Medinah ready to welcome the public for Tuesday practice rounds
The gates of Medinah Country Club open to the public Tuesday for the first time since 2012.
This week's BMW Championship will be much different from the last tournament held there -- a devastating loss for Team USA in the Ryder Cup matches against Europe.
The BMW is a 70-player, 72-hole no-cut stroke play event that is the next-to-the-last event of the PGA Tour's 2018-19 season. It's also a FedEx Cup Playoff event with only the top 30 in the standings after it ends Sunday advancing to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta next week.
The 70 players competing at Medinah won't include Kevin Streelman, Chicago's best PGA Tour player, or established stars like Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson or Henrik Stenson. They couldn't stay or climb into the top 70 after The Northern Trust, the first of this year's three-tournament playoff series. It concluded with Patrick Reed's victory Sunday at Liberty National in New Jersey.
The win enabled Reed to climb to No. 2 in the FedEx standings behind Brooks Koepka.
Medinah might also be missing Tiger Woods when the first tee shot is hit Thursday. He withdrew after one round at The Northern Trust, citing an oblique injury, and said then he was hopeful of playing at Medinah. His status is still uncertain.
Because of his WD last week Woods slipped from No. 28 to No. 38 in the FedEx Cup standings. If he doesn't play at Medinah, his season is over. If he does play, he'll need a good finish to qualify for The Tour Championship, an event he won last year.
All that is plenty to digest in the short term, but there's more to it than that.
This will be the last BMW Championship. The sponsorship agreement expires after the tournament and the auto manufacturer won't be renewing it. That leaves the Western Golf Association searching for a replacement before next year's tournament, the Chicago area's lone stop on the PGA Tour.
Apparently the PGA will have a playoff event in the Chicago area in 2020. The WGA has Aug. 20 to 23 dates for next year and a site secured at Olympia Fields, a private club in the far South suburbs with a tournament history almost as rich as Medinah's. However, the name of next year's event, as well as its future after that, remains to be seen.
Putting on a PGA Tour event is an expensive proposition, and BMW did it for 12 years (this will be the 13th). Prize money this week is $9.25 million, which is much more than that of a standing tour stop. The John Deere Classic, Illinois' other PGA Tour event, which will hold its 50th anniversary staging in 2020, had a purse of $6 million for its last staging in July.
The WGA, which has been putting on tournaments since 1899, has been boosting its profile in recent years. The organization, which raises money for its Evans Scholars program, took over management of the two Women's Western Golf Association's amateur events and a tournament on the Korn Ferry (former Web.com) Tour this year. The organization is also building a new headquarters building in Glenview.
WGA leadership, however, has been tight-lipped about the BMW tourney's future beyond the announcement of Olympia Fields as the next site. That, however, was a significant disclosure in that it broke a recent policy of shifting the tournament in and out of the Chicago area every other year. Prior to taking playoff status Chicago's PGA event was an annual thing. It was played, as the Western Open, at a variety of Chicago courses beginning in 1962.
From 1974 to 1990 the home base was all-male Butler National, in Oak Brook. From 1991 to 2006 it was played at Lemont's Cog Hill, Chicago's biggest public facility. Then came the switch in dates -- the Western was traditionally played over the Fourth of July weekend at that time -- and the name change to reflect BMW's involvement.
As a fall event the BMW Championship has rotated in and out of Chicago since 2012 and Medinah took it on for the first time this year. Medinah has hosted bigger events than the BMW Championship, but the club has never been interested in giving up its course for a big event on an annual basis.
In addition to the Ryder Cup Medinah's No. 3 course has hosted three U.S. Opens (1949, 1975, 1990) and two PGA Championships (1999, 2006). Woods won both of the PGAs contested there.
2018: Keegan Bradley, Aronimink (Philadelphia)
2017: Marc Leishman, Conway Farms (Lake Forest)
2016: Dustin Johnson, Crooked Stick (Indianapolis)
2015: Jason Day, Conway Farms
2014: Billy Horschel, Cherry Hills (Denver)
2013: Zach Johnson, Cog Hill (Lemont)
2012: Rory McIlroy, Crooked Stick
2011: Justin Rose, Cog Hill
2010: Dustin Johnson, Cog Hill
2009: Tiger Woods, Cog Hill
2008: Camilo Villegas, Bellerive (St. Louis)
2007: Tiger Woods, Cog Hill