Europeans bring good Medinah mojo to BMW Championship
Rose, McIlroy and others have especially fond memories of famed course
August 14, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
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MEDINAH, Ill. – FedExCup No. 12 Justin Rose was just outside the back of the majestic clubhouse at Medinah Country Club when he stopped and pointed.
“I think that was our team room,” he said.
Graeme McDowell, 64th in the FedExCup, sat on the back patio and remembered taking his only singles loss in the Ryder Cup, to Zach Johnson, but going back out to cheer on his teammates.
“So mixed memories around here,” McDowell said.
And Rory McIlroy, FedExCup No. 3, joked about needing a police escort.
“Hopefully I won't need it,” he said, “and we're staying a little closer to the course this time.”
Tiger Woods won the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships here, but fewer than half of the 69 players at the BMW Championship, week two of the FedExCup Playoffs, have played Medinah No. 3. Of those, perhaps only Woods has better memories than Rose, McDowell, McIlroy, Francesco Molinari and Ian Poulter. Those five were here the last time Medinah was on the world stage, as Europe won 8 ½ points (of 12) on the last day to win the 2012 Ryder Cup. And they did it with the silhouette of Seve Ballesteros, who had died the previous year, on their sleeves.
“That was a powerful feeling on Sunday,” said Rose, who is trying to become the first player to successfully defend his FedExCup title. “Like there was that eerie sort of feeling like we’re doing it for him, for sure.”
Eight players in the BMW field were on the losing U.S. side – Matt Kuchar (FedExCup No. 4), Dustin Johnson (10), Webb Simpson (11), Brandt Snedeker (22), Woods (38), Phil Mickelson (46), Jim Furyk (48) and Keegan Bradley (66) – and for them, the memories are less special.
But not terrible.
“That was still one of my favorite weeks on the golf course,” said a wistful Bradley, who went 3-0-0 with partner Mickelson before McIlroy cooled him off in the singles.
It’s been nearly seven years, and while the Ryder echoes remain, good or bad mojo from 2012 may not translate into BMW Championship success or lack thereof. It’s a different tournament, with different stakes, chief among them a berth in next week’s TOUR Championship in Atlanta, where up for grabs will be unrivaled perks (access to pretty much any tournament you could ever want to play) and money (an unprecedented $15 million to the winner).
Still, the spotlight at the BMW shines brightest on those five Europeans.
“I played a few holes out there (Tuesday),” McIlroy said. “The course is in great shape. A little different than the setup was at the Ryder Cup a few years ago. There's a lot more rough, the fairways are probably a little narrower. But overall, yeah, it's good to be back, and hopefully some of those good vibes that I have here can stay with me and I can produce some good golf.”
McIlroy has put together his most consistent season, with 13 top-10 finishes in 17 starts. Two of those, at THE PLAYERS Championship and RBC Canadian Open, were victories. Now he’s back at a place where he went 3-2-0 in Europe’s winning effort in 2012. Should he win the FedExCup again (2016), he would be the only player other than Woods to win it twice.
Rose, who at 12th in the FedExCup is well-positioned for what would be a historic title defense, also went 3-2-0 in 2012, making putts of 12, 35 and 12 feet to beat Mickelson in a pivotal singles match. “I was just driving in (Monday) night,” Rose said. “I came in here for a dinner, and came in the side of 18 there. Definitely brought back those good memories.”
At last year’s BMW outside Philadelphia, Rose lost a playoff to Bradley, but his 2-P2-T4 in his last three starts was good enough to win the FedExCup.
McDowell, whose victory at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in March broke a drought of over three years, has made it to the BMW Championship four times, but never advanced all the way to the TOUR Championship at East Lake. At 64th in the FedExCup coming into this week, he faces a monumental task to do so this time.
Amid so much talk of the 2012 Europeans, the most dangerous player at the BMW may be a guy who didn’t play in that Ryder Cup, as he was just 17: Jon Rahm of Spain. But with 11 top-10 finishes in 18 starts this season, including four in his last four starts, the FedExCup No. 5 is coming to Medinah hotter than anyone this side of – well, Captain America Patrick Reed.
If Rahm gets it done this week to go to East Lake as the No. 1 seed, rest assured it won’t be long before someone invokes the ghost of Seve again, and Europe’s miracle comeback in 2012.