Just one week after his twin brother won the European Masters in Switzerland, Nicolai Hojgaard of Denmark earned his first European Tour victory at the Italian Open by one stroke over Tommy Fleetwood and Adrian Meronk. Hojgaard, 20, was the last man added to the Italian Open field with a wild-card entry from the Italian Golf Federation.
Now that the 2020-21 PGA Tour season and FedEx Cup playoffs have concluded, the tour takes a week off while the European Tour holds one of its flagship events at the BMW PGA Championship. Viktor Hovland (10-1) tied for fourth for the low 72-hole market last weekend at the Tour Championship. He does not play on the European Tour very often, but his lone 2021 victory came in June at the BMW International Open in Germany. Hovland and several other likely European Ryder Cup team members are playing this event. After a win in the early part of the year at Abu Dhabi, Tyrrell Hatton (16-1) has had a down second half of the year but is the defending champion of this event. Shane Lowry (18-1) holds the final spot on the world points list to select Team Europe for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits at the end of the month. Matt Fitzpatrick and Fleetwood, both 22-1, are likely to be qualified for captain Padraig Harrington’s team.
Alex Noren (25-1) came up a couple of spots short two weeks ago to make the top 30 and advance to the Tour Championship. The 2017 BMW PGA champion is among a handful of players still with a chance to impress Harrington and make the Ryder Cup team. Billy Horschel (28-1) is the only American PGA Tour regular in this event, which could make an impression on U.S. captain Steve Stricker. Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, both at 33-1, will have to hope for captain’s picks. Australian Adam Scott (33-1) failed to advance after the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs, so he is rested coming in this week in a rare European Tour start. South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout (35-1) finished third last weekend at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship to earn a PGA Tour card. Lee Westwood (40-1) would currently qualify for the Ryder Cup, while Bernd Wiesberger (40-1) has one last chance to impress. Henrik Stenson (40-1) seems a long shot to make the Ryder Cup team, but he has finishes of third, fourth and 15th over the last three weeks.
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 conflicting with the PGA Championship. It is considered the European Tour’s flagship event. The winner gets an exemption into the U.S. Open and the next three British Opens. A who’s who of European players have won his event, including Nick Faldo (1978, ’80, ’81, ’89), Bernhard Langer (1987, ’93, ’95), Colin Montgomerie (1998, ’99, 2000), Seve Ballesteros (1983, ’91), Ian Woosnam (1988, ’97), Francesco Molinari (2018), Rory McIlroy (2014) and Tony Jacklin (1972, ’82).
The West Course at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England, is about 25 miles southwest of London and has hosted the BMW PGA since 1984. The headquarters of the European Tour is on the grounds of the club. The course was designed in 1926 by Harry Colt, with Ernie Els and European Tour Design doing renovations in 2009 and ’16. Wentworth West is a par-72 of 7,302 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 runoffs. The most recent renovations were made with the intent of getting back to the original Colt design by encouraging more shotmaking and allowing more shots to roll onto the greens.
BMW PGA Championship Recent History
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 and Marc Warren
** - playoff win over Lee Westwood
Alex Noren (25-1)
Noren missed only five cuts on the PGA Tour this season and has found some excellent form in the second half of 2021.
The Swede put up his best performance of the year when finishing fourth at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in July. A couple of missed cuts followed, but he has bounced back in his last three starts. His 16th at the Olympics was followed by top-10s in the first two FedEx Cup playoff events, finishing fourth at the Northern Trust in New Jersey and then finishing ninth in his last start two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.
Noren won here in 2017 and has finished top-10 here three times in the last six years. A victory would earn him enough points to make the European Ryder Cup team.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (35-1)
The South African finished third here on debut in 2019. He also should be highly encouraged by locking up his PGA Tour card at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship last week.
Bezuidenhout led last week’s field in scrambling and ranked third and fifth, respectively, on the European Tour last year for strokes gained putting and strokes gained around the green.
Bernd Wiesberger (40-1)
Wiesberger gets one more chance to find his way onto the Ryder Cup team with a top-3 finish.
Two weeks ago, Wiesberger hit his approach to the 18th hole at the European Masters into the water, handing the title to Rasmus Hojgaard. He ranks sixth on the European Tour for strokes gained: approach.
Victor Perez (55-1)
Perez finished second last year at Wentworth.
He was second in strokes gained: approach last weekend in Italy and ranks fifth in the category for the season on the European Tour.
Sam Horsfield (60-1)
Horsfield is second on the European Tour this year in strokes gained: approach and was fourth last week in the category in Italy.
The Englishman has been in decent form with a sixth, 23rd and 15th in three of his last four starts. Could be a good spot to catch him on the drift.
Masahiro Kawamura (90-1)
Kawamura has entered the Official World Golf Ranking top 150 with stellar play over the last two months.
The man from Japan has four top-6 finishes since June, including a tie for fifth last week in Italy.