Viktor Hovland heads into the 2021 BMW PGA Championship as favourite, but our man's head has been turned by Shane Lowry's course familiarity here at Wentworth.
European Tour 2021
BMW PGA Championship
Wentworth (West Course), Surrey, England
Nicolai Hojgaard’s victory last week in Italy was in many ways the perfect hors d’oeuvre for this week’s flagship European event. Back-to-back victories for identical twins is just the sort of romantic narrative that the tour frankly needs at this point (such has become the dominance of the monolithic PGA Tour). Also, a shout-out to the European women for their stunning away victory in the Solheim Cup last week. It would have been nice for the likes of Rahm and McIlroy to perhaps consider the trip across the pond this week. But obviously covid considerations and the marathon PGA Tour campaign made that a near-impossibility. But the European Tour will just continue to stagnate if these iconic figures regularly shun these huge events. I feel like there should be a duty of care for the tour that gave them their start. But I digress.
Originally staged as the British PGA Championship in 1955, the BMW PGA Championship has been a mainstay on the European Tour since its inception in 1972. Previously staged in May, this event had to improvise to accommodate the PGA Tour’s decision to move the US PGA Championship to May in 2019. The new autumnal slot has seen better fields over the past few years (though not nearly as glamourous as the halcyon days of the 80’s and 90’s). This will be the 3rd Rolex Series event of the year and should make for lovely weekend viewing. This will also be one of the final chances for players flirting with Ryder Cup contention: Padraig Harrington will actually be in the field this week.
The BMW-sponsored event will take place at the Wentworth West Course for the 38th consecutive year. This iconic Harry Colt layout is a picturesque heathland track that is recognisable the world over (it’s probably the most famous non-links course in Britain). Ernie Els revamped the course 12 years back and made further changes in 2016. The green complexes were all completely recontoured with bentgrass. Fairly tight fairways and doglegs actually favour the more accurate types this week: Luke Donald won this event in back-to-back years in 2011 and 2012. Strong iron-play is integral at this classical Wentworth test. Also take into consideration past course form (this is an extremely nuanced track that rewards familiarity).
Viktor Hovland is a very worthy favourite after finishing in a tie for 5th at last week’s Tour Championship. It’s also nice of him to show solidarity for the European Tour just a week after the FedEx Cup. Tommy Fleetwood is an easy one to avoid this week after failing in contention once again last week. There’s just something so forlorn about Tommy these days. He needs a magical Ryder Cup to recapture the joy of the sport and once against challenge at Major competitions. Defending champion Tyrell Hatton was one of the form players in the world when he won last year. Both he and Matthew Fitzpatrick arrive at Wentworth in fairly abject form. The likes of Shane Lowry and Adam Scott certainly add some prestige to this year’s event. I’m actually rather looking forward to this week’s event.
2020: Tyrell Hatton (-19)
2019: Danny Willett (-20)
2018: Francesco Molinari (-17)
2017: Alex Noren (-11)
2016: Chris Wood (-9)
To Win Outright:
Viktor Hovland 9/1 | Tyrell Hatton 14/1 | Shane Lowry 16/1 | Tommy Fleetwood 20/1 | Billy Horschel 22/1
Henrik Stenson- To Win 40/1 | To Place 8/1
Here is a man making a last-gasp attempt to turn Padraig Harrington’s head this week. Aiming to backdoor his way into his 6th Ryder Cup, Henrik Stenson has looked excellent in recent weeks. The Swede finished 4th at the European Masters before a 3rd at the European Masters. He then had a creditable 15th last week in Italian Open. Stenson has recently reunited with the caddie who was on his bag at his 2016 Open Championship triumph. He was 3rd around here in 2017 and looks attractive to place at 8/1.
Sam Horsfield- To Win 66/1 | To Place 13/1
This just looks like a solid value pick this week. The oft-erratic Englishman is still 2nd on tour for Strokes Gained: Approach this season. He was also 4th last week with the irons in hand. He also finished 5th at the BMW International Open a few starts back. He’s finished inside the top 25 in three of his last four starts. He generally plays well at home and just looks like a nice sleeper option to me this week.
The Man to Beat- Shane Lowry- To Win 16/1 | To Place 33/10
I’m going for yet another Open Champion in Shane Lowry. Remember that thing I said about course familiarity earlier? He has an extremely solid run of Wentworth form: he finished inside the top 15 in eight of eleven starts. But perhaps more important to my thinking is Ryder Cup consideration. He currently occupies the 9th and final automatic qualification spot for Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup side. He will be ultra-motivated this week and will also be buoyed by the birth of his second daughter-Ivy last week.