Fifteen experts from the world of golf give us their top picks for the Wentworth showdown.
The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth – the European Tour’s flagship event – has seen some quality winners down the years but its share of shocks too.
Although Rory McIlroy is the clear favourite this week at a top price of 9/1, there’s a feeling that this year’s renewal is as hard to call as ever.
Golf365.com decided to ask a series of experts to see if we could find a common consensus on who might lift the the trophy on Sunday evening. It included golf writers from the national newspapers, a Sky commentator, an ex-pro with recent Wentworth experience and two American journalists.
Amazingly, the 15 different judges we polled came up with 15 different names!
Wide open? You bet!
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) May 22, 2018
Matt Cooper – Golf365
Pablo Larrazabal – 100/1
I think Pablo Larrazabal is under-rated this week. He’s had three top four finishes this season and in the last five years has played the West Course very well. He was T12th in 2013 and 2016, T7th in 2014 and closed out last year’s T24th with a 66. Smack in the middle of that was a missed cut but even then he was T8 on Thursday night after a 68 before slumping on Friday.
Dave Tindall – Golf365
Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 50/1
He’s one of the highest-ranked players in the field and yet 50/1 is being dangled. The Thai has a win and two top fives in World Golf Championship events under his belt in the last few months while he’s warmed to the task at Wentworth in recent years after a sticky start. T6 at halfway in 2016, Aphibarnrat was T14 last year. He’s also finished 20th, 12th and 5th in the last three editions of the British Masters so loves playing in England.
Richard Kaufman – Sky Sports
Matt Wallace – 100/1
This tournament has thrown up plenty of surprises over the years, so I am going to throw in a name that won’t feature in the obvious bracket. It was a dream come true for Matt to play this event for the first time last year. But it came very soon after his European Tour breakthrough, so it wasn’t that surprising if he was a little overawed. So I am going to dismiss the missed cut. Instead, I am going to focus on his second shot at 18 in the play-off at the Indian Open and his second shot to 18 at his last event, the China Open. Here’s a player who finds his best when in the heat of the battle, is not scared of winning and is swinging it as confidently as ever.
Keith Jackson – Sky Sports
Eddie Pepperrell – 100/1
I’m going for one of the fan favourites as my best best – Eddie Pepperell. Eddie first rose to prominence at Wentworth in 2013 when he finished tied sixth, and he genuinely enjoys the course. His ball striking this year has been impressive, and he’ll hit a lot of three-woods off the tee and rely on his high-quality iron play to set up birdie chances. He’s generally 100/1 for the win (20/1 top five) and I also like his odds for top Englishman at 33/1
Philip Reid –Irish Times
Shane Lowry – 33/1
It seems as if Shane Lowry is locked in some bizarre time warp each year…. until he gets to Wentworth, for a tournament that seems to ignite his season. Poor form on the PGA Tour so far this year can be left behind as the West Course – again – acts as a source of inspiration.
Martin Dempster – The Scotsman
Lee Westwood – 80/1
He’s lightly-raced this season, but the Englishman has a good record at Wentworth, having finished in the top 15 five out of the last eight years, during which time he’s been a combined 23-under-par on one of the toughest courses on the European Tour.
James Corrigan – Daily Telegraph
Alex Noren – 14/1
Defending champions have a good record in this tournament and there is no doubt the Swede has the quality to emulate Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and Luke Donald. Eye-catching performance at The Players Championship, Noren can ride the confidence of that extraordinary 62 12 months ago.
Phil Casey – PA Sport
Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston – 50/1
Ever since his famous victory in the Spanish Open, I’ve been as wary of “Beef” as John Gummer’s daughter at the height of the BSE crisis. But the time has finally come to back Andrew Johnston to claim a second European Tour title at Wentworth this week. Johnston is a tremendously engaging individual and cannot be begrudged making the most of his sudden celebrity, but it was tough not to think his mind was not fully on his golf as he managed a solitary top 10 (in Puerto Rico) in 2017. However, signs have been more encouraging this year with recent form figures of 12-2-12 and he was seventh at Wentworth in 2016 and 21st last year.
