18 holes with ... Mark Rolfing

NBC analyst gets an early look at Medinah in advance of Ryder Cup

Mark Rolfing's squibber ("short, crooked and horrible") off the 15th tee at Medinah left the NBC/Golf Channel analyst in the rough, 220 yards from the hole.

Rolfing debated his next shot — lay up on the short par-4 or try to reach a green protected by a pond and sprawling bunker.

So I wondered: WWJD?

What would Johnny do?

Rolfing has been friends with brash NBC analyst Johnny Miller for two decades. He praises Miller as "brilliant" and is savvy enough to know "you can't get in the last word with him."

Miller's word on this shot, according to Rolfing, would be …

"Don't be crazy. You're not that good. Know your limitations."

And he would have been right. Guarding against hitting a fade into the water, Rolfing pulled his 5-wood approach, leading to a double bogey.

Rolfing laughed it off. Whether he's holding a putter or a microphone, the 63-year-old DeKalb native is ego-free. He knows the star of the show.

For his day job, it's guys like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Luke Donald.

On this day, the star was Medinah, which he predicted will be a "fabulous" Ryder Cup home. Golf's ultimate team competition, a three-day nerve-fest that pits Yankees against Euros, will come to Chicago's western suburbs Sept. 28-30. NBC will provide coverage.

"This is a great venue," said Rolfing, who covered his first Ryder Cup in 1991. "There will be so many exciting holes."

Start with the 15th. Architect Rees Jones transformed what had been a mundane 392-yarder into a thrill-seeking par-4 that could play as short as 280.

"Bubba Watson can probably put it on with a 3-wood," Rolfing said.

Yeah, but the left-hander probably would have to hit a cut shot that starts at the pond to pull it off.

This was Rolfing's first time playing the new 15th — and his first time playing Medinah's signature No. 3 course in 15 years. (It was also his first round of the year, so an 86 from 7,000-plus yards wasn't bad, even for a former member of the European and Asian tours.)

"I knew this was the toughest course in America," Rolfing said after being left with a 35-foot par putt on No. 1.

No one ever has questioned Medinah's teeth, but the gossipmongers have been in force regarding the conditions. New turf, coupled with a 7-inch rainstorm, left the course in ragged shape last summer.

Other Chicago-area clubs blocked off the late September dates in hopes of a last-minute venue switch. And there were rumors Medinah No. 3 would be closed to members all season.