Jemsek rolls a 7 (and 7 more) with Pine Meadow

    Writing from Chicago, Illinois
    Wednesday, November 28, 2012

    Welcome to the Morning Nine as the a warmer weekend – maybe the last decent weekend of the year to play golf – sneaks up on the Chicago area in particular and the state in general:
    1. Congratulations to the Jemsek organization for winning renewal of the lease for Pine Meadow Golf Course from the Archdiocese of Chicago after a year where it first appeared their tenure at the Mundelein gem, which commenced in 1985, would be up at the end of the season. (Billy Casper Golf had been the reported favorite.)
    Instead, the new deal – seven years with an option for as many more, according to Big Three member Rory Spears – will keep the Jemsek family in control of the course at least through 2019, and potentially through 2026.
    That’s important for two reasons. First, it allows an improvement program to continue. Jemsek has brought in Golf Maintenance Solutions to advise on clearing trees and bushes out from areas where they affect air flow, and thus course conditioning.
    Like too many American parkland courses, Pine Meadow is overgrown. Trees, bushes and other flora not only get in the way of shots from wayward golfers, they stop breezes from crossing the grounds. Shadows aside, that raises soil temperature, and on bentgrass, hot, stagnant air in the summer can lead to poor turf. The clearance program will help lead to better turf.
    Second, it keeps a course with some history in the hands of a family with a sense of history, rather than merely another bauble in an out-of-state corporate portfolio.
    Pine Meadow was brought out of decades of dormancy when Joe and Frank Jemsek won the lease for what had been St. Mary of the Lake Golf Course, the private course on the grounds of the Mundelein Seminary that Cardinal Mundelein brought in architect William Flynn to design in the 1920s. For the longest time, only six original holes were barely maintained. The Jemseks had Joe Lee and Rocky Roquemore use the many of the old corridors in bringing the old course back to life.
    For more on the renewal and the improvement plan, see Spears’ website:
    2. Speaking of old courses, The Old Course itself is getting a makeover, not that one was needed. The R&A, the tournament wing of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, somehow convinced the St. Andrews Links Trust – it runs the municipal layout on behalf of the citizens of the Auld Gray Toon – that changes on nine holes were needed to protect the course, or the British Open, from low scores when the tournament returns there in 2015.
    Huh? Two years ago, they had several tees so far back, a couple were on the New and Eden courses that run parallel to it, and the one on the 17th was across the road that swings back to run by the 17th green – a.k.a., the Road Hole, the hardest hole on the course. Winner Louis Oosthuizen finished at 16-under-par 272, seven strokes ahead of runner-up Lee Westwood. Rory McIlroy shot a 9-under-par 63 in the opening round, then ran into a squall line on Friday and posted an 80.
    The defense at St. Andrews has been the wind since the course evolved back in the 1400s. Now R&A boss Peter Dawson thinks it needs major changes – everything from an enlarged Road Hole greenside bunker to changing the contour of the 11th green, the famed “Eden” putting surface? Piffle.
    Here, posted Tuesday on Geoff Shackelford’s splendid website, is what Alister Mackenzie thought of tinkering with The Old Course: “St. Andrews differs from others in that it has always been deemed a sacrilege to interfere with its natural beauties, and it has been left almost untouched for centuries.”
    There have been changes over the centuries, of course. A change from 22 holes to 18 holes. The addition of alternate fairways and extra tees when golf became more popular – but the double greens remained. And the course used to be played backwards, which is to say, first tee to 17th green, 18th tee to 16th green, and so on. (It still is for a few days each spring.)
    But anything else? Well, a bunker was added in the 1940s.
    Here is Brad Klein, one of the foremost architecture experts, writing about architect Martin Hawtree’s plan and the process in general on
    “So instead, Hawtree has been commissioned to reduce the slope of that section of (the 14th green). That’s not a complicated project. But it is an arrogant approach to design, and one that deserves far more public consideration and debate.
    “Instead, the R&A Championship Committee, working quietly with the Links Trust, has announced its intent to do surgery. This is no way to run a golf course, and certainly no way to preserve the ‘trust’ inherent in a sustodial relationship. The town effectively has ceded control of a treasured asset to a private group running its own golf championship.
    “I don’t know if these changes are all needed. What I do know is the reasons given for making them are unconvincing and not enough basis for tinkering with sacred ground.”
    Next thing you know, Donald Trump, who recently opened his own course on the coast of Scotland to mile acclaim, will be poking his nose around trying to gain an R&A membership.
    Here’s Tiger Woods, twice winner of the Open Championship (old school!) at St. Andrews, on the changes to the Road Hole.
