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The Opening Nine for Monday, January 23

Writing from Chicago
Monday, January 23, 2012

1. From Cog to Conway
Look for Conway Farms Golf Club to be announced as the site of the 2013 BMW Championship – the Western Open to diehards – within days. Whispers have the club and WGA agreeing to a deal, with potential logistical nightmares, including where to park spectators during the tournament and how to move them through a golf course situated in a housing development, worked out. That means the Western / BMW returns to the north suburbs for the first time since Sunset Ridge Country Club held it on a chilly, wet weekend in 1972, when Jim Jamieson won. It also means Cog Hill, the public playground in Lemont whose Rees Jones renovation was pilloried by picky pros – it recently placed 46th among the 52 regular tour stops in a Golf World survey of tourists – won’t get a shot at another BMW until 2015 at the earliest.

2. On the mark, Wilson is
With a birdie in the gloaming, Mark Wilson scored a two-stroke victory to win the Bob Hope Trophy at the Humana Challenge in the Palm Springs, Calif, area. For Wilson, based in Chicago in the summer and a regular at the Cog Hill barn, it’s his fifth title on the PGA Tour and third in 53 weeks. Last year, he won the Sony Open in Hawaii, then came back to capture the Phoenix Open, making $2,088,000 of his season earnings of $3,158,477 in two starts. He picked up $1.008 million this time around. As Bob Hope, who made the Desert Classic a success, might have said, “That Mark Wilson is wild. He’s got more victories in the desert than Rommel.”

3. Illinois Open reaction
News of the Illinois Open’s move to allowing non-Illinoisans to play in the tournament hasn’t sat well with some of the old guard among the professional set. The Illinois PGA board, which voted unanimously in December to go forward with the plan beginning this year, is being pressured to backtrack on the concept and return to the Illinois-only plan. If that happens, it’ll be both an error in judgment and a bow to a not-so-silent minority that fails to see the potential for growth. We’ll have more as the situation develops.

4. It’s show time!
PGA Merchandise Show time, that is. The annual gathering in Orlando, Fla., had suffered a few years ago, even before the economy suffered, when some major manufacturers pulled out. Most everyone is back for this week’s unveiling of the new, the notable, and the nonsensical. Chicago’s own Len Ziehm is there and will be reporting on his website, throughout the week.

5. Architects at 20 paces
Not quite, but more than 20 architects faced off in quest of the contract to renovate Oak Meadows Golf Course, the old Elmhurst Country Club adjacent to I-290 in DuPage County. The field has been trimmed to five – the team of Greg Martin and Art Schaupeter, Ray Hearn, David Esler, Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Bob Lohmann – but that nearly two dozen chased after the job shows how little golf course work, whether new or re-do, is going on these days. Check out Rory Spears’ report at for a rundown of the qualifications of the finalists and what’s expected of them. FYI: No dirt will be moved until late next year at the earliest.

6. Rename the Eskimo Open?
This year, temperatures were in the 40s, and the annual winter frolic induced not one case of frostbite. Of course, it finally snowed a week later, but for once, those who wanted their golf fix without flying to Florida or other warm climates could play Cog Hill and St. Andrews in relative comfort. Maybe next year it’ll be called the Desert Classic. Congrats to Vic Tyson, whose 3-under-par 69 on Cog Hill No. 1 led all scorers on a day 217 players filled three courses, with only Dubsdread in winter hibernation.

7. Deere middle of the pack
The Golf World player survey on regular tour stops has TPC Deere Run, host of the John Deere Classic, sitting 24th in the field of 52. D.A. Weibring’s other course on tour, Byron Nelson Classic host TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas, in which Weibring reworked Jay Moorish’s original layout, ranked 49th. Only TPC San Antonio (Texas Open), Dove Mountain (Tucson World Match Play) and Liberty National (sometime host of The Barclays) were ranked lower.

8. No injuries in Tour windstorm
The one at the old Bob Hope Desert Classic inspired one potential headline: “Oh, the Humana-ty,” after high winds knocked down a scoreboard, trees and parts of at least one tent. Who knew the Humana Challenge would be just to stand up straight? The gusts also toppled one port-a-john with a caddie in it. He emerged with a cut leg, but was otherwise unscathed.

9. Countdown to Augusta: 74 days
See? It’s not that long until spring after all.

– Tim Cronin

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