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Medinah Country Club is raring to put on Ryder Cup matches

Golf

Chicago golf course is set to play host to 24 of the world's top 35 players in the competition that starts Friday morning.

September 25, 2012|By Teddy Greenstein
  • Medinah Country Club is set to play host to 24 of the world's top 35 players.
Medinah Country Club is set to play host to 24 of the world's top 35 players. (Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images )

MEDINAH, Ill. — On what a PGA of America official described as a "beautiful chamber of commerce" day in Chicago's western suburbs, Ryder Cup captains Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal arrived at Medinah Country Club for what organizers deem the biggest sporting event in the history of Illinois.

About 40,000 people will flock to Medinah each day to watch 24 of the world's top 35 players.

The 4,229 volunteers represent 45 states and 14 countries. More than 1,000 media members will cover the matches, which begin Friday morning. About 500 million will tune in from more than 200 countries.

Medinah has played host to three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships, but nothing like this.

"It's like a U.S. Open or PGA Championship," Ryder Cup Chairman Don Larson said, "but supersized."

Yet, the object of desire is small. The actual Ryder Cup, which glistened Monday in the afternoon sun, is 17 inches high and weighs 4 pounds.

Olazabal cradled it in his left arm as he approached the entry of the media center.

"We are delighted," Love said, "he brought this little cup."

Europe has won four of the last five Ryder Cups, including the 2000 matches in Wales. Love played on six teams, winning twice.

"We've all got a lot of sting," Love said, "from not winning enough."

But the strategy talk — pairings and green speeds and pin placements — can wait for another day. Monday was for celebrating what should be a magical event.

"This is a huge week for our game and all of us," Olazabal said.

Love called Chicago "an incredible sports town" and said that "the first tee could be the loudest any of these guys have ever [experienced]. Guys will have moments this week that will change their careers."

Love said four U.S. players — Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson — went to the movies Monday with assistant captain Fred Couples. Others, including Illinois alumnus Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk, did some chipping and putting. A final group that includes Tiger Woods and FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker was set to arrive Monday evening.

Love said Tuesday will be a "feel-it-out" day with the golfers getting a sense for how Medinah will play. Love said he didn't like dealing with high rough as a player, and his setup reflects that.

"Without the deep rough, it saves us the chip-outs and the grinding-it-out style of golf," he said. "We want to let these unbelievable athletes freewheel it."

Love said the greens are "absolutely perfect" and the fairways, battered by a hot, dry summer, "have made an incredible transformation in the last six weeks" and will look "gorgeous" on TV.

The TV cameras will seek out a certain Medinah member and Ryder Cup enthusiast named Michael Jordan, who will be a quasi-assistant captain.

"He is trying to sort out what he will do to help the team," said NBC on-course reporter Mark Rolfing, who is tight with Jordan. "He will try to be visible but invisible — in the team room and at closed functions but low-keying it as much as possible in public."

tgreenstein@tribune.com

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