    “I think 17 is hard enough as it is,” Woods said at his tournament in Thousand Oaks, Calif., recalling cosmetic changes to the Road Bunker. “I don’t think we need to make that bunker any deeper or bigger. They seem to keep changing 17 a lot. It’s a pretty hard hole. I think it’s the hardest one on that whole property.”
    Woods said he thought changes on the second and third holes made sense because bunkers are no longer in play. For him, perhaps, but what of the rest of the thousands who play The Old Course or yearn to play it at least once?
    Martin Dempster, golf writer for The Scotsman, wrote that The Old Course “is the one place that should be left untouched by any golf course architect’s knife.”
    But under attack it is. The work has already started. The ghost of Old Tom Morris will not be pleased. For photos, check out
    3. The Old Course construction controversy commenced with the R&A announcement on Friday. Another controversy, simmering in the game for years, reaches its peak this morning with the joint USGA/R&A announcement on anchoring the putter.
    Long putter devotees are ready to holler that they’ve been using the long putter for years. Those who think it an abomination will be counting the ways until the stroke, or the long putter, or both, go the way of the stymie.
    Bet on the long putter itself being ruled legal, but anchoring of any kind determined to be verboten, as of a couple of years from now. That way, no equipment manufacturer sues.
    The news conference – from that golf capital, Orlando, Fla., headquarters of Golf Channel – begins at 7:30 a.m. CT. Analysis runs until 11 a.m. CT.
    4. Meanwhile, the USGA has been studying the effect of distance – longer balls, hotter clubs, and so forth – for what, close to 20 years? No decision has been reached, but USGA equipment guru Dick Rugge is retiring after over 12 years at the helm. Hope he leaves his notes on the topic behind for the next fellow.
    So when will the big equipment study and potential rules to inhibit, shall we say,  unnatural length, be announced? Don’t wait up for it. It’s only going on two decades. Look how long it took the Roman Catholic Church to admit Galileo was right.
    5. Congratulations to the Western Golf Association for caddie scholarships on raising $400,000 in one night at its Green Coat Gala earlier this month. Three-time Western Open winner Tom Watson was the guest speaker, and was inducted into the WGA’s Caddie Hall of Fame. That puts Danny Noonan’s induction back at least one more year.
    Now comes the heavy lifting for the WGA, which is making the BMW Championship – i.e., the Western Open – a big deal again in the Chicago area. Perhaps moving to Conway Farms Golf Club will help, even if the tournament will be a tight squeeze on that footprint.
    When you draw 45,000 (10,000 more than this corner’s original estimate) on the final day at Crooked Stick after pulling in only 49,000 for the seven-day week at Cog Hill in 2011, some kind of change is needed.
    6. In a perfect world, the Western would be back at Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook, but the all-male club recently voted to remain all-male by more than 60 percent. A 75-percent vote for changing the by-laws was needed to go co-ed.
    That not only keeps women from walking on the golf course, it keeps tournaments away from the front gate under the post-Shoal Creek rules of the PGA Tour, USGA, PGA of America and, yes, the LPGA. So much for a BMW, or the U.S. Open coming to Butler in the next generation or so – and the USGA has whispered that it would be at Butler yesterday if the club invited the USGA for an Open.
    That may find it harder to attract members in a world where family comes before getting away with the buddies for stag golf, but it’s curious to read that one member, speaking anonymously to the Chicago Tribune, said of Butler’s future, “We’re in a death spiral.”
    Really? That member should look at his club’s tax returns. As a non-profit operation, they’re public information, and the 2009 return, the most recent available, shows the club with assets of about $19.2 million, and having paid down a pair of loans down to $1.65 million from $2.075 million the year before. By any financial measure, Butler National is in good shape and can weather a brief storm.
    7. Sympathies to the families and friends of Chuck Chudek, publisher of Chicagoland Golfer in the 1960s, and former Northwestern Golf boss Nat Rosasco. Chudek, 82, and Rosasco, 83, died on Nov. 7 and Nov. 1, respectively. Each made a major contribution to furthering the game in the area, and, in Rosasco’s case, worldwide. No company sold more golf clubs than Northwestern when it was going full steam, and it did so for decades. Now, where’s that old Hubert Green-endorsed 1-iron we used to hit straight down the middle?
    8. Big Three sage and world traveler Len Ziehm has just come back from the Ozarks with fond memories of a round on Old Kinderhook, a course in Camdenton, Mo. Fun reading at
    9. Finally, Luke Donald, Chicago’s very own (adopted) superstar, made 90.2 percent of his putts inside 10 feet this year on the PGA Tour. That’s nothin’. We know some people that made 100 percent of their gimmes, many from about that far out.
    – Tim Cronin


