Wentworth Club hosts its 37th BMW PGA Championship this week but the course will will be unfamiliar to the returning field.
A week after Chris Wood’s victory last year, work commenced to completely renovate the club’s West Course; the work included improvements to the surface of the greens, reshaping and rebuilding of nine greens and every single bunker going under redesign and reconstruction.
Developments have only finished in the past month-or-so meaning players have had little time to get to grips with the new-look Wentworth. That includes defending champion Wood who fired a final round 69 to overcome Rikard Karlberg by one and, recent Masters champion at the time, Danny Willett by two.
A small collection of other past winners join Wood in Byeong Hun An (2015), Matteo Manassero (2013) and two-time winner Luke Donald (2012 and 2011). World-number-two and 2014 champion Rory McIlroy was due to return until his withdrawal last week in a battle with an ongoing rib injury.
The European Tour does still attract a strong field to Surrey this week with 17 of the world’s top 50 and seven of the world’s top 25 entering including the likes of 2016 and 2013 Race to Dubai champion Henrik Stenson, Masters runner-up Justin Rose, Alex Noren, Tyrrell Hatton, Branden Grace and Thomas Pieters.
The Race to Dubai’s second, fourth and fifth ranked players – Tommy Fleetwood, the aforementioned Rose and Bernd Wiesberger – all enter whilst the Spanish duo in first and third – Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm – are absent.
A renovated course is not all making it’s debut this week as the BMW PGA Championship kicks off the European Tour’s inaugural Rolex Series. The new concept is a collection of seven events – including the Final Series events and the Irish, Scottish and Italian Open as well as this week’s event – with a prize fund of $7 million minimum.
As it happens, this event sticks to the minimum prize fund of $7 million – as will the Irish, Scottish, Italian and Turkish Airlines Open. The movement has been created in an attempt to compete with the PGA Tour’s prize funds to retain current players and attract new.
As the European Tour does what it can to match and pressure its cross-Atlantic counterpart, the success of the BMW PGA Championship, on a newly designed course, this week to begin the Rolex Series might prove pivotal in its attempts.