Dave Tindall with his in-depth preview and best bets for this week's BMW PGA Championship.
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 22/05/13 12:17pm
In contrast to years gone by, the European Tour makes just one visit to English soil in 2013.
The good news for English golf fans is that the tournament in question is one of the very biggest - the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth
The European Tour's flagship event has thrown up a list of prestigious winners down the years and appropriately there is a strong English presence on the trophy.
Englishmen Tony Jacklin, Peter Oosterhuis and Maurice Bembridge won the first three PGA Championships at Wentworth from 1972-1974 and after a nine-year break - when it was played at Royal St George's, Royal Birkdale, St Andrews, Ganton and Hillside - the return to Wentworth saw another home-soil winner as Howard Clark took the trophy in 1984.
That tradition has been to the fore again in recent times with Luke Donald (2012 and 2011), Simon Khan (2010) and Paul Casey (2009) giving England a four-year winning streak.
With three of the top four in the betting being English, it could easily extend to five this week.
Sky Sports' live coverage of the event begins at 10am (SS1 HD) on Thursday morning.
Tree-lined Wentworth has undergone numerous changes down the years and not without controversy. Ernie Els and his design team carried out a £6.5m revamp of the iconic West course ahead of the 2011 event and although much of it was well received many recoiled at the addition of a stream running in front of a new, smaller and more undulating 18th green. Els himself wasn't happy either as many gave up the gamble of going for the par five in two but the problem was addressed last year with the green was lowered and extended by 25% at the back. This year the severe run-off area to the right of the 17th has been altered to help less than 100% second shots falling down the hill, the club's SEO, Julian Small, explaining: "We want to encourage more players to try for a 4-4 (birdie-birdie) finish." Luke Donald won with -15 in 2012 following two ultra-tough years in 2010 and 2011 when -6 prevailed although the discrepancy is partly explained by the 12th reverting back to a par five last year.
Temperatures in advance of this year's event have been much colder than normal and the forecast for tournament week suggests it'll be cloudy and cool with a chance of showers - a contrast to last year's sun.
Last year - Luke Donald
After a dramatic play-off victory over Lee Westwood in 2011 which took him to world number one, Luke Donald defended his crown in relatively calm fashion. Two shots clear after round three, Justin Rose made an early run at him but Donald pulled away with birdies at the sixth and seventh and stretched further clear with a 25ft birdie putt at 10. His winning margin was eventually four shots over Rose and Paul Lawrie as, once more, victory at Wentworth took him to world number one.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Luke Donald (8/1): Donald has been the King of Wentworth over the last few years and will be hoping to emulate Colin Montgomerie's feat (1998-2000) of winning this event for three years in a row. The event has always held a special place in Luke's heart as he "grew up just down the road" so always has a big gathering of family and friends following him around even though he's now based in Chicago of course. As well as his victories in 2011 and 2012, Luke was also second in 2010 and third in 2008 so his record really is phenomenal and seems immune to the course changes. His last two starts show a 19th at Sawgrass and a third at Hilton Head.
Justin Rose (11/1): Rose would love to be the latest Englishman to add his name to this trophy and he's twice gone close, finishing runner-up last year and also in 2007. He was 10th in 2010. Rose is also a two-time runner-up in 2013 after near misses in Abu Dhabi and Bay Hill. Poor putting wrecked his hopes of winning The Masters and it's continuing to hold him back. Surprisingly, he missed the cut in the Players Championship on his last start but that was probably nothing more than a blip and you'd expect him to be prominent this week.
Rory McIlroy (11/1): After his woeful start to the year, Rory has started to build a decent bank of results and an eighth at Sawgrass made it four top 10s in his last six starts. It's still some way short of what he's capable of but at least a win seems imminent again. The big question is whether Wentworth is a likely scene for it. Rory has teed it up in this event five times, missed the cut twice and made the top 20 just once. However, that was a fifth place in 2009 when he carded a 65 in round three so he can function on this track. It's worth reminding ourselves of an eye-popping stat though.... Rory has never won a European Tour event on European soil!
Lee Westwood (12/1): Westwood came agonisingly close to winning here in 2011 when losing to Luke Donald in a play-off when both the tournament and the world number one ranking were on the line. That was the Englishman's second runners-up finish here (the other was 2000) so this event has teased him. He did win the HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth in 2000 so not all the memories are frustrating and the now US-based Westwood appears to be coming into fine form again after racking up a run of four straight top 10s on the PGA Tour.
Sergio Garcia (16/1): You have to go all the way back to 2000 to find the last time Sergio played in this event. Given that he was fifth you'd have thought he'd have returned sooner especially as he was also runner-up on his only other Wentworth visit in 2002 when losing in the final of the HSBC World Match Play Championship. The big question here is how will Sergio react to his rollercoaster week at the Players Championship? The Spaniard dumped two balls in the water at 17 when tied for the lead with winner Tiger Woods and finished sixth and also had a spat with the world number one which is still being played out in the media. He's in fine form but is the mental strength there to back it up?
