The flagship event of the European Tour takes place this weekend as the top players of the European Tour descend on Wentworth’s West Course. The BMW PGA Championship was established in 1955 and has been held under various sponsor’s names in its history, since 1984 it has been held at Wentworth, the official headquarters of the European Tour. The list of past
winners reads like a who’s, who’s of European golf, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Seve Ballesteros, Costantino Rocca, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie and Tony Jacklin have all won this event, Arnold Palmer also won this event in 1975. As the premier European Tour event it is one that all European players want on their CV despite its relatively small prize fund compared with the newly created Final Series events.
Much has been of the changes made to the West Course since 2006 overseen by Ernie Els, not of it has been positive though. The changes have made the course both longer and more of a challenge which is a positive in the opinion of those in favour of the changes. To its detractors, the changes have taken
away the fun holes from the course and it encourages a negative style of play. In reality with the adaptations made to the course before last years event have probably created a happy medium of toughness and exciting golf, its probably closer to an Augusta than a US Open course which is ideal for a showcase of Europe’s talents.
Last year, Luke Donald sealed back to back wins in the event with a four stroke victory over Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie. The win moved Donald back to the summit of the World Golf Rankings and he joined Colin Montgomerie and Nick Faldo as back to back winners of this event. In fact in his 8
appearances at the event he has not finished lower than 35th and has 2nd, 3rd and 7th place finishes to his name. He will arguably face his biggest challenge to date at Wentworth to win it for a third successive year but it is not something that can easily rule out. 2013 has started slowly by his standard, in the past two years he has arrived at Wentworth with at least one win to his name for the season, this season he arrives with none. However he has two top fives to his name on the PGA Tour so shouldn’t be underestimated this. Donald, however, is not one of five possible winners.
5 For The Win
Branden Grace – There is no question that Grace was a revelation last year on the European Tour. He won 4 events, established himself inside the world’s top 50 and also finished 6th in the Race To Dubai. He has yet to taste
victory this season but he looked on a real upward curve this past week in Bulgaria when he was unlucky to run into an inspired Graeme McDowell. His sole visit to Wentworth was last year when he finished in a sole 5th and given his confidence from last week; it is hard to knock his prospects this week.
Justin Rose – Last year’s runner up Justin Rose will come into this week with high hopes despite a missed cut last time out at Sawgrass. That missed cut was his first this season and a line can be put through it as Sawgrass has
never been a favoured course for Rose. He has not finished outside the top 25 in all his 8 other starts in 2013 and but for a fatigued 3rd round at Bay Hill, he would have at least pushed Tiger hard in that event. His 2nd place finish last year was his best performance at Wentworth to date and given the development of his game in the past 12 months he has to rate as a favourite for the win this year.
Lee Westwood – Following his move to Florida, this is a rare visit to a European Tour event for Westwood but one he is clearly looking forward to. A runner up here in 2011, Westwood arrives in a decent run of form with 4
consecutive top ten finishes in his last four PGA Tour events and this is despite struggling with his putter. He has sounded focused in his interviews in the build up to this event and he will be keen to put to bed the criticism of the quality of the tournaments he has won by claiming victory here this week.
Ian Poulter – Refreshingly honest is how you can describe Poulter’s comments following his World Match Play exit regarding his performance there. He no doubt raised some eyebrows by stating he would win this week but such is the
confidence and determination of Poulter. Personally I do not put much stead in his comments about winning but I do rate his chances highly, prior to his last three events he was one of the form golfers in the world for the last 6 months. He has had a love-hate relationship with Wentworth and has missed the event in past years due to this; however he showed his ability round the course with a top ten finish last year so shouldn’t be written off this week.
Richard Sterne – It has been a season that Sterne has deserved following a torrid time with injuries. He has performed consistently in all events bar his first event of the season. He has a win and 2nd place to his name and has finished
inside the top 25 in seven of his nine starts this season. His form at Wentworth reads well, he has 3rd and 6th place finishes on the course and has been talking positively about his chances this week. With all the attention on the Ryder Cup stars this week, he could benefit from run under the radar.
Simon Dyson – It has been a quiet period in Dyson’s career, he had his worst season on tour since 2008 with just a single top five in 2012 but there have been signs in his last event that he is on the way back. He recovered from an opening
round of 75 to shoot 70, 71, and 69 to finish inside the top 25 for the first time this season. He seems to reserve his best for UK/Irish based events, twice an Irish Open winner and a winner in the Dunhill Links; he also finished third in his last appearance at Wentworth. He is a proud Englishmen who I think will surprise the odds this week.