It’s not often that the European Tour takes prominence over the PGA Tour but with the BMW PGA Championship this week it does just that.
It’s the first of eight Rolex Series events on Europe’s track this season and continues the run of big events over the next few months following on from THE PLAYERS Championship less than a fortnight ago.
As European Tour fields go, it lives up to the size of the event with 14 of the world’s top 50 in attendance including world-number-eight Rory McIlroy, number-10 Paul Casey, Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood and defending champion Alex Noren.Embed from Getty Images
The above will be joined further by Tyrrell Hatton, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari as well as all of the Belgian Knockout top four from last week (Adrian Otaegui, Benjamin Hebert, David Drysdale and James Heath). The full field can be found here.
Look out, too, for a host of celebrity names at the famed Wednesday pro-am including Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, and even the likes of Piers Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Sir AP McCoy and Sir Steve Redgrave.
From the way that Sunday looked to shape up last year, Noren was a fairly unforeseen victor. He sat seven shots and 20 places off the lead heading into the final round but romped to a resounding course-record 62, including a closing eagle, to move to 11-under and win by two shots. Finishing an hour before the final groups created an anti-climatic finish but demonstrated the quality of the Swede’s final round.Embed from Getty Images
Noren will strive to become just the third player to defend the prestigious title alongside healthy company in Nick Faldo (1980 and 1981), Colin Montgomerie (1998, 1999 and 2000) and Luke Donald (2011 and 2012). None of those three are on the course this year but past winners Chris Wood (2016), Byeong Hun An (2015), McIlroy (2014), Matteo Manassero (2013), Simon Khan (2010), Casey (2009) and David Howell (2006) are all hoping for another taste of Wentworth success.
Since the inauguration of the European Tour in 1972, Wentworth Club has been host every year bar a nine-year hiatus between 1975 and 1983.
The 7284-yard par-72 West Course is flat but creates a substantial challenge for the players in Surrey with tight fairways guarded by towering tree lines. And the club have spent recent years doing all they can to increase the test of the course. The greens have been remodelled and returfed, the 18th has been transformed from a certain-birdie to a high-risk hole and countless bunkers have been added.Embed from Getty Images
The quest for difficulty has been a relative success for Wentworth, with winning scores over the last 11 years averaging at 14-under-par (that includes An’s 21-under total in 2015) whilst in the previous 11 years the average sat at 16-under.
With growing status comes growing investment and this is just the second year that the winner’s prize is over one million Euros (€1,041,939) with a total prize fund of €5,937,400. And as the European Tour’s flagship events it offers 7,000,000 Race to Dubai points and a minimum of 64 world ranking points for the winner.
The European Tour spends its life in the shadows of its cross-Atlantic counterpart so can be forgiven for its promotion of this week’s showdown.