm going to attack it."
The likeness to Merion, the short Philadelphia-area course that hosted the U.S. Open in June, was encouraging for Rose. He won his first major title at Merion, a much bigger accomplishment than winning that BMW Championship at Cog Hill.
"People (in the U.S.) have embraced me a lot more since then," said Rose. "Some of them have called me 'Champ.' I'd won tournaments here before, but no one called me 'Champ' then."
Rose didn't maintain the status quo after winning the U.S. Open. A month later he switched drivers, going with a TaylorMade model that provided more distance and more loft. He also has almost completed a change in his irons.
Only the 7-iron is left from the set he used at the start of the year. Rose joined Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson in a launching of TaylorMade's new Speed Blade models during pre-tourney prep at Conway Farms.
"Changing drivers was easy as pie," said Rose, who was No. 1 in the PGA Tour's total driving category this year. "Some switches take longer."
What Rose doesn't want to do is slow the progress he's been making in his career. He hopes winning the U.S. Open was just a start.
"Golf's a tough game, and I know I'm going to win some majors and lose some majors," he said. "In the moment, I think I've got a chance to win some more."