BMW PGA Championship: Englishmen can shine again at Wentworth, says The Punter

Rory McIlroy playing the 18th hole last year
Rory McIlroy playing the 18th hole last year

Our man takes a detailed look at the European Tour's flagship event at Wentworth. What will it take to find success in Surrey and can the English prosper yet again? Read Steve's comprehensive preview here...


"I really look forward to this event every year and not just because the course is very easy on the eye and that there are some nice trends to guide us before the off. The best thing about this event is how dramatic Sundays can be and how many great chances to trade there are."

Tournament History

First staged at Pannal Golf Club in 1955 and known as the PGA Close Championship, the BMW Championship is the European Tour's flagship event.

The event was nomadic to begin with and it disappeared from the calendar altogether for a couple of years before returning in 1972 when the European Tour came into being, That was also the year it was played at Wentworth for the first time but after three years in Surrey, the tournament returned to being nomadic for nine years. It took root at Wentworth again in 1984 and it's been played there ever since.

Great players like Sir Nick Faldo, Bernard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Luke Donald, Seve, and Rory McIlroy have all won the tournament.


Venue

Wentworth (West Course), Surrey, England.


Course Details

Par 72 - 7,302 yards
Stroke Index in 2014 - 72.6

Designed by Harry Colt and opened in 1926, the West Course, often referred to as Burma Road, has undergone a series of alterations in recent years, under the supervision of Ernie Els.

All the greens were remodelled in 2009/10 and the par 5 finishing hole was radically changed. At the mercy to modern equipment, the old 18th was an almost given birdie and a great eagle chance but now, with a large stream snaking its way in front of the green, it's a stunning risk/reward finishing hole.

Wentworth is a tight, fairly flat, tree-lined heathland course with tricky-to-read greens that usually run at around 10 on the stimpmeter.


Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Site
Hole-by-hole guide
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast
Alternative Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.


Last Five Winners

2009 - Rory McIlroy -14
2013 - Matteo Manassero -10 (Playoff)
2012 - Luke Donald -15
2011 - Luke Donald -6 (Playoff) (Par 71)
2010 - Simon Khan -6 (Par 71)


What will it take to win the BMW PGA Championship?

Ten years ago, Angel Cabrera hit it further than anyone else from the tee when he won and Rory McIlroy ranked 4th 12 months ago but in the eight years in between none of the winners ranked any better than 27th and they had an average Driving Distance ranking of 43.75. Length off the tee is almost irrelevant.

The jury is out slightly as to how accurate off the tee you need to be - the last four winners have had an average ranking of only 34.75, suggesting you don't need to be especially accurate, but the five winners that preceded them all ranked no worse than 8th for Driving Accuracy.

McIlroy ranked only 23rd for Greens in Regulation when winning last year but he and Miguel Angel Jimenez, who ranked just 51st in 2008, are the only two winners in the last 10 years to rank outside the top-12. Simon Khan ranked number one for GIR when he won the title in 2010 and he is one of five men in the last decade to rank inside the top-four.

The last 10 winners have an average Putting Average ranking of 18 and an average Par 4 Scoring ranking of 6.3, with four winners playing the par 4s better than anyone else, so accuracy is definitely the key to success at Wentworth and you don't need to putt the lights out to win. Anders Hansen ranked just 46th when he won the second of his two titles in 2007 and Khan putted even worse - he ranked 55th!


Is There an Angle In?

At this very early stage, the forecasts suggest we'll have breezy conditions to varying degrees all week - nothing awful but troublesome enough to hand an advantage to those with plenty of course experience.

With so many trees, it's really tricky to get a handle on how the wind will affect the flight of the ball and the players are even issued with wind maps to help them navigate the Burma Road. You can be in one place on the course and not feel it at all but then walk on a few yards and it's blowing hard. The trees hide the wind well and it's very confusing for those without course experience.

Playing the venue plenty of times isn't usually enough though. Many very good players never seem to get to grips with Wentworth. Course form in-particular is a big bonus. The first 11 home 12 months ago had all finished at least 12th at Wentworth previously and only three of the 11 - Marcel Siem, who was 7th two years previously; Henrik Stenson, 8th in 2007; and Larrazabal, who was 12th in 2013, hadn't recorded a top-five finish prior to last year's renewal. Course form counts for plenty and debutants are up against it.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

The English do really well here and four different Englishman have won five of the last nine renewals, and last year was the first time in nine years that an Englishman didn't finish second as well. In fact, in every year since 1995, with the exception of 2003 when Spain's Ignacio Garrido caused a huge shock by beating South Africa's Trevor Immelman in a play-off, the winner and/or the runner-up has come from Britain or Ireland.


