The European Tour is always particularly strong at this time of year but it is really capitalising on the change of the PGA Tour schedule. A dearth of top quality events in American has boosted the strength of the fields in the current run of prestigious events taking place in Europe.
Some of the very best golfers in the world including Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose will converge on Surrey for the 2019 edition of the BMW PGA Championship which has been moved from May. Paul Casey very much deserves his billing as one of the top players in the field for this week’s event and can prove his qualities yet again with a third win of 2019 at 14/1 with Coral.
Wentworth is an incredibly important course to the European Tour. It’s where the Tour’s headquarters are and it’s played host to all of the biggest names in European Tour history. The venue has by no means been immune from criticism though. The club’s ultra-exclusive membership policy has received much negative press whilst renovations of the West Course in recent years were not particularly popular with the professionals.
It was the work carried out in 2009 by Ernie Els and his team that really got many players’ backs up. Fortunately, Els worked alongside European Tour Design to make further alterations in 2016 with the aim of getting the course back to its original Harry Colt design. The West Course is now much less punishing and is a genuinely classic test of golf which is able to challenge modern professionals.
|West Course, Wentworth||Surrey, England||7,302 Yards||$7,000,000|
The BMW PGA Championship is the European Tour’s flagship event. It is fitting therefore that it has been won by so many top class golfers over the years. Everybody involved in the tournament was delighted that trend continued post the 2016 renovations with Francesco Molinari and Alex Noren winning in 2018 and 2017 respectively. Chris Wood and Rory McIlroy were both at the peak of their powers for their wins whilst An Byeong-hun used his win to launch a successful career on both the European and PGA Tours.
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2018||Francesco Molinari||-17||2 Strokes|
|2017||Alex Noren||-11||2 Strokes|
|2016||Chris Wood||-9||1 Stroke|
|2015||An Byeong-hun||-21||6 Strokes|
|2014||Rory McIlroy||-14||1 Stroke|
Analysis: Wentworth an All Round Test
Wentworth does not pose a tough challenge in one particular area. Rather, it is the sort of course that will test every element of a golfer’s game over the four days of play. There are holes where power is important but strategy is the overriding test off the tee. Players will be forced to hit some fairly hard greens with long irons so quality ball striking is a must but so is wedge play as many will be forced to lay up on the tougher par fives.
The main boost that longer hitters have is on the par fives. The par fours at Wentworth are generally very tough so it is important to maximise the chances to score on the par fives. It takes more than brute strength to master the longer holes but those who advance the ball furthest down the fairways off the tee will be able to hit shorter clubs into the greens which is a real bonus.
Casey Can Continue His Hot Streak
Paul Casey was perhaps the only person genuinely talking up Paul Casey’s chances of winning the FedEx Cup at East Lake. The Englishman has never been short of confidence and he told everybody who would listen that he had a real chance of winning the big prize despite the odds being stacked against him.
That he believed he could win is very interesting. Nobody doubts that Casey is a world class golfer (his longevity backs that up) but many have doubted his ability to dig deep when the pressure is on and close tournaments out. Those doubters have had to eat their words on a few occasions recently. First, Casey won the Valpsar Championship in March, then he finished third at the Tour Championship and last time out he claimed his first European Tour win for five years at the Porsche European Open just a fortnight ago.
Casey grew up in Surrey and has played Wentworth a huge amount. He’s also a former BMW PGA Championship winner and is arguably playing better now than when he claimed that win in 2009 so looks a good price at 14/1 with Coral.
Pepperell Relishing Wentworth Return
Eddie Pepperell’s world ranking has been on a downward trend over the last five tournaments he’s played. That he is still comfortably inside the world’s top 50 tells you just how well he’s been playing for an extended period of time.
At one time, the strokes gained stats had Pepperell as the very best iron player in the world. That’s the sort of stat that really translates to a quality showing at Wentworth so it’s little surprise that he already has a top 10 finish to his name in the BMW PGA Championship. Pepperell loves playing in front of a British crowd, is a big fan of Wentworth and has the class to contend against this stellar field at big odds of 100/1 with bet365.
Final Verdict: Paul Casey to Win
Paul Casey and Eddie Pepperell play their golf in much the same way. They’re both powerful enough off the tee but it’s what they do with their irons that really sets them apart from the competition. The two are at very different places in the betting market and Casey does have the best chance of winning but expect them both to be in contention come Sunday at Wentworth.
About the BMW PGA Championship
One of the most prestigious events on the European Tour is the BMW PGA Championship, which takes place at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England every year. Originally called the British PGA Championship, this tournament has grown in stature over the years, especially when it was introduced as a European Tour event in 1972.
The last championship to be held outside of Surrey was the 1983 Sun Alliance PGA Championship at Royal St George’s in Kent, which was won by the great Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros. Since then, the Wentworth Club has been the worthy home of the BMW PGA Championship, with each of the last 36 being held in the English county. Note that this event should not be confused with the BMW Championship (which is the penultimate tournament of the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour), despite the confusingly similar names.
The winner of this prestigious tournament not only receives a sizeable sum of money (2019 winner Danny Willett pocketed a cool €1,056,661 when he was victorious), they also get an exemption into the US Open and the next three Open Championships. This gives a particularly strong incentive to players who would otherwise struggle to meet the qualification criteria for those two major championships.
