European Tour Course Primer: BMW PGA Championship
This week kicks off a string of big time events for the European Tour over the next two months. The BMW PGA Championship is the flagship event for the European Tour and has been played at the West Course of Wentworth, just outside London, every year going back to 1984. This event consistently draws elite players, and given the new spot on the calendar (moved from May to September), I think it will draw even stronger fields going forward. This will be one to watch this week with big names at a big-time course.
Course: Wentworth Club, West Course
Yardage: 7,284 Yards
Par 5 18th Hole (521 Yards): Another week and another par 5 finishing hole. This one is a spectacular hole that can provide lots of excitement as players can easily get on in two, but there is water lurking short of the green, snaking diagonally from about 75 yards out short right and hugging it on the left side. Players who can draw it in with their second shot can have good looks at eagle. This hole is preceded by the lengthy and challenging par 5 17th, which is over 600 yards. If players don’t birdie that one, many may feel the need to press and be aggressive on the home hole as most will want to be two-under on the finishing two-hole stretch.
Strokes Gained: Approach/Green-In-Regulation: Any course where Francesco Molinari and Henrik Stenson play well at, I’m going to be looking for iron-play studs. Molinari ranked in the top-25 Strokes Gained: Approach on PGA Tour every year from 2015 to 2018 (this past year he ranked outside top-100 in what feels like a likely outlier season), and he additionally ranked 19th in Strokes Gained: Approach on European Tour last year. At this event last year, there was a strong correlation to Greens-In-Regulation (GIR) percentage and the leaderboard. Everyone in the top-six also was in the top-eight in GIR percentage for the week. Strokes Gained: Approach and GIR are fairly linked stats, so using a combination of the two along with data from both PGA and European Tour will be useful this week.
The field this week is headlined by four of the top-10 ranked players in the world: Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Molinari and Jon Rahm. A couple notable Americans are playing this event, including Tony Finau, Patrick Reed and Billy Horschel. Other notables are Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, and Shane Lowry. Viktor Hovland will be making his debut as a professional on the European Tour this week coming off another solid performance at the Greenbrier last week.
In terms of course history, look no further than the defending champ, Molinari. Last year he kicked off his incredible summer by winning this event by two strokes over Rory. The year prior he finished runner-up to Noren, and looking further back, he has made the cut 10 straight years here, with six top-10 finishes.
Rory has had some success here with that runner-up last year plus a victory back in 2014, but he has mixed results overall, with some missed cuts. Rose has a runner-up back in 2012 but no wins and has played here just once in the last three years. Rahm is making his debut at this event. Stenson has a third-place finish in 2017 and a seventh in 2014, his last two starts at this event.
One deep cut for course history is Ross Fisher, who has back-to-back top-10 showings at Wentworth the last two years and four top-10s over the last 10 years, but his consistency has not been there as he also has four missed cuts in that span.