The past winners of the PGA Championship on the European tour include some of the best players in the history of the game and others who were outsiders in the betting. The champion this year could be a familiar name because Tommy Fleetwood has all the attributes to win the flagship event of the European tour. Last season’s Race to Dubai winner has a game suited to the regular host course.
The biggest event in Britain after the Open and the most prestigious regular event is being played at the West Course at Wentworth again. The PGA Championship is the most valuable event on the European tour apart from the WHC events and majors. It has been played at Wentworth since 1984. There is plenty of course form to assess and there is a history of multiple champions.
The West Course at Wentworth was used for the World Match Play but that event has grown and is taken to course around the world. It is a tight, tree-lined course that demands accuracy off the tee. It has an unusual 35-37 layout with two par 5 on the closing holes. Both holes provide genuine birdie and eagle opportunities so the leader board can change quickly. Most players should walk off both greens with pars or better and the hazards are not too demanding.
The track requires straight hitting, shot shaping, sound course management and a hot putter. It is an old-fashioned course and one that cannot be overwhelmed by the big hitters. With an untrodden course and probably relatively calm conditions an early start can be a real advantage at Wentworth. If you fancy an outsider don’t be put off as there have been a number of upsets in recent years including winners at 500/1 and 100/1 which were probably totally unbacked.
The average winning score over the last 10 years is 12 under in a range from 6 under to 21 under. There have been five playoffs this century and four winning margins of one shot. Five of the last nine winners came from England and two non-European have prevailed over the last 18 years. Alexander Noren is the defending champion and he won with a score of 11 under this time last year. The 1975 winner was Arnold Palmer who is the only US born champion.
Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer are multiple champions and they were all at number one in the world and won majors. Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald won more than one PGA Championship and they both reached the pinnacle of the sport. Other recent winners include Simon Khan, Andrew Oldcorn and Scott Drummond who were hardly prolific winners. A stellar player or relative unknown can prevail in the biggest event in Europe after the Open and WGC events.
Rory McIlroy was the champion in 2014, the year in which he won two majors. He has also been at the top of the world rankings so has the profile of some of the famous winners. However, driving is his main strength and lack of accuracy and inconsistent putting will count against him. Paul Casey was the 2009 champion and he has won in the States this season but accuracy is not his main strength and straighter hitters are preferred.
Fleetwood has hit over 78% of the greens in Europe this season to date and that is an excellent return from his approach shots. That percentage makes him third in the standings for GIR on the European Tour. Driving is not a major strength but accuracy to the greens, an excellent putting stroke and the confidence gained from being Europe’s number one give Fleetwood a chance at Wentworth this week. He has the game and temperament to handle the pressure of contending in a huge event.