Players to Orrick, Player of Year to Malm

    Writing from Galena, Illinois
    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    The winds were capricious at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa on Tuesday, but Steve Orrick had been there and done that.
    “It was about the same wind today as yesterday,” Orrick said after his 3-under-par 69 brought him a total of 4-under 140 and a two-stroke victory in the Illinois PGA Players Championship. “It was a good club to club-and-a-half wind, and it shifted from with you to against you. You had to time your shot.”
    Orrick’s timing was perfect, with three birdies on the inward nine of Eagle Ridge’s North Course to overhaul runner-ups Garrett Chaussard and Travis Johns, from Cog Hill and Twin Lakes, respectively. That finished a 2-under 142, Chaussard via a second-round of 4-under 68, Johns with a 69.
    It was Orrick’s third Players Championship title in five seasons, and his second Illinois major of the year. He won the Illinois PGA at Stonewall Orchard in August.
    “A good year,” said Orrick, head professional at the Country Club of Decatur.
    Better than that. There are only four majors open to state pros each season. Orrick didn’t play in the IPGA’s Match Play, which comes in May, and missed the cut in the Illinois Open.
    Orrick, 35, did everything but win the Player of the Year title by winning on Tuesday. That ended up in the steady hands of Curtis Malm, an assistant pro at St. Charles Country Club who had already locked up the Assistant Player of the Year crown. He’s the third to win both in a season.
    “Curtis was just a little better than me,” Orrick said.
    Malm was also better that Johns, who needed to win the Players and an 18-hole stroke play tournament at Schaumburg Golf Club to capture the title, given Malm’s tie for sixth. Malm first burst on the scene by winning the 2000 Illinois Open as an amateur at Royal Fox Country Club, but much has changed since then.
    “Now I’m more consistent,” Malm said.
    That showed in his finishes in this year’s majors. He opened the season by winning the Match Play, was fifth in the Illinois Open, and second in the Illinois PGA before his aggregate of 3-over 147 knotted him with Mike Haase of northwest suburban Boone Creek Golf Course for sixth. (Glen Oak’s Matt Slowinski was fifth, at 2-over 146.)
    “To win the Player of the Year, you have to win one major,” Malm figured.
    It worked for him.
    Around Eagle Ridge

    Katie Dick’s day was made when she aced the 13th hole, a 144-yard venture from her tee. Alas, because of the elevation change, the Bryn Mawr assistant didn’t see it roll up to the edge of the hole, and then tumble in. The group ahead, Chris Gumbach, Jim Marinelli and Alex Praeger, gave her the play-by-play when she arrived at the green. ... Orrick cashed a check for $1,600, much of the purse put up by Harris Golf Cars.
    – Tim Cronin


