Medinah's head pro on where the course is tough for the BMW Championship
With the BMW Championship starting next week at Medinah, it all seems to be coming together for golf fans.
The venue is primed to welcome the biggest names in the game, a field led by Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose. Mother Nature appears to be cooperating. The only big question mark is Tiger Woods, who withdrew from the first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs Friday due to a "mild oblique strain" but remains "hopeful" he can compete at the BMW, the penultimate stage.
Medinah brings to mind majesty. Behold the centuries-old trees and Byzantine-style clubhouse. Course No. 3 has been hosting championships since the 1930s, and that history won't be lost on the top 70 players in the world gathering here for the playoff chase.
The only way to contain the excitement? Let's talk numbers and course setup with Marty DeAngelo. He's been Medinah's director of golf since 2012, succeeding Mike Scully after his 10-year run ended with the Ryder Cup. DeAngelo moved from Isleworth, the former home club for Woods in central Florida.
"Medinah is a special place in the world, and for them to even give me an opportunity to hold a position like this, I was truly honored," said DeAngelo, who lives in Aurora.
Medinah means tradition, but it's hardly the toughest test in golf. Expect to see the golfer atop the leaderboard finish double digits under par. Medinah's length -- playing to 7,613 yards at the BMW -- earned the course its "Monster" reputation in the 1960s, but that's no longer an obstacle for today's big hitters.
Still, the greens are tight, and the Kentucky bluegrass rough is lush.
"That's our real protector. It's thick and it's very gnarly. If the rough is up 4-plus inches, I would say my guess is probably going to be 15- to 17-under for four days," DeAngelo said of the winning score.
The course closed to member play at the end of July as tournament organizers from the Western Golf Association put the finishing touches on the build-out of spectator pavilions. For members, Medinah's grounds crews keep the green speeds rolling at around 12 or 13 inches on the stimpmeter.
"The green complexes are very small. There's no doubt. They're small greens, well-protected by bunkers on most of them, right and left," DeAngelo said. "You've got to carry the ball up on these greens. There's not many holes you can actually run it up onto the greens. It's small targets, but they do have a little bit of undulation."
In advance of the BMW Championship, the club has made an effort to open up views throughout the course by removing more brush areas. But there hasn't been a drastic change like the redesign of the par 4 15th ahead of the 2012 Ryder Cup.
In the single matches during that team competition, a lot of players laid up but then went for it in the foursomes, DeAngelo said. No. 15 will measure 331 yards for the BMW.
"You've got to carry the water. There's only that left third of the green that is actually open to a tee ball, so it's a little tighter than the visual once you get up here and see how steep the slope is and how it goes down to the water."
One criticism of the course labels the par 3 holes as repetitive, but DeAngelo disagrees. The 17th, for instance, will play downhill over Lake Kadijah from 193 yards from the back tee. The longer hitters might even pull an 8-iron from the bag.
"There are similar looks to the holes, but we can play them at such variable yardages," DeAngelo said.
Medinah will open its doors to 25,000 spectators a day for the tournament at a time of rising membership. In the past three years, 300 new members have joined and reinvigorated the club, pushing the total close to 1,000, including socials.
"We have so many new amenities that make us a year-round club now, and so we've added some things and families are coming in," DeAngelo said. "The membership average age is going down. We're getting a lot more youthful junior programs."
Will the Tour award another major championship to Medinah? The last was the 2006 PGA Championship, when Woods lifted the Wanamaker trophy for a second time at Medinah.
"Obviously, major championships are what we're known for, and so we would like to definitely stay on the map for that type of event," DeAngelo said. "But the BMW is part of the FedEx Playoffs."
And that's quite a thrill for golf fans.
BMW ChampionshipWhen: Aug. 13-18
Layout: 7,613 yards/Par 72
Purse: $9.25 million in prize money