BMW PGA Championship preview

The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth still remains the European Tour’s flagship event so understandably a superstar field has been assembled. Rory McIlroy has withdrawn from this week’s event due to his ongoing injury problems, but the likes of Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer head a very strong field and considering the fields that have been put together in recent weeks, this event could not come quick enough for the fans and everyone associated with the European Tour.

The Course

Wentworth (West Course), 7,284 Yards, Par 72

There have been further changes made to this wonderful layout since last year’s renewal, with Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn amongst others all involved. 29 bunkers have been removed around the course, whilst all 18 greens have been resurfaced.

The greens on holes 8, 11, 14 and 16 have been completely rebuilt, whilst 3, 4, 5, 12 and 15 have all been partially rebuilt also.

It is believed that the changes made this week will throw the course back closer to its original design, but it should however remain a familiar test tee-to-green.

If anything, I think the better putters in the field will appreciate the new greens as they should get a true roll and be rewarded for good putting, where as they may not have before, which in turn levels the playing field.

Keys to winning at Wentworth

Given the changes to the greens I expect putting to be more integral to winning this week, but one thing that has remained a constant, when looking at winning profiles here is hitting plenty of greens.

Chris Wood ranked 4th in Greens in Regulation the week he won, whilst Byeong-hun An ranked 1st, when winning here in 2015. Rory McIlroy who ranked 22nd a year previously was the only winner of the last six to rank outside the top-4 for Greens in Regulation on the week and it therefore looks an essential part of the winning formula.

Course experience and form is also key. Whilst Wentworth is no Augusta, it does generally need a previous look before winning here, with Benny An becoming just the third debutant to win, when doing so two years ago. Whilst it would be foolish to dismiss any debutants in this day and age, the same names pop up on the leaderboard here every year, so I would keep debutants to a minimum in any staking plan.

Top class winners seem to get the job done here, with Wood, An, McIlroy, Matteo Manassero and Luke Donald the names that have donned the trophy in the last six years. Simon Khan won here in 2010, and is probably the lesser known winner in recent years, but even he already had a win at Celtic Manor under his belt before winning here. It is clear the course suits his game to, as he joined Manassero and Marc Warren in the 2013 play-off.

There were some more unlikely winners in the early 2000’s, with the likes of Scott Drummond and Ignacio Garrido winning here, but since then it is tough to say any surprise names have triumphed at Wentworth.

Taking everything into account, here are my selections for the 2017 BMW PGA Championship.

Shane Lowry 55/1 (BetStar) 50/1 (Bet365 or Coral) 1.5pts e/w:

Everyone knows Shane Lowry is an exceptional talent and given how well he plays here at Wentworth, I see absolutely no reason not to bet him this week. At 50/1 or bigger you are getting a reasonably in-form player, who has won better events amongst stronger fields.

Now a three-time winner, including the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, Lowry has understandably decide to commit himself to the PGA Tour, where he is enjoying mixed success this season.

The Irishman started 2017 with a T33 finish at Torrey Pines, before two top-16 finishes at the Phoenix Open and Pebble Beach. He then withdrew at Riviera before struggling at the Match Play and the Masters (MC), but once again bounced back, finishing T44 at the Heritage and T24 at the Wells Fargo. A MC on his last start at the Players shouldn’t knock his confidence too much, given the difficulty of the event and a return to the familiar surroundings of Wentworth should bring out his best golf again.

Lowry missed his first cut in five starts at Wentworth last season, but prior to that had finished inside the top-12 on all four occasions, including three top-6 finishes. In 2014, he just lost out to McIlroy by a solitary stroke, with the latter shooting a 66 on Sunday to better Lowry’s final round 68.

Given how close Lowry has come here in the past it is inevitable he will feel like this is the one event that has got away from him so far and he will look to put that right this week.

Luke Donald 55/1 (BetFred) 1pt e/w:

Despite not being in the best of form, I thought it was worth siding with Donald given his clear affinity with Wentworth over the years.

In an eight-year span from 2007-2014, Donald posted two wins, three top-3’s and a 7th here, with just  a sole missed cut in 2013. Even over the last two years when coming into the week without his best stuff, Donald has finished T38 and T27.

I am hoping that given his recent effort at the RBC Heritage, where he managed to finish in solo 2nd, he will come into this week with enough confidence to contend once again.