Europe keeps the Cup, stunning Americans

    Writing from Medinah, Illinois
    Sunday, September 30, 2012

    Now we know what Medinah translates to in Arabic: Brookline.
    In a comeback even more improbable than the American rally at The Country Club in 1999, Europe stormed back to capture the 39th Ryder Cup Match, their hard-won 14 1/2-13 1/2 victory the result of an astonishing 8 1/2-3 1/2 takedown of the United States team in Sunday’s sensational singles session at Medinah Country Club.
    It began with Rory McIlroy almost missing his tee time and ended with the many Europeans in the gallery of perhaps 50,000 singing, “Ole! Ole! Ole!” And everywhere a European player went, the spirit of Seve Ballesteros followed.
    “Seve, Seve, Seve, Seve, Seve,” said Justin Rose in the minutes after Martin Kaymer – yes, Martin Kaymer, who had the poorest recent record of any player coming into Medinah – provided the winning point with a 1-up comeback victory over Steve Stricker.
    The biggest road comeback in Ryder Cup history was built on five straight singles wins at the front of the order. Leadoff man Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, McIlroy – who brought a new meaning to breakfast ball as he munched on a granola bar following his tee shot – Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie won their matches, knocking off Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker, respectively.
    Down 10-6 at dawn, they silenced the American fans and brought the Europeans – there had to be far more than the advertised 3,000 on hand – to life.
    There was a point, just after Lawrie closed out $11.4 million man Brandt Snedeker, 5 and 3, trimming the U.S. margin to 10-8, when, if matches in progress are counted, the Americans were on the way to a 17-11 romp. It was 3:10 p.m.
    McIlroy outlasted Bradley, 2 and 1. Rose, 1 down to Mickelson with two holes to play, won the 17th and 18th with birdies from 25 and 20 feet, respectively, for a 1 up victory. It was 3:40 p.m., tied at 11-11 on the big scoreboard, the U.S. still was in position to wrest the Cup, 14 1/2-13 1/2, counting matches in progress, but Mickelson’s loss was a huge swing in momentum.
    Then the Europeans broke serve. If it wasn’t bad enough for U.S. captain Davis Love III to see Mickelson lose the lead and see Bradley fall after they were rested Saturday afternoon to be fresh on Sunday, more sour moments were to come for him.
    Jim Furyk, the veteran who failed to finish at the U.S. Open and at Firestone, frittered away a lead and watched Sergio Garcia win the 17th and 18th with conventional two-putt pars to win 1-up.
    That brought Europe its first lead, 13-12. It was 4:31 p.m., and the visitors were a point away from retaining the Cup with three matches left on the course. Jason Dufner was 1 up on Peter Hanson, Stricker and Kaymer were all square, and Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari were all square, making it 14-14 counting the three undeclared precincts.
    Dufner held on for a 2-up victory, making it 13-13 with the knotted Stricker-Kaymer and Woods-Molinari matches still to come.
    And presently, Stricker lost the par-3 17th, failing to get up-and-down from the collar on the back of the green while Kaymer two-putted from 40 feet. Europe had another half-point in its pocket. It was 4:53 p.m. Stricker had to win the 18th or the match was over.
    He did not. Even as Woods was in the process of winning the 17th with a par, Stricker was managing to lose the last. His approach stopped 40 feet from the cup on the back shelf. Kaymer’s approach stopped 20 feet away.
    Stricker surveyed the putt and hit it so far off line, a good eight feet to the left, it was incomprehensible. Kaymer’s 20-footer rolled five feet past the cup. Stricker made his par putt, but Kaymer made his comebacker for par, clinching his match 1 up, and the Ryder Cup with point No. 14.
    It was 5:13 p.m. It was over. The Europeans had won or retained the Cup for the seventh time in the last nine matches.
    “It’s undescribable,” said Kaymer in fractured English. “I was so nervous the last two or three holes. Ollie (captain Jose Maria Olazabal) came up and said, ‘We need the point.’ But I love the feeling.”
