Rozner: Medinah's 2026 Presidents Cup will meet history with redesign

  • The 18th hole at Medinah Country Club ahead of the 39th Ryder Cup.

    The 18th hole at Medinah Country Club ahead of the 39th Ryder Cup. Daily Herald File Photo

  • The United States, left, and European teams rise during the singing of the national anthem as part of the 2012 Ryder Cup opening ceremonies at Medinah Country Club.

    The United States, left, and European teams rise during the singing of the national anthem as part of the 2012 Ryder Cup opening ceremonies at Medinah Country Club. Daily Herald File Photo

  • Daily Herald File PhotoSpectators line the 14th hole at Medinah during the opening round of the 2012 Ryder Cup.

    Daily Herald File PhotoSpectators line the 14th hole at Medinah during the opening round of the 2012 Ryder Cup.

 
 
Updated 12/12/2020 5:44 PM

As I looked back down the 18th fairway from a glorious position just a meter off the final green at Medinah, I was struck by the way Tiger Woods was leaning calmly on a wedge.

It was as if he were playing a Tuesday game with his buddies and the last hole had a $20 carry-over, that image of nonchalance burned in my mind.

 

Yet, it was anything but cool and quiet.

This was Sunday at the 2012 Ryder Cup and if Martin Kaymer did not make his putt, Woods' approach would be for all the marbles, perhaps the biggest shot in Ryder Cup history after the Americans had given back a huge lead on Sunday.

Alas, Kaymer secured Europe's point and the GOAT would not get his chance to stop the greatest comeback on foreign soil in Ryder Cup lore.

In front of ferocious and immense Chicago crowds, the 2012 version was the best Ryder Cup ever, historic in every way from massive attendance to the matches themselves, and now Medinah will get another chance to host an extraordinary team event that is gaining in popularity with each version.

The PGA Tour announced Friday morning that the 2026 Presidents Cup is heading for Medinah's famed No. 3 course, confirming a report in the Daily Herald a few days ago.

Medinah has already been the site of three U.S. Opens (1949, 1975, 1990), two PGA Championships (1999, 2006), three Western Opens (1939, 1962, 1966) and the 2019 BMW Championship, and the property and its members are perfectly suited for handling the biggest matches.

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What seems like an absolute slam-dunk, however, was hardly so, as Medinah had to go through the bid process along with the rest of the candidates vying for the prestigious event.

"It has been quite a journey for two years," said Medinah bid chairman Mike Scimo, a resident of Wayne in the Fox River Valley. "Typically, these events are awarded based on personal relationships or course history, but this process felt like a traditional business process, where we were invited to compete against other clubs with a proposal, and many back-and-forth questions and answers.

"We gave it the full effort."

Ultimately, Medinah's history, its member support and having Chicago -- and all that it offers -- probably turned the tide.

"We have the track record of setting up a match-play tournament," Scimo said. "They know the course sets up very well for team events and for TV, with 12 through 18 all great TV holes with risk-reward.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We have the great staging areas, the room for hospitality and a vast campus of 640 acres. Obviously, the golf is the focal point, but we envision a festival environment across the campus with an international flare."

Scimo didn't say it quite like this, but one can envision a Taste of Chicago inside an international Olympic Village that stretches for a mile in every direction.

"We have 10 million people here with an extremely diverse cosmopolitan city," Scimo said. "We have the melting pot, we have the business community to support hospitality, and we have the access to international airports, roads and rail, along with security.

"Most important, our members want to host these tournaments. You can't do it without that. A lot of clubs and their members just don't want to do it."

Scimo says it is nothing more than fascinating fluke that the redesign of Medinah No. 3 over the next few years will be handled by Australian architect OCM Golf, and specifically Geoff Ogilvy.

It just so happens that the International Team in 2026 is likely to be captained by Ogilvy after Trevor Immelman gets 2022 at Quail Hollow, and Canadian Mike Weir should get 2024 in Montreal.

Hey, some of us enjoy conspiracies. Gives us something to do.

"It's important to understand this is a master plan that was in place long before we knew anything about the Presidents Cup," Scimo laughed. "The bid was awarded by the Tour based on Course 3's current condition. It just so happens we have an Australian architect in place to redesign and Geoff Ogilvy is part of that firm.

"It really is just a coincidence."

Fine. No conspiracy. So now what for Medinah No. 3?

"Is Course 3 too hard for members, but too easy for the pros?" Scimo asked. "It's just a question we thought we needed to ask."

The course setup for the 2019 BMW Championship, combined with soft conditions and the increasing length on Tour, made last year's event a bomb-and-gouge festival, with Justin Thomas winning at 25-under par.

That's unacceptable for any tournament and especially a playoff event. The problem is the absurd length of so many great players is threatening to make even the greatest and most historic courses obsolete.

"How can we make it more fun for members and yet adapt to the changes in the modern game? It sounds like opposing goals, but OCM articulated a way to do that," Scimo said. "We're going to be introducing a lot more short grass around green complexes with much greater use of the terrain and leveraging the slopes, giving it more of a bump-and-run look that's easier for the amateur.

"For the pros, instead of being consistently bunkered, you could expect to see more variation. With the natural slopes, if you miss a green you could roll 20 to 30 yards away," Scimo said, offering a hint of Augusta around the putting surfaces. "That's just one example. There will be more tee box locations and we'll take a fresh look at bunkering."

But Medinah No. 3 will still look like Medinah No. 3.

"Absolutely. You're not going to get on the property and wonder where you are," Scimo said. "No rerouting. The footprint and hole locations expect to stay intact, but a couple green complexes will get a fresh look."

If in the process, Geoff Ogilvy happens to figure out a way to give the Internationals just a hint of an advantage, so be it.

And if that adds intrigue to what figures to be a magnificent 2026 Presidents Cup, well, that's good for everybody involved.

Especially if you like conspiracies.

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