Faldo’s Four Victories
Many greats have won this prestigious tournament over the years, but no player has lifted this trophy more times than Sir Nick Faldo. The English ace has won the event on four occasions, and though his six major championship wins (three Masters victories and three triumphs in the Open Championship) are more significant, there is no doubt Faldo has a soft spot for this tournament too.
Faldo’s first win came in the 1978 Colgate Championship, as it was then known. He stormed away from the opposition with a seven-stroke success, with Scotsman Ken Brown finishing as runner-up. Two years later, the man from Hertfordshire edged the win by a single stroke, with Ken Brown once again finishing as the runner-up. Faldo was up to his old tricks again in 1981, again beating – you’ve guessed it! – Ken Brown (and Neil Coles), this time by four strokes. There is little doubt that poor Ken Brown must have been sick of the sight of Faldo at this tournament by that point!
His 1980 win was the joint second highest winning score of the event in the European Tour era (i.e. since 1972) when he ended the tournament three over par. The only year a higher score has allowed a player to win was 1975 when the great Arnold Palmer won by two strokes despite only managing a score of five over par!
Faldo’s fourth and final victory came in 1989, when he beat Welshman Ian Woosnam by two strokes at Wentworth Club. His final score of 16 under par that year was typical of the low scores achieved at Wentworth. The best score in this tournament at the time of writing was South Korea’s An Byeong-hun who mustered a fantastic 21 under par in his 2015 triumph.
Nick Faldo’s BMW PGA Championship Victories
|Year||Nick Faldo’s PGA Championship Wins||Score||Runner(s)-up|
|1978||Colgate PGA Championship (Royal Birkdale)||-10||Ken Brown|
|1980||Sun Alliance PGA Championship (Royal St George’s)||+3||Ken Brown|
|1981||Sun Alliance PGA Championship (Canton Golf Club)||-10||Ken Brown & Neil Coles|
|1989||Volvo PGA Championship (Wentworth Club)||-16||Ian Woosnam|
Monty’s Magical Three in a Row
Colin Montgomerie made history in 2000 when he won a third successive Volvo PGA Championship (as it was then known). The Scot dominated this competition for three years, winning in 1998, 1999 and 2000. To this day, Montgomerie is the only player to have won this competition three years running.
Monty’s first triumph was a close one, edging out Ernie Els, Gary Orr and Patrik Sjoland by a single stroke. The next two victories were more convincing, as Montgomerie won by five strokes from Mark James in 1999 and then by three in 2000 when he got the better of Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood and Andrew Coltart who tied for second place. The Scottish ace also finished runner-up in 1991, 1993 and 2002. Only nine players have won this tournament more than once.
Alas, Monty never enjoyed quite as much success in the majors… he finished second or tied for second on five occasions during his career! As you can see from the table below, some other winners of this one performed somewhat better in the biggest tournaments on the planet.
Multiple Winners of the BMW PGA Championship
|Years||Multiple Winners||Number of Major Wins/Best Major Finish|
|1978, 1980, 1981, 1989||Nick Faldo||Six wins (Masters three times, The Open three times)|
|1957, 1962, 1965||Peter Alliss||Eight/tied eight (The Open four times!)|
|1987, 1993, 1995||Bernhard Langer||Two wins (Masters twice)|
|1998, 1999, 2000||Colin Montgomerie||Second/tied second (PGA Championship, US Open, The Open)|
|1983, 1991||Seve Ballesteros||Five wins (Master twice, The Open three times)|
|1972, 1982||Tony Jacklin||Two wins (US Open, The Open)|
|1988, 1997||Ian Woosnam||One win (Masters)|
|2011, 2012||Luke Donald||Tied third (Masters, PGA Championship)|
|2002, 2007||Anders Hansen||Third (PGA Championship)|
In 2008, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Englishman Oliver Wilson were involved in a thrilling battle for the BMW PGA Championship. Both players finished on 11 under par, with a playoff needed to decide the champion.
Jimenez held his nerve at the end to win his one and only BMW PGA Championship crown, sealing the win with a birdie. Jimenez also hit a hole-in-one on the West Course’s fifth hole. The Malaga-born man remains the last Spaniard to win this tournament.
The Beginning of Rory’s Dominance
Northern Ireland star Rory McIlroy has enjoyed plenty of success in golf in recent years. However, many believe that Rory’s BMW PGA Championship win in 2014 kick-started his relative dominance of the sport.
Rory started the week by announcing he had split with fiancée Caroline Wozniacki, but he let his golf do the talking at Wentworth Club, edging past Shane Lowry in a close battle. He was seven shots behind Dane Thomas Bjorn going into the last round, but McIlroy had a final round to remember, going on to win by a single stroke.
Shortly after his BMW PGA Championship success, Rory won the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship. In the years since, McIlroy has won various other major events and tournaments and cemented his place in the history books as one of the greatest players of his generation.
Donald versus Westwood
English heavyweights Luke Donald and Lee Westwood locked horns in a memorable battle in 2011. The pair traded blows, resulting in a playoff at the end of what was an excellent BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club. Donald eventually got the better of Westwood, seeing off his rival on the first extra hole.
After his win, Donald replaced his fellow countryman as world number one, where he stayed for 40 weeks. “To come through in these circumstances in one of the biggest tournaments in the world, going head-to-head with Lee is pretty special. It does not get much better,” said Donald. He retained the trophy a year later, this time by securing a four-stroke success over Paul Lawrie and Justin Rose.