    The Europeans thrived under the pressure, and the Americans, especially veterans Mickelson, Furyk and Stricker, wilted. Woods, at least, got a half-point, conceding Molinari a 3-footer for par on the 18th green after he missed a par putt himself. That made the final margin 14 1/2-13 1/2.
    And a comeback unlike another other in the history of the quest for that little gold trophy was complete. The numbers were the same as at The Country Club, but the circumstances – on the road, underappreciated, and so yawn – were different.
    “I knew it was difficult, but I truly believed we could do it,” Olazabal said. “And Seve? I think he’s proud.”
    The Europeans had a silhouette of Ballesteros on their golf bags and his heart on their minds all weekend. Thanks to skywriters, his name was often inscribed across the Technicolor blue sky the last two days.
    It can fairly be said that the revival started Saturday afternoon, when the U.S. lost two of the four best-ball matches. Had the Woods-Stricker duo beaten Garcia-Donald, and had Dufner-Zach Johnson not lost a 2-up lead and the match to McIlroy-Poulter, the Europeans’ Sunday mountain would have been even steeper.
    “We wanted to believe,” Poulter told the BBC on the 18th green as cheers abounded from all around. “We were not under any illusions of how easy it would be. But last (Saturday) night, the team room was amazing. We weren’t four down. We were even.”
    Said Chicago European Luke Donald, “We believed in ourselves.”
    The opening five matches laid the groundwork.
    Donald never trailed Bubba Watson. The American bomber, again swinging with the crowd cheering, missed the first fairway, lost the second hole, and never had a chance, not with Donald hitting 11 fairways and scoring 4-under for 17 holes.
    A day after his garrison finish, Poulter came from 2-down to skunk Simpson, winning the last two holes.
    McIlroy, who mixed his time zones and arrived in a police car – “At least I wasn’t in the back,” he quipped – 10 minutes before his tee time, emulated Walter Hagen and was 2-up on Simpson after an hour. Bradley squared the match by parring the 12th, but McIlroy birdied the 14th from 4 feet and the 15th from 3 feet to go 2 up, where the margin stayed.
    Rose was square or ahead of Mickelson until the lefthander birdied the par-5 14th from 4 feet – even as Poulter was in his downswing some 60 yards away on the 16th. But Rose’s bomb on the 17th squared the match and his heroics on the 18th won it.
    “The last three holes, I thought I had the match,” Mickelson said. “He played phenomenal there.”
    Before all those decisions were handed down, Lawrie was punching out Snedeker, whose Tour Championship and FedEx Cup titles last Sunday at East Lake Golf Club netted him $11.4 million. His failure to knock off Lawrie was a surprise, especially to Love.
    “We put our hot players out front, and our steady players in the back,” Love said. “We just missed a couple points in the middle.”
    Snedeker’s was one. Stricker’s in the 11th spot in the lineup was another.
    “When we saw the singles draw, we saw a lot of matches we could win,” McDowell said. “We got things right today with the order.”
    Lawrie had been blanked on Friday and Saturday. That was motivation for Sunday.
    “You put everything into this,” Lawrie said. “We were all so keen to put a point on the board. If I’d come away with no points and we lost, I’d be gutted. But to play 6-under-par (including an eagle to win the par-4 fifth hole when Snedeker birdied) and put a point on the board, I’m chuffed.”
    So were they all when Kaymer’s 5-footer rolled home. Fans wearing the European flag around their shoulders danced on the hill behind the 16th green, the “Ole! Ole! Ole!” song could be heard at Woodfield, and, within minutes, McIlroy, Rose and Poulter were singing while hopping about the 18th green.
    Minutes later, the European team was on the bridge between the putting green and first tee, huge bottles of Moet in hand, doing their best Dan Gurney impression by spraying the gallery with Champagne. It was the first time in Medinah history – well, at least since the first years of the club, which coincided with the Roaring ’20s, that one could walk through the bubbly on the grounds.
    “Beers and tears will be the order of the night,” McDowell said.
    For both teams.
    – Tim Cronin


Will Americans' Cup runneth over?

