Ahead of this week’s BMW PGA Championship on the West Course at Wentworth, Matt Cooper presents a look back at the last 16 years of the European Tour’s flagship event.
2000 – Monty’s Millenium Magic
Colin Montgomerie famously never found the top spot in world golf. Second was his career best in the world rankings and five times he was runner-up in a major, but he never struggled to dominate in Europe, notching eight Order of Merit titles and in 2000 he remained unaffected by any Y2K malfunctions, claiming the third of a hat-trick of PGA titles. “I’m thrilled at making history,” he said. “No-one has ever done this before.” All credit to him.
2001-2004 – The Wonder Years
Andrew Oldcorn, Ignacio Garrido and Scott Drummond were three of the next four winners and not one of them flagged up their unlikely wins. Between them they didn’t record even one seasonal top ten ahead of victory and all three missed the cut prior to teeing it up at Wentworth.
2005 – Every Duck Has Its Day
Angel Cabrera, the Argentine player nicknamed El Pato (The Duck), finished second in 2001, led after 54 holes in 2004 and finally completed victory in 2005. In all, the two-time major winner finished top six on the West Course no less than nine times (including the World Matchplay Championship).
2006 – The “Can I Have Your Autograph?” Inspiration Years
When David Howell triumphed in 2006 he was the first English winner since Nick Faldo in 1989 and yet after him five of ten winners would also fly the St George’s flag. They had more in common than mere nationality too – Howell, Paul Casey (2009), Simon Khan (2010), Luke Donald (2011-12) and Chris Wood (2016) all hail from the south of England and they also spent time on the West Course as youngsters, watching their heroes, blagging autographs and spare gloves. (In those same 11 years Englishmen were second six times, four of them losing in play-offs.)
2007 – The Unlikely Double
Surprisingly one Englishman who hasn’t lifted the PGA trophy is Justin Rose, but he went closest ten years ago when toppled by Denmark’s Anders Hansen, a solid Tour performer who had also claimed the title in 2002. If it was something of a surprise that he overcame Rose in extra holes it was as nothing to his destruction of the field five years earlier – he left Montgomerie and Eduardo Romero trailing by five strokes.
2010 – If He Khan Do It
2010 was the year that the big course changes were revealed. Ernie Els led the design team in theory, but in practice it later emerged that the then owner Richard Caring had been insisting on some of the more … let’s say “unusual” renovations. Heading into the final round Simon Khan was T13th and seven shots back of the lead, but a sparkling 66 set a tough clubhouse target. One of his friends was in tears behind the 18th green after he drained the final putt. “He’s my mate and we’ve been coming here since we was kids,” the six foot thirtysomething unapologetically blubbed. “I think he’s gonna win and I think I’m gonna cry.” Khan watched on TV as every challenger slipped backwards and he claimed the win.
Footnote: As he had talked to the media after his round, Khan’s playing partner Graeme McDowell tilted his head, pulled on one ear and clicked his teeth. “Great round by Simon,” he told the Irish press. “You know what? That could have been me. So close.” Two weeks later McDowell won the Wales Open, two weeks after that he lifted the US Open.
2011-12 – The World Number One
The new 18th hole has never quite worked. Too often, instead of watching players lash a fairway wood up the right-handside of the green and hope to see it chase towards the pin (as in the good old days), they lay up behind the new pond. Weirdly it then becomes a sort of short par-three.
Even more weirdly, in 2011 that short par-three decided not only the destiny of the title, but the world number one ranking also. Luke Donald took on Lee Westwood in extra holes, Donald prevailed, pinched Westwood’s top spot, and defended the PGA title 12 months later.
2013 – The Sorceror and the Apprentice
Ahead of the final round Matteo Manassero, the 20-year-old Italian wonderkid, already a three-time winner on the European Tour, adorned a navy blue jumper and green trousers in honour of his hero Seve Ballesteros, whose he remembered watching stride between Wentworth’s tree-lined fairways on television as a child. Simon Khan yet again set the pace (this time with a 66), but Manassero’s 69 caught him and the Italian prevailed in extra holes.
2014 – Distraction Technique
Rory McIlroy has a very curious record on the West Course. He’s missed the cut four times, on another two occasions he made the cut but had been outside the top 100 after 18 holes and could never recover, he managed fifth in 2009, and then in 2014 his week began less like the pages of Golf Monthly and more the front cover of Heat as his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki ended. The only place he wasn’t asked questions was inside the ropes. Perhaps that explains why he played better there than ever before, shooting a final round 66 to claim the win.
2015 – Rookies Don’t Win At Wentworth
When Byeong-Hun An earned graduation from the Challenge Tour in late 2012 I asked him which course he was most looking forward to playing on the main tour. “Wentworth,” he answered. “I used to watch it on TV and I won Open Qualifying at Sunningdale. I like it round there.”
Trouble is, the uninitiated don’t normally win on the West Course. In fact every single one of the previous ten winners of the title had been top three at the 54- or 72-hole stage of the tournament at least once prior to the year of their win.
Whatever. An’s first round sighter of 71 was all he needed. A Friday 64 got him into second, a Saturday 67 a share of the lead, and he destroyed the field on Sunday with a 65 for a six stroke win.
2016 – Woody, Could He?
Chris Wood was no stranger to having fun on the West Course ahead of last year’s championship. On debut in 2010 he had led after 54-holes before finishing sixth and in 2015 he not only finished fourth, but claimed a car when making a hole-in-one at the 14th. Twelve months later he topped all that, equalling the tournament record for the front nine (29) and then holding on during a tough back nine to complete the win by one stroke.
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