Inside Track: BMW PGA

Last year it was Miguel Angel Jimenez but who will be smoking at Wentworth in 2009? Harry Emmanuel marks your card.

BMW PGA Championship
Course: Wentworth Club, West Course
Location: Virginia Water, Surrey
Since: 1955
Yardage: 7,320
Par: 72
Low winning total: 269 Anders Hansen (2002) Scott Drummond (2004)
Course Record: 63(-9) Robert Dinwiddie 2008
Field: 150
Cut: Top 70 plus ties after two days
Tee Off: Thursday 0700 BST
The BMW PGA Championship is the flagship event on the European Tour and is held at Wentworth, the headquarters of the European Tour.
It has attracted one of the strongest fields of the regular season with six players from the top twenty in the world rankings, eight Major Champions, six European Tour Order of Merit winners and a plethora of Ryder Cup players and European Tour winners.
Last Time Out
Miguel Angel Jimenez went into the final day trailing third round leader Robert Karlsson by four strokes. A final round 68 was good enough to tie clubhouse leader Oliver Wilson at 11 under par and force a play-off.
On the second play-off hole Jimenez made a birdie to secure the title and his 15th on the European Tour.
The West Course was designed by Harry Colt in 1927. This old style parkland course is tree lined with a wide variety of different holes that provide a solid all round test of ball striking. The par threes range from 154-212 yards, the par fours from 383-489 yards and the par fives from 531-610 yards.
Ernie Els modernised the course in 2006/7 adding twelve new tees and over forty bunkers. The swirling nature of the wind can make club selection tricky especially on the seventh and 14th holes.
It may seem long at 7,320 yards and the par fives are reachable in two for the longer hitters but a history of thick rough, tree lined fairways and the addition of forty new bunkers make this a test of accuracy as much as power.
Despite the recent rain the fairways are still firm and the ball is rolling out. However this year the rough is considerably lower. It is patchy in places but should not inconvenience the players and there is less of a premium on accuracy than previous years.
The Poa Annua greens have come in for considerable criticism over the years, so much so players like Padraig Harrington and Ian Poulter choose to leave this event off their schedule. The greens get spiked up in the afternoons which can make putting very difficult.
This year the greens have been kept much firmer. They will role better and there should be few excuses. They are set to run at 12 on the stimpmeter.
They said
“If I hit a good drive I can get to all the par fives in two shots” – John Daly
“The ball’s running decently on the fairways. There’s not too much rough but it can be a little patchy in places” – Luke Donald
“They’ve kept the greens firmer which makes it a little harder to get the ball close to the hole as it releases more. They are definitely putting better than before but will still be better in the mornings” – Simon Khan
Horses for Courses
Colin Montgomerie won this tournament three year in a row from 1998-2000. He also finished second in 2002 and registered top 10 finishes in 1996, 1997 and 2003. Anders Hansen has the best recent record with victories in 2002 and 2007 and a fourth place finish in 2004.
Angel Cabrera who won this tournament in 2005 and finished second in 2001 and 2004 will be hoping to emulate Seve Ballesteros (1983), Nick Faldo (1989), Bernhard Langer (1993) and Jose Maria Olazabal (1994) who all captured the Masters title before going onto to victory at Wentworth the same year.
Key Holes
The West course finishes with two par fives. The 610 yard, 17th requires a very accurate drive with out of bounds on the left and trees on the right. Only the longest hitters can get home in two shots but the entire field will be aiming to make birdie. In 2008 there were three eagles, 144 birdies, 222 pars and 69 bogeys or worse.
The drive at the 538 yard, 18th is less treacherous but the approach to a green protected by bunkers requires an excellent second shot. In 2008 there were 11 eagles 139 birdies, 238 pars and 50 bogeys or worse. Players can finish with variety of scores from four under to four over and the tournament is often decided over this stretch of holes.
Sunny and mild conditions with light winds are forecast for the first two days. The weather will gradually deteriorate over the weekend getting wetter and windier with winds up to 25mph expected on Sunday.
The greens look in the best condition for some years and with less rough than previous years scoring should be good over the first few days but as the wind gets up over the weekend it may become a question of survival.