    Writing from Medinah, Illinois
    Saturday, September 29, 2012

    Not even Duke Ellington could explain Saturday at the 39th Ryder Cup Match.
    This was more than golf beyond category. This was sport on the grandest of stages played with the most fervent of emotions. Alabama-Auburn, move over.
    And to think that David Duval once called the Ryder Cup a “glorified exhibition.”
    Maybe he never met Ian Poulter. Or Keegan Bradley. Or Phil Mickelson. Or Luke Donald.
    Duval knows at least three of the four – Bradley was just out of diapers when Duval had a cup of divots as No. 1 in the world. They get it. But he never got it.
    Everyone else is getting it. The 45,000-plus on hand over Medinah Country Club’s now-dusty No. 3 course really get it.
    Saturday featured everything from players driving to cheers off the first tee – Bubba Watson, hello! – to skywriting with snark floating over Medinah’s bright blue skies supplied by a marketing group from Wales, complete with “Has anyone seen Tiger?”
    Look! There’s Webb Simpson making four straight birdies and seven in 10 holes.
    Look! There’s Poulter making birdies on the last five holes to wrest a vital point from the U.S.
    Look! There’s “Keegleson,” the dynamic duo of Bradley and Mickelson, trouncing Lee Westwood and Donald in the morning, a 7 and 6 rout that matched the Ryder Cup record for 18-hole team matches.
    Look! There’s Woods with five birdies on the back nine for the second afternoon running.
    Yes, Tiger was very much seen. He slept in, having not been assigned to a morning match, then woke up the echoes, playing like the Tiger of old rather than an old Tiger.
    Everyone saw him on the back nine post meridian. That barrage of birdies scared the wits out of Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, but for a third time in as many matches, he and teammate Steve Stricker failed to earn a point. Donald, Northwestern’s very own, was like a wildcat with three birdies in the last five holes, including a three-footer for a deuce after the best tee shot on the treacherous par-3 17th.
    The failure of Woods and Stricker to convert was about all that went wrong for the Americans. A 3-1 romp in the morning’s alternate shot competition, followed by a 2-2 split in the afternoon best-ball showdowns, earned the U.S. dynamic dozen a 10-6 advantage entering Sunday’s singles showcase.
    Lest it be forgotten, this is not an insurmountable lead. Thirteen years ago, the Americans trailed by as much at The Country Club, Ben Crenshaw said, “I’ve got a feeling” on Saturday night, and the Europeans felt it on Sunday. It remains the greatest rally in Ryder Cup history.
    Now, Europe has to duplicate it, and on the road. And with Martin Kaymer, Peter Hanson and Francesco Molinari in the lineup. It won’t be easy.
    “Tomorrow is going to be a big day,” European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said.
    He meant for his side.
    “At one point in this match, I believe that momentum will come our way, and why not tomorrow?” Olazabal said.
    There are no other options on the calendar. That’s why Olazabal front-loaded his lineup, opening with Donald, Poulter and Rory McIlroy. Davis Love III, the best captain in Chicago since Chris Chelios, opens with Watson, Simpson and Bradley. That’s the current Masters champion, U.S. Open champion, and the 2011 PGA Championship winner, who goes up against this year’s PGA winner.
    Then Love has Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker. Olazabal has Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie.
    This is what is known as American depth.
    “I wouldn’t want to play anybody on our side,” Love said.
    Europe had trailed on all four matches in the morning, and in three of the four in the afternoon, but garnered just enough points to stay in the game if the 1999 formula is followed.
    “It’s given us a heartbeat for tomorrow,” Donald said.
    “We obviously need to play amazing and win at least eight points, but I’d rather have to win eight points than 10,” Garcia said. “We’re going to give it our best shot.”
    Poulter’s rousing finish, eyes wide after he sank birdie putts on the last five holes, was astonishing. He hadn’t played in Friday’s best-ball matches – Olazabal may come to regret that – but went insane at the end. A birdie on the par-5 14th matched Jason Dufner. A chip to gimmie range on the 15th squared the match. A curling 16-footer on the par-4 16th moved he and McIlroy 1 up. A 9-footer on the par-3 17th was matched by Zach Johnson’s 3-footer for a deuce.
    Then, with the sun having set and the light quickly failing, Poulter his his 159-yard approach to 10 feet and rolled the birdie putt home, on top of Dufner’s 3 1/2 footer, for matching 3s and 1 up victory, and a 10-5 margin in the Americans’ favor, rather than 11-5.
    “It was an outside right putt, and she went in,” Poulter said.
    “I thought he pushed it,” McIlroy kidded.
    This festival of shotmaking and putting on surfaces made of green marble made for incredible theater, and with a minimum of catcalls until the late going, when the liquor started talking. Sunday, the gates open four hours before Watson and Donald commence firing. That’s a lot of time to buy beer.
    Every time you looked around on Saturday, there were amazing sights. Even when you looked up. Who expected skywriters? But there they were, five planes jotting out pro-European team comments, from a touching “Do it for Seve” at the start to “Fore! Tiger’s back; Go Team Nordegren” in the afternoon. (Woods, incidentally, ran his spectators hit record to three on Saturday, a tee shot on No. 7 hitting a lady. He gave her a glove and a hug, along with his regrets.)
    It’s rather stunning that he and Stricker haven’t at least grabbed a halve along the way. Woods    has birdied 34.3 percent of the holes he’s played on his own ball. According to stat guru Jason Sobel, Woods birdied 27.3 percent of the time in 2000, when he began his Grand Slam run.
    Sunday’s pairings finish with Woods against Molinari. Woods against one player? He should be able to handle that. And he may not have to.
    No matter what, it will be loud on Sunday. At least from the spectators – with U.S. fans asked to wear red like a certain player – this will be the Indianapolis 500 on a golf course. Gentlemen, start your drivers.
    – Tim Cronin


