Keegan Bradley is a worthy pitch man for the BMW Championship and Medinah Country Club.
As the reigning champ, Bradley is building some buzz around the $9.25 million event in August, the penultimate leg of the PGA Tour playoff series. But who better than Bradley to speak of the golf fandom surrounding Medinah?
He captivated Medinah crowds in his Ryder Cup debut in 2012 as a fiery rookie who went 3-0 over the first two days of play alongside Phil Mickelson. U.S. team meltdown aside, Bradley fondly recalled his Medinah memories Monday during a BMW Championship media day event.
"When I think back to the Ryder Cup at Medinah, it's probably the most fun time I've ever had playing the game of golf. Every single second was fun, exciting," Bradley said in a Skype call. "You know, Sunday didn't go the way we wanted, but other than that it was as much fun as I've ever had on a golf course."
Fresh off his tied-for-second finish at the Travelers Championship, Bradley is aiming for a return to Medinah to defend his BMW title recorded at Aronimink Golf Club in Philadelphia -- the victory that at long last ended his Tour slump. The top 70 players in the FedExCup standings make up the BMW field, and Bradley currently is ranked 48th.
How will Medinah suit Bradley's game? Well, seven years ago, U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III had this to say about Bradley and Medinah: "It looked like it was built for him."
Bradley's favorite hole at Medinah's Course No. 3 also is a fan favorite: the gorgeous par-3 17th over Lake Kadijah.
"It's the perfect yardage, and it's just a great hole," Bradley said. "A lot can happen there, especially coming down the end of a tournament. It's just an exciting finish."
The 33-year-old also gave high marks to Chicago-area golf fans and the earlier start date for the BMW Championship, bumped up to August instead of September to avoid conflicts with football.
"When we get to play in major markets like Chicago, New York, Boston, L.A., it just brings a different excitement to the course," Bradley said. "It just brings that extra -- just a little extra adrenaline that we love to play for. Especially in Chicago. The fans in Chicago are extra crazy. "
Medinah's footprint will comfortably accommodate the more than 125,000 spectators expected for the week. The event also serves as fundraiser for the Evans Scholars Foundation, a Western Golf Association charity that provides college tuition and housing scholarships to caddies in financial need.
When the BMW last played in the Chicago region at Conway Farms in 2015, the tournament garnered $2 million for the foundation. This year, WGA officials hope to raise close to $3 million.
"Having it in the Western suburbs at a place like Medinah, we expect to see just incredible crowds," said Vince Pellegrino, the tournament director and an Evans Scholar himself. "And we're seeing that through our corporate hospitality support and ticket sales to date."
At the media day event, there was no announcement about the status of talks to secure a new title sponsor for the tournament. The BMW sponsorship agreement will expire after the Medinah plays host. Olympia Fields is the 2020 venue.
"Beyond 2019, the PGA Tour and WGA are in active discussions with several companies and are very confident we'll have a long-term agreement in place starting in 2020," a WGA spokeswoman said in a statement.
Opening in 1924, Medinah last hosted the Western Open, the precursor to the BMW, in 1966. More than 600 members of the exclusive club will volunteer at the tournament.
"It's no accident that Medinah's been chosen to host a number of prestigious tournaments," said Bruce D'Angelo, tournament chairman. "Besides being a world-class facility, we're in an international city and, most important, we have a membership that really supports the events we've hosted."
Medinah's prestige has his fellow Tour pros eager to compete at Medinah, Bradley said.
"Any time you get to play at venues like Medinah or Aronimink or courses like that just adds to the hype and the value of the event," Bradley said. "We know coming to this tournament you're playing a major-caliber course, a Ryder Cup course, and it just brings that much more to the event that we can look forward to and the fans can as well."