Medinah Brings 1st Ryder Cup to Illinois

Storied Medinah Country Club is the Chicago area’s best-known and most frequent major championship venue. The private club features three courses but is widely known for Course No. 3, site of three U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships.

Add the 2012 Ryder Cup to the list.

The PGA of America announced in October of 1998 that Medinah would host the biennial competition between teams from Europe and the United States. The event was set for Sept. 25-30, marking the Illinois debut of golf’s most compelling event. Players receive no prize money despite millions of dollars in TV and sponsorship revenue. A victory is their only reward.

The Ryder Cup format is also unique. Team USA and Team Europe compete in 28 matches over a three-day span, including eight foursome matches, eight fourball matches and 12 singles matches.

To get ready for the world’s best, Medinah underwent $1.5 million in renovations, including a dramatic redesign of the 15th hole. Golf course architect Rees Jones transformed the 392-yard hole into a drivable par 4, reducing its length by 100 yards while adding a new two-acre lake on the right side of the fairway and green.

It is now the shortest par 4 on the course and comes at a crucial point in the round, following the long par 5 on hole 14 and before the famous closing three-hole stretch.

By moving the 15th green to the left, Jones also made room for a new back tee for the famous par 4 16th hole. The tree-lined dogleg left has been extended to 482 yards.

The 17th hole was returned to the edge of Lake Kadijan in order to bring water back into play. The 18th hole also had significant changes. The left fairway bunker was replaced with a larger set of bunkers on the right side of a new contoured fairway. The green was elevated and a collection area was added.

The final holes of Course No. 3 have been the scene of several dramatic shots and putts in major championships.
The most famous moment came in the final round of the 1999 PGA Championship. Sergio Garcia, 19 at the time, seemed to knock himself out contention on the 16th fairway when his drive sailed right, resting on the roots of a big oak tree, partially blocking his view of the green. Garcia (and the tree) earned a spot in golf history with a memorable shot followed by a memorable celebration.

Instead of taking relief and a penalty stroke, Garcia closed his eyes and took a big swing. After contact, he raced up the fairway to see where it landed, jumping in excitement when he spotted it on the left side of the putting surface.

Tiger Woods held off Garcia’s charge and went on to win the tournament by one stroke, foreshadowing his “Tiger Slam” in 2000. Woods returned to Medinah in 2006 and won the PGA Championship by five strokes, becoming the first golfer to win the event twice on the same course.

In recognition of the achievement, Woods was made a member of the club, an unprecedented decision by Medinah’s membership.

In 2010 Medinah’s No. 3 Course was ranked No. 20 by Golf Digest among “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses.”


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