U.S. up 8-4 after Saturday morning

    Writing from Medinah, Illinois
    Saturday, September 29, 2012

    They’re known as Keegelson now, Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.
    And they’re the best couple on the course since Danny Noonan and Maggie the waitress.
    All this hugs-and-high fives duo did Saturday morning at Medinah Country Club is dust Lee Westwood and Luke Donald 7 and 6 in the alternate shot competition, known officially as “foursomes.”
    Seven and 6? That’s like an election in the 11th Ward. It’s no contest, and tied a Ryder Cup record for margin in an 18-hole team match.
    So how can American captain Davis Love III not play them again in the afternoon best-ball match? They’re 3-0, and account for 37.5 percent of America’s points through three of the five sessions in the 39th Ryder Cup Match.
    Keegleson – the nickname is courtesy of Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman – combined for six birdies in the first 10 holes, building a 6-up lead. When Westwood and Donald bollixed up the par-4 12th, it was over, and the thousands encamped at the hole roared like they hadn’t roared all morning.
    Well, maybe it was as loud at the first hole when Ian Poulter and Bubba Watson each teed off with the crowd roaring, bringing the movie “Happy Gilmore” to life. And did so as skywriters flew overhead jotting out “Do it for Seve # Go Europe” and other sayings in the clear blue sky. It was sensory overload, and that was before the Americans held leads in all four matches for a time.
    By the time morning play was over, the U.S. held an 8-4 lead, which is commanding but not insurmountable. The Americans trailed by that margin in 1999 through three sessions and came back to win at The Country Club.
    But back to Keegleson. They got the afternoon off, with Love revealing he didn’t want anyone to play in all five matches, which could have meant as many as 90 holes over three days.
    So afternoon play begins without Keegleson, but with Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker together again for the umpteenth time, playing against Sergio Garcia and Donald. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar are matched with Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie, Watson and Webb Simpson are playing Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari, and Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson face Rory McIlroy and Poulter.
    A full report tonight. Check Twitter @illinoisgolfer for updates when we’re not on the course.
    – Tim Cronin