Graeme McDowell (20/1): If Sergio's mental strength can be questioned, McDowell's certainly cannot. The Northern Irishman, the hero of the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, again showed his love of one-on-one combat by winning last week's Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria. That made it two wins in three starts for G-Mac following his victory in The Heritage at Hilton Head so he'll be flowing with more confidence than usual. That's the good news. The bad is his very iffy record at Wentworth which shows four missed cuts in 10 starts here with best efforts of 13th and 27th.
Martin Kaymer (30/1): The idea that Kaymer's stalling career would really be given a big kick-start by his decisive Ryder Cup putt hasn't really panned out. But after a run of seven strokeplay events in which he didn't even make the top 30 the German came alive again with four rounds in the 60s to finish fifth in last week's Byron Nelson Championship in Texas. He's been a regular in this event since debut in 2007 and has three top 16s in his last five starts although nothing better than 11th.
Ernie Els (33/1): Els has won seven World Match Play Championship titles at Wentworth, lived there for many years and even re-designed the course. No wonder he says it "has a special place in my heart." The only thing he hasn't done at this famous golfing venue is win this event. There have been many close calls - two seconds, two fourths and a seventh between 1997 and 2004 and, after a barren spell, a seventh last year. The current Open champion has shown flickers of form recently with a top 15 at Augusta and a second in the Indonesian Masters although he did miss the cut at Sawgrass last time out.
Best of the rest
Marcel Siem (50/1): The German was a wire-to-wire winner in Morocco in March, followed that up with a 10th in the Texas Open and was also 10th after 54 holes at last week's Byron Nelson before falling away. In other words, he's in very good nick. His Wentworth form is also interesting. Siem was seventh last year (a third round 76 stopped a bigger challenge) while he was sitting in tied fifth after three rounds of the 2010 event before closing with a 78.
Ross Fisher (50/1): The Englishman, who has been plying his trade in America this year after coming through US Tour School, is a former Wentworth Academy graduate. He's coming off his best PGA Tour finish of 2013 (a 10th in elite company at Quail Hollow) and told the local Bracknell News: "It gives me fresh confidence going into the BMW PGA at Wentworth, a course that I obviously know well and love playing on." Fisher was runner-up here in 2009 and also 10th in 2010.
Dave Horsey (50/1): Horsey is one of the, erm, form horses of the European Tour after finishes of fourth (Open de Espana), second (Trophee Hassan II in Morocco) and sixth (Avantha Masters in India) in his last three starts. In fact, we can add to that a play-off defeat in a EuroPro Tour event in Shropshire which he played in to keep sharp after a month off. Horsey also has Wentworth form in the shape of a seventh place in 2011.
Richard Sterne (55/1): The South African has plenty of good form this year with a win in the Joburg Open, a second place in the Dubai Desert Classic and a top 25 at Augusta. He also likes Wentworth with two of his last four visits showing a sixth last year and a third in 2007. He played well in patches in Bulgaria last week, admitting some of the holes didn't really suit his eye, so he could really kick on here.
Chris Wood (66/1): The Bristolian threatened to make this a rather prestigious setting for his first European Tour win back in 2010 when he led after 54 holes following rounds of 70-68-67. It didn't work out on that occasion as he closed with a 77 to finish sixth and he's had to suffer plenty of other near misses since. However, he finally gained a first Tour victory earlier this year when a spectacular eagle at the last gave him victory in Qatar. He's since been fourth in the Thailand Open and, after a lengthy break, he returned to make the last eight of the Volvo World Match Play last week
A strong trend when looking at past winners here is that many had contended in the event previously.
Looking at the past four winners, Donald had been runner-up before his first victory, shock 2010 winner Simon Khan had been second back in 2006 and Paul Casey was 10th the year before his 2009 win and had also won the HSBC World Match Play Championship over the West Course in 2006.
Going back further, 2008 champion Miguel Angel Jimenez was fifth and third in the two previous runnings, 2007 winner Anders Hansen had won this event in 2002 while David Howell was fourth in 2005 before winning 12 months later.
So, given that and the strong record of Englishmen I'm definitely drawn to Chris Wood at 66/1.
Wood was the 54-hole leader here in 2010 before slipping away to sixth but for three rounds he showed how well he could perform.
He shook off some rust in Bulgaria last week so should be a nice mix of match-fit and fresh.
Ross Fisher finished tied 10th in the hotly-contested Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow and was second in greens in regulation for the week so is striking it nicely.
Hit putting hasn't been great - that's not always been a high priority in this event to be honest - but it will obviously help that he knows these greens far better than US ones.
Fisher, who grew up playing Wentworth as an amateur, will have huge local support and is worth a punt at 50/1.
At the same price, Marcel Siem looks interesting given his good form over the last few months and prominence on past Wentworth leaderboards while 55/1 for Richard Sterne appeals given that he has a win this year and has two high finishes here.
Finally, I'll go for one more Englishman in the shape of the very in-form David Horsey, who was seventh here a couple of years ago.
At the top of the betting, Luke Donald will surely have a big chance of landing the hat-trick although if I was picking a market leader I'd go for Lee Westwood at 12s given his run of impressive form.
However, by picking five players at 50/1 or more, we'll make a profit if any of them make the top six.
1pt e.w. Chris Wood at 66/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt e.w. Ross Fisher at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt e.w. Marcel Siem at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt e.w. Richard Sterne at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)
1pt e.w. Dave Horsey at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)