MEDINAH, Ill. — The Ryder Cup comes to the Chicago area for the first time this week, and the Windy City can claim one of the players as its own.
Luke Donald spent four years at Northwestern, winning an NCAA title and graduating with a degree in art. He married a local girl. He lives on the North Side and suffers annually with Cubs fans. After the Ryder Cup, he and his wife, Diane, will pick apples in the country for her birthday.
But the only "hometown" player in the Cup plays for the visiting team. Donald is English. "Unique, isn't it?" he said.
This is not the first time a Ryder Cup held in the United States includes European players who make their primary home here. And this year's European team also includes U.S.-living Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose (Orlando), Paul Casey (Scottsdale, Ariz.) and Jesper Parnevik (Jupiter). But rare is the chance for them to play in their back yard.
"The way I look at it is the home team has the biggest advantage," Donald said. "Just taking away 1 percent of the crowd support (cheering for him), that's a help to our team."
young blood: The key to the hopes of the 12-man U.S. team lies with its four Cup rookies — Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Brandt Snedeker — and three players in their second Cup — Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson. Three of the seven have won majors, another the Players Championship. All are 35 or younger; three are in their 20s. "People say you have to pick people with experience," said former pro and current NBC analyst Johnny Miller. "I don't want a guy on my team with losing experience. I'd rather have a guy that's fresh and says, 'I'm going to win.' I like the young blood."
history lesson: Europe has won six of the past eight Cups. The two U.S. wins came at home, in 1999 at Brookline, Mass., (Country Club) and 2008 at Louisville (Valhalla). "Historically, we (stink) at the Ryder Cup," Miller said.
. Fast facts
When/where: Friday-Sunday, Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Ill.
Defending champion: Europe
TV: Friday, 8 a.m., ESPN; Saturday, 9 a.m., Ch. 8; Sunday, noon, Ch. 8.
Format: Friday — Foursomes in morning, four ball in afternoon. Saturday — Foursomes in morning, four ball in afternoon. Sunday — Single match play.