More European Tour stars should play BMW PGA, says Ewen Murray
Last Updated: 01/06/16 2:16pm
Ewen Murray reflects on a number of high-profile absentees at the BMW PGA Championship and looks ahead to an action-packed summer of golf.
With the first five months of the golfing season behind us, our sport gets ready for a frenetic period with three majors in seven weeks, followed by golf's return to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
England's Danny Willett has tucked away The Masters, Jason Day has The Players Championship and more recently, Chris Wood claimed the prestigious BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
A strong talking point at the European Tour headquarters in Surrey was the absence of several of the Tour's top players, and I'm not alone in being disappointed there were so many absentees.
The BMW PGA has a purse of five million euros, it's played at one of our historic venues, it's our base and the fans - well over 100,000 of them - poured through the gates to enjoy the spring sunshine and an event that always has drama from start to finish.
This year's edition was no different. Although injured, Justin Rose flew over to England to show his respect for his home Tour and was genuinely disappointed he was unable to play, but what about the no shows?
I'm aware the top players cannot play every week, but there are some events that should be sacrosanct and the BMW PGA is one of these.
Ewen Murray on Wentworth
These are members who cut their teeth in Europe and have banked millions of euros in the process. That of course is mainly down to their sterling play, but there is more to it than that.
It's not that long ago less than a handful of our players would be exempt from playing in the three American majors. The Tour, then under the guidance of Ken Schofield and his successor George O'Grady, moved mountains for that to change.
Their perseverance was eventually rewarded, but only after much hard work and lengthy negotiations. The Tour would not be what it is today without their diligence and work ethic. Their relationship with the sponsors and their involvement in improving courses has grown the affiliation Europe has with the other world tours, which could well fashion the future.
Then there is a gilt-edged sponsor in the shape of BMW. The Bavarian Motor Works hosts Tour events in its homeland, England, Italy, South Africa and China. They form a large part of the nucleus that is at the centre of our tournament calendar.
The "missing players" at Wentworth are handsomely paid by various manufacturers to promote clubs, clothing, golf balls and other equipment. This can be done because the fans like to use what their favourite players use.
I'm aware the top players cannot play every week, but there are some events that should be sacrosanct and the BMW PGA is one of these. I, and many others, see it on a similar level to the Players at Sawgrass.
I wonder what the PGA Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem, would have said had Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson decided to bypass Ponte Vedra?
The worry for the future is that the fans might chose to bypass Wentworth. From next year, to be a member of the European Tour, it should be mandatory in my opinion to play in the spring showcase event.
In getting that off my chest, take nothing away from this year's champion, Chris Wood. 29 shots for the front nine on Sunday was a Herculean effort. Yes, there were some moments of uncertainty on the back nine, but Wentworth is a total examination of a player's skill, make-up and nerve. Down the decades, even the golfing greats have come undone over that notorious stretch for home.
Chris is a popular winner. He has had several annoying injuries in past years and with that behind him, he has a good future to look forward to - and perhaps a Ryder Cup berth in Darren Clarke's side for September.
As we head into this hectic major spell, the world's top three players are in blistering form. Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth have all won their last events. Day was top at Sawgrass, McIlroy in Ireland and Spieth, with six birdies on the final nine holes, enjoyed a hometown win at the Colonial in Fort Worth.
All of this adds to the anticipation and excitement of the US Open at Oakmont in Pennsylvania. This is a fearsome course where only the very best will do. Add to that the probability of searing heat and greens that run at 13+ on the stimpmeter, and this will be the ultimate test.
Thirteen European members made it through to the US Open last Monday at Walton Heath. Each and every one of them will hope they can emulate New Zealander Michael Campbell, who qualified there 11 years ago in last place. Days later, he held the trophy aloft at Pinehurst in North Carolina - the stuff of dreams!
Royal Troon in Ayrshire hosts this year's Open - a month after the year's second major - and Sky Sports viewers will be treated to coverage never seen before. Sky Sports 1 HD will be dedicated entirely to The Open for 10 days.
For the first time, the opening tee shots of this year's Championship will be shown live in the UK and Ireland. In the run-up to the start of the 145th edition of this championship that began in 1860, practise rounds will be aired and in the evening from Thursday through to Sunday, Sky will show comprehensive highlights of the day's play.
Add to that, history sections and documentaries along with innovative shows will offer The Open the coverage it deserves. The Channel launches on July 11.
Because of this year's Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the season's last major, the PGA Championship at Baltusrol in New Jersey, begins just 10 days after The Open is concluded.
The last time we were there for this event, Phil Mickelson won on a Monday morning after storms interrupted play over the four days. Baltusrol is long and demanding and like the US Open, it will produce a fine champion.
There are some significant events in between the next two majors. France celebrates the 100th playing of their Open at the magnificent Le Golf National by Guyancourt, near Versailles. This Robert Von Hagge and Hubert Chesneau masterpiece will also host the Ryder Cup in 2018.
The week after, the Capital of the Highlands will take centre stage for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. The splendid Castle Stuart is the venue again after a couple of years at Royal Aberdeen and the hugely impressive Gullane, where Rickie Fowler won in dramatic fashion last year.
So get ready for a fabulous summer of golf. I'm sure there will be some amazing storylines in the weeks ahead.