The European Tour heads home to Wentworth this week for the circuit’s flagship event. Matteo Manassero defends his title in the BMW PGA Championship.

Lowdown:
The European Tour heads home to Wentworth this week for the circuit’s flagship event. Matteo Manassero defends his title in the BMW PGA Championship.

This is the 60th edition of the PGA Championship and it has attracted a stellar field. Henrik Stenson is the top World Ranked player teeing it up and he’s joined by the likes of: Sergio Garica, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel. There are no fewer than 10 Major champions on the start sheet, including recent Players Championship winner Martin Kaymer.

This is 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.

There was good news in the run-up to this tournament when BMW and The European Tour announced a four-year extension to their partnership, until 2018.

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.

Last year, 20-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero came through a sudden-death playoff against Scotland’s Marc Warren and 2010 BMW PGA Champion Simon Khan. Warren fell at the first extra hole and Manassero eventually prevailed when Khan found the water with his approach on the fourth extra hole.

“I always look forward to this week in May that gave me such a lot of amazing experiences,” the young Italian said. “It is a great memory for me, and I hope to do it again.”

The West Course was originally designed by renowned architect Harry Colt, but Ernie Els has overseen significant changes to the layout in the last 10 years.

The weather forecast for the end of this week looks a touch unsettled with rain a distinct possibility Friday to Sunday. This tends to be a demanding tournament and will be even more so if it’s wet.

Venue: Wentworth Club, Virginia Water, Surrey, England
Date: May 22-25
Course stats: par 72, 7,302 yards
Purse: €4,750,000 Winner: €791,660
Defending Champion: Matteo Manassero (-10)

TV Coverage:

Thursday 22 – Sky Sports 4 from 10am
Friday 9 – Sky Sports 4 from 10am
Saturday 10 – Sky Sports 4 from 12pm
Sunday 11 – Sky Sports 4 from 12pm

Player Watch:
The big favourites will be McIlroy, Stenson, Garcia, Donald, Westwood et al. But who is sneaking under the radar?

Miguel Angel Jimenez – The 50-year-old just seems to be getting better with age. He won last week in his home Open, has been a former winner of this event (2008) and was tied fourth here last year.

Alejandro Canizares – A winner already this year in Morocco, he played solidly last week in the Open de Espana, finishing in a tie for 7th. He was tied 4th in this event last year.

Jonas Blixt – The Swede will be keen to impress as he continues his quest to earn a Ryder Cup spot. He was joint runner-up in The Masters and has a good record when he comes over to play on the European Tour. He was 12th in the DP World Tour Championship last season and second in the Nordea Masters.

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.