In-Play Tactics

I really look forward to this event every year and not just because the course is very easy on the eye and that there are some nice trends to guide us before the off. The best thing about this event is how dramatic Sundays can be and how many great chances to trade there are.

Wentworth is a difficult place to make the running. I've gone as far back as 1990 and the only leader or co-leader after round one to go on to take the title is Luke Donald. He went wire-to-wire in 2011, before beating Lee Westwood in a play-off.

Paul Casey won doggedly after hitting the front at halfway in 2009, as did David Howell in 2006, and between 2000 and 2002, all three 36-hole winners went on to convert but the leaders are always vulnerable here and I'll definitely be looking closely at those off the pace with a round to go.

Those tactics paid dividends two years ago when I was able to trade my way to a nice profit after backing both play-off protagonists Simon Khan at 150.0149/1 and Miguel Angel Jimenez at 160.0159/1 with a round to go. Both men started the final round five off the lead but finished strongly. Jimenez missed out on the play-off by just a stroke. And we saw all sorts of shenanigans last year when Thomas Bjorn failed to convert a five stroke lead with a round to play.

The Dane traded at a low of just 1.21/5 after a nice steady start but after birdying the par 5 4th he bogeyed the 5th and triple-bogeyed the 6th and it was game on. Shane Lowry took up the running and led by three at one stage and he was matched at just 1.511/2 but in the end, McIlroy swooped late to take the title having trailed by fully seven strokes, and he's far from the first to come from miles back to win.

In 2010, Khan was seven back after three rounds when he won. Jimenez came from four back in 2008 and in 2007, Anders Hansen won a three-man play-off, having trailed by five with a round to go. And in that play-off, he beat Justin Rose and Oliver Wilson, who themselves had been three and four back respectfully.

If you're going to bet in-running, the back nine is easier than the front nine and the short par 4 16th and the two par 5 finishing holes all offer up chances to pick up shots late on.


Market Leaders

Fresh off his demolition job in Charlotte, defending champion, Rory McIlroy, is all the rage to double-up at Wentworth but he's just too short for my liking at less than 3/1.

He won here in style 12 months ago but his Wentworth form before that was fairly ordinary. He missed the cut here on debut in 2008 before finishing 5th a year later but over the next four years he finished 48th and 24th before missing two cuts in-a-row.

Another obvious negative is that he's never before defended a title and I think he's far from a value price to do so here. Of course, if he plays like he did over the weekend then he's going to take all the beating but that's a big if.

Rory went off at around 15.014/1 last year so he's more than four times shorter this time around whereas Justin Rose, who only last month won the Zurich Classic is that same price he was 12 months ago and for me, that's where the value lies.

Rose, who has twice finished runner-up at Wentworth, in 2007 and 2012, has seen his form dip slightly after winning in New Orleans but not hideously so. He lost his first tie at the WGC Match Play to Marc Leishman after suffering from a cold/hangover after celebrating his Zurich win. He won his next two ties but didn't progress and then he missed the cut at the Players Championship.

That was obviously not a great effort but other than his tied 4th at Sawgrass last year, he has a very ordinary record there so I wouldn't read an awful lot into that performance. He ticks the Englishman box (although he was actually born in South Africa) and his stats suggest his game is in great shape.

After those two, it's more than 30.029/1 the field with out of form course specialist, Luke Donald, and Lee Westwood vying for third favouritism.


Selections

I've played Justin Rose at 14.013/1 and I also like Sheffield's Danny Willett, who finished 5th here on debut in 2010.

Young Danny hasn't got close to that effort since, with form figures reading MC-43-32-63, but he arrives here this time around a more accomplished and confident player. After winning the Nedbank Challenge and finishing 3rd at the WGC Match Play, Willett sits 2nd in the Race To Dubai Standings and while he may never catch Rory, he'll be keen to close the gap with a Wentworth win.

You can read the 2016 BMW PGA Championship Betting Preview behind the link.

Selections
Justin Rose @ 14.013/1
Danny Willett @ 65.064/1


I'll be back later today with my Crowne Plaza Invitational preview.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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