One of the highlights of the golfing calendar takes place this week as the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in Surrey starts on Thursday. Amazingly this flagship event for the European Tour is the only event held in England this year, given that The Open Championship is being staged at Muirfield.
The PGA Championship has been in existence since 1972 and Wentworth has been its home ever since it moved there in 1984. The course has undergone a huge amount of changes under the guidance of Ernie Els in 2006 and again in 2009/10 and after criticism in 2010, further alterations were made to the landing areas and greens and the course now provides a much tougher test, without being too penal so as to discourage some attacking golf down the crucial Par 5 finishing holes of 17 and 18.
The West Course 7,302 yards and plays to a Par 72. This is a flat tree lined course consisting of twisty fairways and numerous doglegs. The fairways are quite generous and the landing areas do lend themselves to attacking play from the tee. However position off the tee is vitally important and this is a course that demands that a player shapes the ball both ways in order to leave himself in a position to attack the greens with the approach shots. The swirling wind is the other real feature of Wentworth and being able to handle this breeze will be crucial to success this week.
Luke Donald bids to emulate Monty by winning this event 3 years in a row. He could already have achieved this but for blowing a winning position in 2010. Given his course form, Donald deserves the utmost respect, but his iron play has not been as accurate this year and he is not quite in the form that he has been in previous years. At single figure prices, he is passed over.
Lee Westwood has been playing some great golf in the States and has had four Top 10s in a row. His short game seems to have improved and he will be very keen to better his 2011 display where he was beaten in a play off by Donald. However his overall Wentworth form is patchy and his putting is still a cause for concern.
Rory McIlroy always has to be respected but he has stated in the past that he struggles with the middle section of this course and despite finishing 5th in 2009 he has a 24th, 48th and two missed cuts to show for his other 4 appearances. His off course activities are again in the spotlight as he has just announced his split with his management company and he does not appeal this week at a best price of 11/1.
Graeme McDowell does not have much course form in the book with a 13th in 2009 being his only Top 20 finish in the past 7 renewals. However he is probably playing better golf than anyone other than Tiger Woods at the moment and cannot be dismissed in his current form.
Justin Rose has as good a game from tee to green as there is in world golf and he has two 2nd place finishes here in recent years. His two efforts on the European Tour this year have been excellent with a 2nd place in Abu Dhabi and 16th in Qatar. However he has thrown away a number of winning chances this season and his putting has let him down. He does not appeal at 11/1 with this in mind.
Sergio Garcia makes his first appearance here since 2000 and his ball striking means he is always to be respected. He could take some beating but is hard to fancy directly after his exploits at Sawgrass and we will take a watching brief with the Spaniard, especially given that his attention this week seems to be on silly comments being directed at Tiger Woods and embroiling himself in a racism row.
This looks like an excellent opportunity for the 20 year old Italian to win a real big event. He has already secured three European Tour titles in his brief career, which are the Castello Masters, Malaysian Open and last year’s Singapore Open. However none of these compare to PGA Championship title.
Manaserro is a super accurate tee to green player who is very well suited by courses that are a test of ball striking rather than distance. He was an excellent 7th place in this event two years ago, when a final round 75 pushed him down the leaderboard after being level with Donald going into the final round. With a further two years of experience under his belt, we would expect him to be much more composed under pressure and he has posted a sequence of solid results this year with six Top 25 placings from six starts on the European Tour.
With doubts about many of the market leaders, the 60/1 looks appealing each way about a real talent who is certain to win many big prizes in the years to come.
Once again, we are staying away from the very front of the market and Shane Lowry is our second selection. Lowry has certainly not set the world alright this year, but the experience gained in the events on The PGATour will stand to him and help him develop as a player.
Lowry is an outstanding player in the wind and has excellent form both at this course and other venues that provide similar tests to Wentworth. He was 4th here in 2011 and also was 4th in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama in 2011. Top 20 finishes in the 2010 Andalucia Masters and 2012 Trophee Hassan are also encouraging with this week in mind, while his 2009 Irish Open victory in very windy conditions at Baltray and in the 2012 Portugal Masters at the exposed Villamoura Course are further evidence of his ability to play in windy conditions.
Lowry can be somewhat of an all or nothing player and while 80/1 makes appeal each way with the main bookmakers to us, he is available at 160s on Betfair win only. This robs punters of the each way part of their bet but there is a very healthy premium on the win part to compensate. It also provides a trading opportunity should Lowry make a fast start at7:40 am on Thursday as his price is likely to shorten significantly if he manages to make a few birdies early in his round.
1 pt e/w Matteo Manaserro @ 60/1 Bet365 (each way 6 places)
0.75 pts e/w Shane Lowry @ 80/1 Bet365 (each way 6 places)