Justin Rose is the second highest world ranked player behind Henrik Stenson in the field for the BMW PGA Championship and the cream can rise to the top at Wentworth this week. Luke Donald is a past champion and former world number one and he can make the payout places. Further down the list of odds Russell Knox should make a rare appearance on the European Tour pay by making the frame.
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The PGA Championship is known as the flagship event of the European Tour and is the second most important event in Europe after the British Open. The tournament has been played at Wentworth since 1984. The West Course is tree-lined with fairly generous fairways leading to large greens that can run fast and hard after a dry spell. May has been relatively dry so the putting surfaces will be tough.
The course requires good strategy, first class shot making and the course management ability to know which pins to attack and which to play away from. It also requires the ability to handle the subtle breaks on the greens and an understanding of the swirling Wentworth winds. Indeed every player is given not only a yardage map but also a wind map showing the different wind directions on different parts of the course.
The course has maintained its intrinsic nature and challenge but there have been some modifications over the last year. The greens have been re-laid to improve their appearance and pureness so good putting will now get greater rewards. Players have only had access to the revamped course over the last three weeks so previous course form may not be as much a factor as in the past.
However, playing well at a particular venue is about positive mental associations as well as having the attributes to score well. The changes have created more of a level playing field but the key skills are still driving distance, hitting greens and scrambling when a green is missed. Rose fits this identikit and can finally win one of the titles he craves most. He is too good not to play for bigger prize funds in the States but Rose still respects and values the prestige of the PGA Championship.
The event has been won by several elite European golfers. There was a golden age in the 1980’s and 1990’s when winners included Nick Faldo, Severiano Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie. Rory McIlroy was the champion in 2014 and Donald is the most recent multiple winner, picking up the title in 2011 and 2012. Rose lost in a playoff in 2012 when Donald won by four shots. Over the last decade the average winning score is 12 under and there have been four playoffs.
Rose looked the most likely winner of the US Masters over the closing holes but it turned out to be Sergio Garcia’s day. Rose was the player that faltered slightly when it mattered most but he can take positives from the week. No player outscored him over 72 holes and that level of form can see him get the job done at Wentworth this week. Rose has the skills and course management acumen to win the PGA Championship.
Donald was at the pinnacle of the world game earlier in the decade but his form has dipped. Despite changes to his swing that have not brought immediate results he is still one of the best putters in the game. Montgomerie, Langer and Faldo have won the event three times and Donald has the profile to join that famous group. He has great memories of the venue and that often counts for a lot. A Sunday showdown with Rose would delight a predominantly British crowd.
Knox was born in Scotland but he did a golf scholarship and earns a living in the United States. He has won at World Golf Championship level so can deliver in the most important events. Knox scores well for the key skills and can pay for his expenses by picking up a lucrative prize this week. That’s probably not going to be for first place because Rose and Donald are best suited to finish at the top of the leader board after 72 holes or more.
Back next Thursday.
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