Wentworth notebook

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Golf365’s Matt Cooper was at Wentworth all last week. Check out his diary of all the action at the BMW PGA Championship.

Matt Cooper’s report from the Euro Tour’s flagship event.

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    Sunday

    A hectic final day of the 2010 BMW PGA Championship saw the leaders struggle with the course because there was a bit more breeze, the conditions were dry and, with the pressure on, it seemed the greens and fairways became harder to hit (and the bunkers easier).

    The final pair of Robert Karlsson and Chris Wood had a day they will both want to forget; between them they managed only one birdie all day. It is very difficult to follow a great round with even a good one as Robert discovered, whilst Chris failed to find the greens often enough – something he has excelled at over his previous 15 rounds of tournament golf, but which eluded him today. He said afterwards that he was a little confused because his shots on the front nine had not been bad but had gleaned very poor results – “after a few hours of that, it was demoralising.”

    Earlier in the week Danny Willett said he tends to get “hot-headed but I’m getting better” and his round was another which demonstrated that he’s still got a little work to do. He has great potential but seems to struggle with pace – one minute playing with his natural high speed and then holding himself back.

    His playing partner Luke Donald plodded along all tournament and then made a disastrous double bogey seven on 17 to blow his chances. He had a big tournament in his grasp – tied for the lead with two par fives to come – and he let the opportunity slip. “It will be disappointing for a few days,” he said, “but I’ve got a baby daughter to see and there’s more to life than golf.”

    With the likes of Paul Casey and Padraig Harrington unable to mount a challenge it was left to two relatively unknown players to set targets.

    First up it was Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed whose 67 gave him a sniff of completing a BMW double after he won the BMW Italian Open earlier this month. It would have been quite entertaining if he had ultimately won because until the 17th hole the television cameras completely ignored him.

    He is quite an interesting character who took his wife’s name when they married and who has had to work hard to find the good form he is currently enjoying. When I was out in Almaty at last year’s Kazakhstan Open on the Challenge Tour he impressed me with his commitment and desire to improve. It would have been easy for him to take that tour a little less seriously – as many players do – but he treated the Challenge Tour just like the main tour and although he needed to go to Q-school to gain a card, the hard graft has paid off this year. When he left the 18th green he had high hopes that his five-under-par total might win but as it happened Simon Khan bettered it just 15 minutes later (although no-one else did).

    As Khan made his way to the scorer’s hut he took the time to embrace a friend in the crowd. I went over to chat to the guy afterwards and it turned out the pair of them used to come to Wentworth as kids over 20 years ago. The friend was shaking like a leaf and bouncing from foot to foot in excitement. “This is great, just great, he really deserves this, honestly, it’s just great,” he told me!

    Beyond the white walls, in the area the media talk to the players, Simon’s five year old daughter, complete with painted face, waited patiently for daddy to finish talking about golf and peered curiously at a man who was trying to entertain her with card tricks – quite a surreal scene.

    Khan himself felt that the course – which he has always enjoyed – plays even more into his hands with the new set-up: “I love the way I just see the shots so clearly. I love playing here. With the new layout as well, it puts a premium on your accuracy, on short irons and shaping shots into areas and that’s my strength when I’m on.”

    When he collected his trophy on the final green he also had some special words for his wife Lesley: “It’s her birthday today and I dedicate this win to her because when I’ve had my struggles she has never once asked if I had thought about other options.” He seemed to be choking up a bit at this point so the galleries cheered and clapped to help him through it.

    So ended a dramatic tournament – one with lots of controversy about the golf course, warnings for the players from Johan Rupert, Robert Karlsson’s superb round, lots of English players playing superbly and then one of the least heralded of them winning, all played to the biggest crowds the event has ever seen in beautiful weather.

    To end with, here are a few facts about Khan’s win:

    It is his second win in his 216th European Tour event and his first since the 2004 Celtic Manor Wales Open – there have been 194 starts between wins.

    It is his best performance on the Tour since he was second in this Championship in 2006.

    It is his seventh appearance in the tournament and he becomes the very first invitee to win the event.

    He began the final round seven shots behind Chris Wood on one-under-par. This breaks the Championship record for the biggest final round winning comeback, beating the six of Maurice Bembridge in 1974.

    His seven stroke deficit is the biggest final day comeback of the 2010 season, beating Richie Ramsay in the South African Open.

    He becomes the third winner of Q-school to claim the European Tour’s flagship event (joining Andrew Oldcorn and Jose Maria Olazabal).

    Saturday

    A gutsy round of 67 has earned Golf365 columnist Chris Wood a two shot lead going into the final round of this year’s BMW PGA Championship.

    Following him for the final four holes I saw him first lose a shot to par on fifteen, then immediately grab one back on sixteen, before he fought like a dog to make par on the final two par fives.

    I was walking alongside a few of Chris’ family and friends and got chatting with the Gloucestershire county organiser who has known Chris for the last ten years and seen every twist and turn of his career.

    “I knew when I first saw him at the age of twelve that he had something special,” he told me. “You can build a better swing but you can’t build that naturally strong mental strength that Chris had. I once saw him four down with eight to play against a Welsh lad who everyone feared and who had strong support. Chris wore him down.”

    Chris’ great height is an obvious characteristic but we shouldn’t overlook the importance it has had in making Chris Wood the golfer.

    “He worked so hard to build that better swing but then when he was about 15 he grew six inches in about three months – he totally lost his swing again. He couldn’t hit a barn door from fifty yards. But he never gave up – not once. He just worked harder and harder.”

    That discipline remains with him to this day, although he has learned whilst in the professional game to work better rather than longer.

    Another key

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