Danny Willett has won the BMW PGA Championship and Sebastian Munoz is off the mark on the PGA Tour. Our man looks back at last week's golf...
“Willett became the sixth different Englishman to take the title in 14 years (Luke Donald won it twice) and he spoke after the victory about how much the crowds had helped him but how long is going to be before we see an American win at Wentworth?”
We've witnessed a number of off the pace winners at Wentworth lately, but this year's renewal was dominated by two men - Danny Willett and Jon Rahm. The pair had been tied at the top and two clear of the field at halfway and after three rounds they were still locked together but three in front of the rest.
Rahm, who had begun the week as a well-fancied [13.0] chance, hit a low of [1.42] on Saturday when he threatened to pull clear, but a relatively poor finish to his third round saw him start round four tied with Willett and trading at just a shade of odds-against. Willett, a pre-tournament [80.0] chance on the exchange, who was matched at a high of [100.0] before the off, began the final round trading at around [3.4] but he soon took command with birdies at three and four. There was a brief wobble at the 11th when he needed to hole a 40- foot putt just to make a bogey but Rahm couldn't capitalise. The Spaniard bogeyed the easy par five 12th and Willett never looked back after that - birdying the last two holes to win by three in an impressive 20-under-par.
Over at the Sanderson Farms Championship, we were treated to a far more exciting finish. Colombia's Sebastián Munoz had begun the final round leading by a stroke and he hit a low of [1.23] when he birdied the par five 11th to seemingly assume command. With the straightforward par five 14th and the drivable par four 15th to come and with his nearest challengers all floundering, it looked like the pre-event [75.0] chance was going to cruise to victory but Sungjae Im, a pre-tournament [21.0] shot, had other ideas.
The 21-year-old Korean birdied 14, 15 and 16 before Munoz made a mess of both 14 and 15, recording a pair of fives, and Im was matched at a low of [1.07]!
Having shot a six-under-par 66, Im posted an 18-under-par tournament total and it really did look like being enough. Munoz had lost his rhythm and he ended up needing to birdie the 18th hole (which had ranked the hardest on the course) to tie the Korean and take the event to extra time. We hadn't seen a playoff on the PGA Tour all year and it was unlikely we'd see one here given how tough the hole was but after a solid drive and a marvellous approach, the Colombian stepped up and did this from 17 feet.
The playoff was far from a dramatic affair. They went back to the 18th hole where Im missed the green long and failed to get up-and-down as Munoz scrambled a par for the win from short of the green.
I've had quite a lot on this weekend so the golf took a bit of a backseat for once and I'm quite glad it did. I threw a few pounds at a few outsiders from off the pace at Wentworth before the final round and I left the SFC alone. And I don't have any regrets about either.
We've seen a number of off the pace winners at Wentworth so that's a tactic that's reaped rewards in the past and will do again and I was happy to have swerved the SFC given the one I was most tempted by was Byeong-Hun An.
What Have We learned This Week
Munoz was the sixth first-time winner in-a-row to take the Sanderson Farms title and he was clearly inspired by the success of his good friend Joaquin Niemann at the Greenbrier Classic last week. This was the first time that the PGA Tour has witnessed back-to-back wins by Latin Americans and Munoz admitted after the event that the Chilean's success had given him belief that he too could win on the PGA Tour.
Over at the BMW PGA Championship, form at tree-lined venues, Valderrama and Hong Kong, came to the fore so they're events to look at for clues and yet again we saw someone trade at odds-on before the final round and get beat.
Rahm hit a low of [1.42] during round three on Saturday and he was the fifth player in six years to trade at odds-on before round four and get beat. Thomas Bjorn (round three in 2014), Francesco Molinari (round three in 2015), Danny Willett (round two in 2016) and Rory McIlroy (round two in 2018) all traded below evens and all got beat. Both Molinari and Willett returned three years late to take the title so you can perhaps pencil in Rory and Rahm for 2021 and 2022.
Willett became the sixth different Englishman to take the title in 14 years (Luke Donald won it twice) and he spoke after the victory about how much the crowds had helped him but how long is it going to be before we see an American win at Wentworth?
The European Tour has tried all sorts of innovations since Keith Pelley became the CEO just over four years ago. We've seen the introduction of the Rolex Series, the GolfSixes, the Belgium Knockout and the World Super 6 Perth and we've visited new and occasionally controversial venues, including Kenya, Oman and Saudi Arabia but the biggest and best change to the schedule since Pelley took the reins has come about by complete accident.
Having the Players Championship move to March and the US PGA Championship to May, forced the European Tour to move their flagship event from May to September but it's been a hugely positive move and they've created a magnificent Autumnal stretch as a result this year.
Having the BMW PGA Championship in September resulted in a number of PGA Tour stars taking in the event and Billy Horschel and Patrick Reed finished tied for fourth - the best effort to date by any American in the tournament at Wentworth. Arnold Palmer is the only American to win the prestigious title but that was way back in 1975 when the event was staged at next year's Open venue, Royal St George's.
With few star names bothering to tee it up in the early season events on the PGA Tour, it's quite possible that we get more stellar names from across the pond in the line-up next year and it certainly sounds like Billy will be back.
Yet again the European Tour takes the leading role this week with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, while the PGA Tour switches to the West Coast for the 13th renewal of the Safeway Open. I'll be back tomorrow with my previews.
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