The European Tour heads home to Wentworth this week for the circuit’s flagship event. Luke Donald is looking to make it three wins in a row at the BMW PGA Championship.
Former World Number 1, Luke Donald will be aiming to make it a hat-trick of wins at Wentworth. Only Colin Montgomerie has won three in a row in this event in the past, and the Englishman will be hoping to match the Scot’s achievement.
Donald’s victory in 2011 came via a thrilling playoff against fellow Englishman Lee Westwood. His defence last year was far more straightforward as he cruised to a four-shot win with a final round of 68.
Donald will face stern competition from an extremely strong field this week. World Number 2 Rory McIlroy is back in the UK to try and get back into the winner’s circle. Justin Rose is also on the start sheet, together with Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Martin Kaymer.
It’s one of the richest tournaments on the European Tour schedule with a total of almost €5 million up for grabs. The winner will walk away with a cheque for just under €800,000.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell will come into the event full of confidence after his victory in the Volvo World Match Play Championship last week. He’s moved up to 7th on the Official World Golf Ranking following that result and will be aiming to continue his upward progress.
Since 1984 the PGA Championship has been hosted over Wentworth’s West Course, or “Burma Road” as it’s known. In that time there have been some notable winners including: Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Colin Montgomerie.
The West Course was originally designed by renowned architect Harry Colt, but Ernie Els has overseen significant changes to the layout since 2006. Greens have been remodelled and even rebuilt and, since last year’s event, a fairway bunker to the side of the sixth and the run-off area on the 17th have been removed.
The weather forecast looks set fair for the tournament, though there may be relatively strong winds to contend with over the first couple of days.
Venue: Wentworth Club, Virginia Water, Surrey, England
Date: May 23-26
Course stats: par 72, 7,302 yards
Purse: €4,750,000 Winner: €791,660
Defending Champion: Luke Donald (-15)
Thursday 23 – Sky Sports 1 from 10am
Friday 24 – Sky Sports 2 from 10am
Saturday 25 – Sky Sports 2 from 12.30pm
Sunday 26 – Sky Sports 2 from 12.30pm
The likes of Donald, McIlroy, Westwood and Rose will start as favourites this week. But who might upset the big names?
Branden Grace – Fifth in this event last year and fresh off a tied third place finish in the Volvo Match Play last week, Grace will be looking to build momentum with another strong performance this time out. He’s a streaky player and could just have found a rich vein of form at the right time.
Thorbjorn Olesen – The Dane has stepped up a level this year with solid performances on both sides of the Atlantic, including an impressive top-10 at the Masters. This event could provide the perfect stage for Olesen to continue his rise towards the very highest echelon of the sport.
Brett Rumford – The European Tour’s most on-form player, Rumford won back-to-back in Korea and China before finishing tied 9th in the Match Play. He was fourth in this event back in 2006.
Key hole: 18th. A 539 yard par-5, it’s eminently reachable in two for most players in the field. But, a water hazard in front of the green makes going for the eagle risky. The green and surrounds have been altered in recent seasons to make going for the surface in two blows a more appealing prospect. If someone is chasing on Sunday afternoon, they might just be tempted.
Skills required: Fast finishing. With two par-5s to close out the course, there’s potential for big swings at the death. The players will be looking to finish 4-4 and anything more than that will feel like an opportunity missed.
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