European Tour flagship event has attracted huge interest and a top-class field

BMW PGA Championship preview

The lowdown
The European Tour’s flagship event has attracted huge interest and a top-class field.

Nine Major champions will be teeing it up on Thursday on Wentworth’s West Course – Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Ernie Els, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Paul Lawrie, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and YE Yang.

All but three of last year’s winning European Ryder Cup team will be competing. Not playing will be Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter. None of this trio get on with the layout. As Poulter says: “I’ve played 13 PGAs at Wentworth and had one Top 10 and eight missed cuts. Enough said.”

With advance ticket sales running at their highest level ever, the organisers have had to provide extra capacity for spectators.

With pre-booked seats in the 18th green grandstand running at 40% above last year an 475 extra seats have been erected around the 18th green taking the overall capacity in this area to over 2,500. The 1st tee grandstand has also had its capacity increased by about 50%.

Last season certainly saw a grandstand finish, with Rory McIlroy making a final round 66 to claw back a seven-shot deficit to Thomas Bjørn on the final day and pip runner-up Shane Lowry by a stroke. Bjørn had led or co-led after each of the first three rounds, but ended in a tie for third after a final round 75.

Rory Mcllroy BMW PGA Championship  preview

Venue: Wentworth Club, Virginia Water, Surrey
Date: May 21-24, 2015
Course stats: par 72, 7,302 yards
Purse: €5,000,000
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy (-14)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 21 – Sky Sports 4 from 10am
Friday 22- Sky Sports 4 from 10am
Saturday 23 – Sky Sports 4 from 12noon
Sunday 24 – Sky Sports 4 from 12noon

Players to watch:
Justin Rose – “It’s a bucket list tournament for me. Our family lived close to Wentworth and I was always excited each May to attend the event as a child with my dad.” Has two runners-up finishes in the tournament, in 2012 and 2007.

Rory McIlroy – In his last 10 events on the European Tour he has not finished outside the top 10 and has recorded 5 victories and two runner up spots. He is also the defending champion here. Last year the defending champion, Matteo Manassero, opened with an 80 and missed the cut by five strokes.

PGA Championship preview

Rory McIlroy in action in last year’s tournament. Credit: Getty Images

Player not to watch: Patrick Reed – the 24-year-old Texan, who joined the European Tour at the start of the year, was due to makes his debut in the event. Only one American – Arnold Palmer in 1975 – has won this event in its 60-year history. Reed won’t be adding to that list – he withdrew on Tuesday and will play in the US in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial instead. He also skips next weeks Irish Open, which he was also due to play in.

Key hole: 3rd. A notoriously tough hole – a long uphill par 4 played to a tricky green. Having already played another long par 4 in the opening hole, if you can walk off the 3rd at level par for your round, you should be happy.

Key attribute: Luke Donald, winner here in 2011 and 2012, explains: “The course is very much a positional one. Even though it is quite long off the back tees there are a lot of holes which you can’t take driver off the tee so it’s a case of threading it between the fairway bunkers. Then you need a lot of precision into the greens because a lot of them are protected by these now-deep bunkers and are quite sectioned off so it is certainly a shotmaker’s course.”

Weather: Mainly cloudy but dry. Some rain forecast for the Friday. Winds only light throughout tournament.