Danes can bring home the bacon

Matt Cooper is excited about the European Tour’s return to Wentworth and thinks Denmark’s golfers can thrive.

The course may have fallen out of favour with some of the players, but for most of us the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth heralds the start of the golfing summer in Europe.
Padraig Harrington can’t play amongst the trees, Ian Poulter can’t read the greens, Retief Goosen grumbles about the condition of the course in May and many more can’t wait for the putting surfaces to be relaid, but there are few golfing locations to match it for grandeur.
On Twitter John Daly, who shivered his way through last week’s Irish Open, wrote: “Back from practice at Wentworth … so beautiful!”
Another man who gets excited about arriving in the wealthy Surrey suburbs is Denmark’s Anders Hansen and he heads the staking plan this week.
Champion here in 2002, he was fourth two years later and then raced through the field in 2007 to win again – opening with a 74 that left him tied for 90th before rounds of 70-67-69 took him to the title.
Earlier this year he finally added a third European Tour title when he travelled to South Africa to play the Joburg Open and won the event in a fashion startlingly reminiscent of that second Wentworth win (his first round 71 left him tied for 109th before again trumping the field in the last three rounds).
That win in Johannesburg prompted Hansen to return to the Sunshine Tour and have a crack at the Order of Merit – he promptly won the Vodacom Championship at Pretoria CC.
I backed him in the first of those wins – and would have been on the second but for a prohibitive price – because Hansen excels on the course designed by Harry Colt and Associates, the great team of architects who created some of the finest courses in the world.
Wentworth itself is a Colt & Associates design, as are Royal Johannesburg and Pretoria, and so, too, is Kennemer where Hansen has regularly performed well.
He is also running nicely into form after a couple of missed cuts – 21st in the Italian Open and 20th last week in Ireland.
A strong field has pushed the Dane’s price out to an attractive 50-1. Given that he went off at 66-1 when he first won here, I think that’s a nice price.
Sticking with the Danes I also have to follow Soren Kjeldsen this week.
As one shrewd observer said to me, discussing the odds, “If he wasn’t little and Danish he’d be 33-1.”
Always one of the more solid pros on tour, he took a step up in class when winning the Volvo Masters at Valderrama last November.
In March he proved that quality when earning his first WGC top-10 finish at Doral and then winning the Open de Andalucia in Seville two weeks later.
He opened the Irish Open with two rounds of 67 which had me cursing because I had him on the radar for this week, but an average third round saw him drop to 20th and allowed the bookmakers to overlook him a little.
His form at Wentworth is quietly impressive – he was seventh in 2003, 10th last year and has often thrown in some low scores. I’m more than happy to add him at 60-1.
Three years ago Paul Casey came to Wentworth for the World Matchplay Championship and trounced the field – it was an awesome display that finished with a humiliation of one-time USPGA Champion Shaun Micheel 10 and 8 in the final.
It was impossible to watch and not conclude that his crisp ball-striking and long driving weren’t made for the West Course.
And yet curiously his PGA efforts have been a case of what-might-have-been as he has rather bizarrely contrived to finish in ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th position during the last five years there.
2009 has started well with a win in Abu Dhabi, fourth place in Dubai, second in the WGC World Matchplay and a debut win on the PGA Tour in Houston.
Last seen finishing 14th and topping the greens in regulation stats at Sawgrass, Casey is my pick of the favourites at 16-1.
Final pick is Scotland’s Marc Warren who, it is fair to say, is something of an enigma.
However, as I have written once before in a preview, he doesn’t lack for nerve should he get on the leaderboard.
Indeed, no less a figure than Nick Faldo was keen to get him involved with the Ryder Cup team because of his steely record in the heat of battle. The flipside is that he very rarely finds himself in that lofty position.
But his record at Wentworth is a little better than it looks on first glance – 30th in 2007 and 22nd in 2008, both of which would been better but for shooting rounds of 75 in each of those years.
More interesting are his putting stats – ranked second for Total Putting last year and seventh 12 months before that.
On a course that has the majority of the field scratching its head in frustration at the vagaries of the greens, Warren’s ability to read them has to be noted.
Add in a much improved performance last week when he finished fourth and I have to add him as my outsider to watch at 150-1.
1pts e.w. Anders Hansen at 50-1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Stan James, Bet365, Betdirect) Won twice on the course and twice this year
1pt e.w. Soren Kjeldsen at 60-1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Bet365, BlueSq, 888sport, Betinternet) In-form Dane can add PGA to the Volvo Masters
2pts e.w. Paul Casey at 16-1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 General) Winner on the course and now a winner in the States
1pt e.w. Marc Warren at 140-1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 Bet365) Fourth last week and reads the Wentworth greens