With the PGA Tour having this week off before resuming play next week in Napa for the Fortinet Championship (and no LIV Golf event), the BMW PGA Championship -- one of the DP World Tour's flagship events -- takes center stage. Nine of the Official World Golf Ranking Top 30 players are in Surrey, England this week.
World No. 3 Rory McIlroy (6-1) is just two weeks removed from his Tour Championship and FedEx Cup victory. Rory won this event back in 2014 and finished runner-up here in 2018. World No. 6 Jon Rahm (8-1) has had a down 2022 by his high standards but did post two Top 10s in the FedEx Cup Playoffs after he and his wife welcomed their second child in early August. Rahm also finished runner-up here in 2019. U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick (12-1) has two career Top 10s in six starts in Surrey. Shane Lowry (16-1) was runner-up to Rory in the 2014 BMW PGA. Viktor Hovland (20-1) seeks his first worldwide victory since Dubai in early February.
Tyrrell Hatton (30-1) won this event two years ago and this event also has special meaning for fellow Englishman Tommy Fleetwood (30-1).
Billy Horschel (25-1) is the defending champion of this event. By the time he tees it up on Thursday, Horschel will know if he was selected by Davis Love III for the Presidents Cup team. Horschel has never made a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup team in his career. As an aside from being motivated to defend his title, Horschel was very outspoken on Tuesday regarding some of the LIV Golf defectors taking part in this week's event.
“Even though Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter have been stalwarts for the European Tour, I don't think those guys really should be here,” Horschel said. “I honestly don't think that the American guys who haven't supported the PGA Tour should be here. Abraham Ancer, Talor Gooch, Jason Kokrak [who withdrew from the event], you've never played this tournament, you've never supported the DP World Tour. Why are you here? You are here for one reason only and that's to try to get World Ranking points because you don't have them [on the LIV Tour].
“That’s hypocritical because of what some of these guys have said this week,” Horschel continued. “When they said they wanted to play less golf. It's pretty hypocritical to come over here and play outside LIV when your big thing was to spend more time with family and want to play less golf. So that's my stance on it. I can see where other guys may differ and have a different opinion. But, like I said, it's tough. If we were on the PGA Tour, I would be hard-lined as I've always been.”
The LIV Golf players in this week's event include Talor Gooch (30-1), Abraham Ancer (35-1), Patrick Reed (40-1), Branden Grace (55-1), Sergio Garcia (60-1), and Lee Westwood (66-1). In all, 17 LIV players are in the field at Wentworth this week.
The BMW PGA Championship was established in 1955 as the British PGA Championship. It was typically played near the end of May but was moved to September in 2019 to avoid conflict with the PGA Championship. The winner of the tournament is given an exemption into the U.S. Open and the next three Open Championships. A who's who of European players have victories at his event including Nick Faldo (1978, 1980, 1981, 1989), Bernhard Langer (1987, 1993, 1995), Colin Montgomerie (1998, 1999, 2000), Seve Ballesteros (1983, 1991), Ian Woosnam (1988, 1997), Francesco Molinari (2018), Rory McIlroy (2014) and Tony Jacklin (1972, 1982).
Last year, Billy Horschel became just the second American to win what has long been considered the old European Tour's flagship event. Arnold Palmer was the first to do so back in 1975.
The West Course at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England (about 25 miles southwest of London) has hosted the BMW PGA since 1984. The headquarters of the European Tour is located on the grounds of the club. The course was designed in 1926 by Harry Colt with Ernie Els and European Tour Design doing two renovations in 2009 and 2016. Wentworth West is a Par 72 of 7,267 yards. It is a tree-lined track with tight fairways and some long rough. Bentgrass greens replaced Bent/Poa Annua in the 2016 renovation. The greens also have many shaved run-offs. The most recent renovations were made with the intent of getting back to the original Colt design by encouraging more shot-making and allowing more shots to roll onto the greens.
BMW PGA Championship Recent History
2021: Billy Horschel (-19/269); 28-1
2020: Tyrrell Hatton (-19/269); 16-1
2019: Danny Willett (-20/268); 66-1
2018: Francesco Molinari (-17/271); 22-1
2017: Alex Noren (-11/277); 20-1
2016: Chris Wood (-9/279); 66-1
2015: Byeong-Hun An (-21/267); 100-1
2014: Rory McIlroy (-14/274); 14-1
2013: Matteo Manassero (-10/278); 66-1*
2012: Luke Donald (-15/273); 8-1
2011: Luke Donald (-6/278); 15/2**
2010: Simon Khan (-6/278); 200-1
Playoff Win over Simon Khan & Marc Warren - *
Playoff Win over Lee Westwood - **
Viktor Hovland (20-1, BetMGM)
Hovland has certainly cooled from his hot start to 2022, which included a win in Dubai and a runner-up that should have been a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.
While finishes of 11th (2019) and 49th (2021) at Wentworth don’t exactly pop off on a form sheet, Hovland does come in this time off two weeks rest in lieu of flying over immediately after a PGA Tour event.
Over the last two years, Hovland has made five DP World Tour starts and had impressive finishes in four of them: winning twice and finishing fourth and sixth.
Tommy Fleetwood (30-1, PointsBet)
Fleetwood makes his first start since mid-July when he posted consecutive T-4 finishes at the Scottish Open and The Open Championship.
He took time away from the game over the last several weeks due to the passing of his mother. Nevertheless, he has a strong career record off lengthy layoffs as evident by him winning twice in Abu Dhabi to open the season.
Tyrrell Hatton (30-1, SuperBook Sports)
Hatton, the 2020 BMW PGA winner, has put up four top 25 finishes in his last 25 starts including an 11th in The Open and 8th in the Wyndham Championship.
He ranked 4th this past season on the PGA Tour for Strokes Gained: Putting and his approach game with the irons is starting to return to form.
Thomas Pieters (40-1, SuperBook Sports)
Speaking of Abu Dhabi, that is where Pieters won earlier this year. He almost had a second victory in 2022 but lost on a 50-footer to Haotong Li on the first playoff hole of the BMW International Open in Germany.
Pieters posted his best career Wentworth finish last year with a 9th.
Branden Grace (55-1, FanDuel/Boyd Sports)
I am personally not high on most of the LIV players' prospects this week at Wentworth, but Grace has been competitive in his four LIV starts (third, first, 13th and 12th).
He has also gone well here at Wentworth over the last decade with two Top 5 finishes and a ninth-place outing.
Eddie Pepperell (80-1, DraftKings)
Pepperell, always cheeky and irreverent on social media, has seemingly been spurred on by recent events in the game of golf.
The Englishman is in great form having finished in the Top 20 in each of his last five events, plus two Top 10 finishes and a runner-up at Fairmont St. Andrews six weeks ago.
Ewen Ferguson (80-1, DraftKings)
Ferguson finished runner-up last week in Denmark and likely should have won if not for Oliver Wilson making a 60-footer for birdie on 17 to beat him by one.
The Scotsman is the likely DP World Tour Rookie of the Year with two victories this season in Qatar and Northern Ireland. This is a step up in class against a much stronger field, but he looks ready to raise his level.