Jason Palmer – ex-pro; T46 on only appearance in 2015
Jordan Smith – 125/1
Being asked to pick one name for this week is quite the conundrum. Wentworth requires precision, strategy and a solid long game is essential. I’m going to opt for an extremely talented and potentially overpriced Englishman to prosper in front of the home galleries in the form of Jordan Smith. After a superb debut season on the European Tour which included a win in Germany and a major championship top 10 in the USPGA, he’s blown a little hot and cold this season. However, a recent third in China shows he still has the ability to contend and I fancy he could be a lively outsider this week.
Ben Coley – Sportinglife.com
Paul Dunne – 33/1
The Irishman has come a long way since his debut 30th at Wentworth a year ago, and much of his progress has been in England with wins in the British Masters and GolfSixes. The former was especially impressive as he saw off Rory McIlroy with a closing 61 and I can see him stepping up again in this Rolex Series event. Four top-10 finishes in five solo starts prior to the GolfSixes confirm success there was no fluke and he can secure some more silverware – plus precious Ryder Cup points.
Jason Sobel – ActionNetwork
Tommy Fleetwood – 14/1
My pick to win is one of the world’s best ball-strikers, as I believe Fleetwood should give himself enough birdie opportunities at Wentworth to wind up atop the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon. Elsewhere, it hasn’t been the best season thus far for Matthew Fitzpatrick, but that only means he’ll offer some nice value at an event where he finished T12 last year. The same can be said for Nicolas Colsaerts, who could make for a strong each-way bet.
Josh Culp – Future of Fantasy, Rotoworld
Alexander Bjork – 66/1
Wentworth puts a focus on precision but seems to allow all prototypes to contend, not dissimilar to TPC Sawgrass. For that reason, I will lean heavily on recent form. Alexander Bjork has been dormant for three weeks since earning his maiden Euro Tour victory. Before that win he posted a T3 at the Trophee Hassan II and the win was just a matter of time. With a golfer this talented, a win could potentially break down the floodgates for something much bigger and the BMW PGA at Wentworth definitely qualifies for that. Bjork finished T14 on his debut here and I like him to jump into contention again this week as he gets a second crack at the West Course.
Mark Townsend – National Club Golfer
Tyrrell Hatton – 33/1
For a player ranked 21st in the world it’s strange to say that Hatton still seems a bit underrated but he doesn’t get the headlines of others around him at the upper echelons of the game. He’s got some unfinished business with Wentworth, making a mess of the final round when Chris Wood won here, and he’s admitted that that closing round taught him some valuable lessons about patience. He’s the real deal so pencilling in a PGA win, he’s yet to miss a cut at the West Course, seems very doable for Hatton.
Alex Perry – National Club Golfer
Francesco Molinari – 22/1
Molinari’s Wentworth record is up there with the best of them. In the last six years, the Italian has finished in the top 10 five times – including a fifth-place finish in 2015 and runner-up last time out where it needed a course-record 62 from Alex Noren to keep him at bay. Molinari has got to get over the line here at some point. Don’t be surprised if it’s on Sunday.
Steve Carroll – National Club Golfer
Paul Casey – 14/1
Ultra consistent, with a win, four top 10s and nine top 25s in 11 starts on the PGA Tour this season, it’s hard to see why he’s nearly double the price of McIlroy – especially given his victory in the event in 2009. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t make the frame on his return. Incidentally, his -17-under-par winning total then has only since been bettered by Ben An in 2015.
Bronte Law and Nasa Hataoka will share a one stroke lead going into the final round of the Pure Silk Championship on Sunday.
Bernd Wiesberger is closing in on his fifth European Tour title after grabbing the lead at the Made in Denmark on Saturday.
Jonas Blixt eagled the 17th after holing out from the fairway to take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Bronte Law and Jennifer Song still lead the LPGA’s Pure Silk Championship after the second round, but were joined by Jacqui Concolino.
Matthias Schwab will take a one-shot lead into the weekend at the Made in Denmark after making the best of a bad situation on Friday.
First-round leader Tony Finau credited a change in putting grip for his six-under-par 64 at the Charles Schwab Challenge.