Seventeen of the world’s top 60 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking are at Wentworth Club in Virginia Water, Surrey, England this week for the BMW PGA Championship. In addition to an $8 million purse and a three-year exemption into the U.S. Open, the Ryder Cup hopes of many Europeans are at stake, as this is the last chance for the top-six automatic qualifiers and the other six who will be selected by team captain Padraig Harrington.
Tyrrell Hatton is the defending champion of the event, which was traditionally held in May but moved to September starting in 2019. The event has been played at Wentworth Club every year since 1972 with legends like Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, and Colin Montgomerie claiming victory here. Faldo holds the record for most wins at four, and Montgomerie won three straight from 1998-2000. The event was first contested in 1955 and rotated among different courses before settling in at Wentworth in 1972.
The course itself is a par-72, 7,267-yard track that rewards accuracy off the tee, as they are now many mature trees dotted all over the course. Second shots here are also key. There are also water features and—once players get there—large greens. It is more of an American-style course instead of the links-style courses that the United Kingdom is famous for.
Hatton has the second shortest odds at +1200 and is the highest English golfer in the rankings. He won here last year with no fans, so he’s looking forward to playing in front of the home-country faithful this time around.
“To have fans back at Wentworth is going to be pretty incredible, and I’m sure they will create a memorable atmosphere,” said Hatton, who won by four strokes over Victor Perez in 2020. “I was over the moon to put my name on the BMW PGA Championship trophy last October, as this tournament has meant so much to be down the years. Defending that title in front of the home fans will be an extra-special experience.”
The favorite is 23-year-old Viktor Hovland (+800), having won three times this year—once on the European Tour (BMW International Open) and twice on the U.S. PGA Tour. He finished 11th in his only try at Wentworth in 2019. One would think splitting his time on both tours would be tiring (he was the fourth-lowest scorer at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia last week), but Hovland says he’s well suited for the heavy travel.
“Definitely feeling it just moving around all the different time zones, but I’ve been loving it,” Hovland said. “I’ve been loving…every second of it, and I feel like my game is trending in the right direction.”
Shane Lowry (+1500) has eight top-15 finishes this season but needs to take a big step forward if he’s to win here. The Irishman does. However, have additional motivation, as a solid performance here can secure a place on Harrington’s Ryder Cup squad.
“I’m here and probably a few people gunning for me this week, but I’m in a great position,” Lowry said. “I’ve spent definitely the last five, six years trying to make a Ryder Cup team. So I feel like I’ve got a great opportunity this week and looking forward to going out and trying to do it.”
While Lowry hasn’t won at Wentworth, he’s only finished outside the top 20 three times since debuting here in 2010. His best finish is a second-place effort in 2014.
Also at +1500 are Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick. Both are among the best golfers, but neither has a stellar record at Wentworth. Fitzpatrick missed the cut last week in Italy, while Fleetwood rode a hot putter to a top-five finish.
The lone American among the favorites is Billy Horschel at +1800. He played well in the Tour Championship and finished fourth at this event in 2019.
Justin Rose (+2500) has had a rough season—missing out on the FedEx Cup playoffs by a single stroke and likely needing to win here to get into the European Ryder Cup team. But the veteran has made every team since 2010 and is hoping that he can have a solid effort at what he considers his home course.
Solid picks further down the odds board include Henrik Stenson (+3500), who has a third-place finish here in 2017 and was third after 36 holes in 2019 before faltering a bit to end up tied for 17th. He also has two top-five finishes in recent weeks and was the leader after the first round in Italy last week before ending up tied for 15th.
Stenson isn’t figuring to be called by Harrington to play in the Ryder Cup, but his recent run plus his status as a major winner and former Ryder Cup champion all can play in his favor.
“A win here might change some minds, who knows, but I’m just going to go about this tournament as I would normally and try and prepare well and go out and do my job, and we’ll see where it takes us,” Stenson said.
Sam Horsfield (+6000) has finished inside the top 25 in three of his last four starts. He’s led the European Tour this year in Strokes Gained on Approach, which is a great trait to have at Wentworth.
Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy aren’t playing here this week but are assured spots on the Ryder Cup team. After playing in the FedEx Cup playoffs, both golfers are enjoying some time off before heading to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin for the tournament starting on September 24. The other golfers who are also already qualified are Fleetwood, Hovland, and Paul Casey.
Bernd Wiesberger (+3000) is likely to make the team for the first time but can take away all doubt with a nice performance this week.
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