Since finishing 2nd at Hilton Head, Donald has missed two cuts but in familiar surroundings I feel he can elevate his game in such a way that will lead to a good performance this week.

After a promising period which saw him post successive top-27 finishes at Pebble Beach, the Gensis Open and The Honda Classic I had him earmarked for a big performance at this event. Since that spell, he has missed three cuts and finished T69, either side of his 2nd place effort at the Heritage. This is disappointing, however it is the reason you can the price you can about him this week.

Donald may well be one player that benefits from the new greens as his game has always revolved around his strong putting. Should he feel he is getting more reward on the greens, his confidence may well grow as the week goes on.

I didn’t want to leave him out this week after some promising golf State-Side earlier in the season and the 55/1 was enough for me to take the bait.

Fabrizio Zanotti 80/1 (Ladbrokes 1-5 ¼ odds or Coral 1-7 1/5 odds) 1pt e/w:

Fabrizio Zanotti added to his very solid bank of Wentworth form with a career-best T7 finish last year. Before that, Zanotti had finished inside the top-24 four times and missed the cut twice.

Before finishing 7th last year, Zanotti’s best effort was T16 finish in 2014, which was just weeks prior to his first European Tour victory at the BMW International Open.

A winner again this year, Zanotti should be confident of putting together another good week here at Wentworth as he looks to be in better form than he was 12 months ago.

Zanotti had started 2016 with five missed cuts in his first seven events, before finishing 16th at the Shenzhen International and T9 at the Volvo China Open a week later. He went on to miss the cut in his next start (Irish Open) before posting his T7 finish here.

Roll on a year and Zanotti comes into this week with a win, a T12 in a WGC (Mexico) and a further top-5 (Shenzhen International) to his name. He did miss the cut last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but a return to the European Tour and this event in particular should lead to a better performance.

After finishing T5 and T31 in the two weeks he spent in China, Zanotti who has been globetrotting all season, looks in good enough shape to emulate his efforts from this time last year.

Paul Dunne 100/1 (Betfred 1-6 1/4 odds) 0.5pt e/w:

Paul Dunne has finally started showing signs of realising the potential he showed at the 2015 Open Championship where he finished T30 as an amateur. After firing rounds of 69-69-66 over the first three days, his week promised much more, ending round three in a tie for the lead but the pressure told on the final day, shooting a 78 to fall down the leaderboard. Still, the Irishman has picked himself up, dusted himself down and started to make a decent career for himself as a pro.

Dunne has a host of top-20’s on the European Tour so far, but a 2nd place finish at the Trophee Hassan II two starts ago suggests he may well be ready to win.

This is Dunne’s debut in this event (he actually got lost on the way to the course and parked in former pro, Gary Evans’ house!) but I think he has enough about his game to play well here.

Debutants don’t generally win here but Benny An did it two years ago and Rikard Karlberg finished one shot shy last season so a good performance can be achieved, even at the first time of asking.

In his last five starts, Dunne has finished T33-2-MC-T6-T23, so consistency is creeping into his game and hopefully that will translate into a good effort this week.

100/1 about a player who has three top-23 finishes including a 2nd in his last five starts certainly suggests some value and I am happy to chance that Dunne can keep it going this week.

Julien Quesne 125/1 (StanJames 1-7 ¼) 0.5pt e/w:

Despite a lack of form so far this season, I think the 125/1 about Julien Quesne is quite enticing, given his form around Wentworth.

After missing the cut on debut in 2010, Quesne bounced back with a T21 finish on his next start here in 2012. The next two years weren’t so successful, finishing 68th in 2013 before missing the cut again 2014, however the last two years have proved the Frenchman can go well round here.

An 8th place finish in 2015, followed by a T4 finish in 2016 suggests he has worked out this course and enjoys the test.

In each of the last two years he has come into this event off the back of missed cuts (two before his 4th last year and one before his 8th in 2015) so his missed cut in Italy last week does not phase me.

His general play throughout the season has been disappointing but finishes off T33 and T18 whilst the European Tour stopped in China suggests he is playing well enough to get it round a track he likes.

Quesne is a two-time European Tour winner, winning in Italy and Spain and a win here would further establish his reputation.

Given his three-figure odds and the 7 places on offer, I certainly thought it was worth chancing a repeat of last year’s performance which will be enough for a decent pay-out, should the win be out of reach.

Total Points Staked this week: 9

Profit/Loss for 2017: -7