For the uninitiated it is generally the PGA Tour, America’s premier golf circuit, that garners most of the sport’s attention on a weekly basis. Typically, they have the best players playing for the biggest prizes at some of the most picturesque courses on the planet.
But this week is remarkable for the reason that the European Tour, usually the PGA’s less cherished sibling, takes centre stage. The BMW PGA Championship is a fairly prestigious prize in the modern game, and Wentworth as idyllic a setting as you could wish to see.
The upshot is that rather than the usual band of grizzled veterans and talented young upstarts, the European our will this week feature some of the most recognisable names in world golf: there’s major winners in Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer, some of the most promising young talents in the game in Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Thomas Pieters, and then a handful of guys who are becoming rather prolific winners; chaps like Alex Noren and Bernd Wiesberger.
Dollop in a few old English favourites like Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, and you have a recipe for a fascinating tournament.
Wentworth’s West Course has enjoyed something of a facelift ahead of Thursday’s first tee. Nine greens have been either rebuilt or reshaped, and the addition of the sub-air system should mean that these run a lot faster and smoother than they have in the past. Bunkers have been removed from the fairways and the result is that scoring should be a whole bunch easier.
That could make for a cracking week; particularly if this heatwave we have been promised materialises. So where is the smart betting money going?
Tyrrell Hatton (25/1)
The 25/1 price is mighty short for a player with only one professional title to his name, but Tyrrell Hatton is definitely a player on the up.
Here’s a 25-year-old who has already recorded top-ten finishes in not one but two majors (The Open and PGA Championship last year) plus a stack of other money places all around the world.
That victory we mentioned came on British soil at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, and most interesting is that Wentworth is a course that Hatton has frequented on numerous occasions: he grew up just 30 minutes away.
This is a field littered with potential winners, but look at the form of all involved over the past six months and we guarantee Hatton’s stands up to scrutiny.
Tommy Fleetwood (33/1)
If you made a shortlist of world golf’s ten most improved players in the past year or so, Tommy Fleetwood might just edge his way onto it.
The Southport man finally ended his long trophy-less run at the Abu Dhabi Championship earlier in the year, and since then he has played like a man possessed: finishing second in the prestigious WGC Mexico and the China Open, plus adding a stack of top-tens to his CV as well.
The key to his game is his deadly accurate ball striking, and that will stand him in good stead at Wentworth this week. British parkland golf requires players to have their ball on the string, and few in the business have been doing that with such prominence as Fleetwood in recent times.
A lack of silverware in his trophy cabinet is a concern, but in taking down the Abu Dhabi he showed that he is able to win in the best of company.
Haotong Li (80/1)
With most bookmakers paying seven each way places this week the notion of playing the Top 10 Finish market is rendered meaningless; we can attack the outright winner market and hope for the best.
The young Chinese ace Haotong Li is showing plenty of promise, and his price here is perhaps a tad long given that he missed out on the play-off at the Rocco Forte Open last week by just one shot.
His form has been haphazard this term but he has finished eleventh and third in his last pair of starts, which is encouraging. Li has also fared reasonably well on British parkland courses in the past, so there’s plenty for this likeable 21-year-old to smile about this week.