Tuesday, 24 May 2016

BMW PGA Championship 2016 - Wentworth

Its a short hop from Ireland across to Surrey, England for the tour's "flagship" event, the PGA Championship this week. Rory McIlroy had already announced he was not playing this one before he took out his own National Open at The K Club on Sunday and he joins a list of who's who on the sidelines. With the US Open looming at Oakmont, the top players are scheduling accordingly and it makes for an interesting discussion on scheduling for the main events over the next few years. With Rory and Sergio Garcia now hosting their National Opens along with a rotational hosting of the British Masters by the leading British Players, we could see a shakeup next year in where these four events sit. Its clear the players are not keen to play four weeks in a row any given week so a reshuffle looks likely. I suspect this "flagship" event will get bumped sometime soon. We have no Ernie Els this week, a regular participant and designer of the course changes six years go. We do have a visit from twice winner, Luke Donald, and from Lee Westwood, Russell Knox and the defending champion, Byeonghun An as well as The Masters Champ, Danny Willett. Gmac also contests to complete his trip home and Frani Molinari couldn't really stay away and play on the PGA Tour this week, given his course credentials for Wentworth!

Shane Lowry will be looking for a good week here. He should have beaten Rory to the title here two years ago and he produced another fine effort last year finishing 6th. The Irishman was 12th in 2013 and 4th back in 2011 and is a big fan of the course. But the bookies have factored all this in and he's become a no-bet @ 16/1.

Sergio Garcia's win last Sunday at the Byron Nelson was timely for his Ryder Cup chances and he'll have raised the ante with the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Francesco Molinari, Shane Lowry, Victor Dubuisson and Joost Luiten who all find themselves outside the qualifying positions at present. It's game on ! Whilst Darren Clarke may decide to pick his good mate, Westwood, should he need to, there's no guarantee that Poults would get the nod and on current form I can't see "The Postman" making the team. Some are surprised that he doesn't play here this week but I'm not. He's not had any form here and missed the cut more often than not in very much the same way as Padraig Harrington used to hate playing here. Its a course that just doesn't suit them and therefore we should take course form into account. Just ask Simon Khan or indeed look at his record here. It may be a horses for courses event but we did see Rory win here when he clearly doesn't like it and should Matteo Mannasero have won on this course? or Andrew Oldcorn for that matter ? The defending champ, An, made his debut here in winning last year and I wouldn't over-emphasize the course knowledge too much. There are so many young players in form right now that can pop up and win this week.

Is there a standout pick for this week ? I don't think there is and those arriving in good form should do better than most. Russell Knox played extremely well on course debut at The K Club last week and he can keep the momentum going here as he aims to haul himself up the standings and impress the European skipper. But we've seen over the years that even the world's best can struggle to work out Wentworth so its not a given that he can bring that good form into this week; I expect him to put in a good week though. Ross Fisher should know Wentworth well but his from has dipped here since the changes. I watched Ross playing alongside stablemate, GMac last Sunday and he was full of chat and came across very relaxed and happy with himself; expect a good week here.

Twice winner, Luke Donald proved at Hilton Head last month that he can produce the goods on a course that he knows well and it can be expected that he'll do the same again this week. Back to back wins in 2011 & 2012 came on the back of a runners-up display in 2010 and a third placing in 2008 and he followed up with another third placing in 2014. He may be of some value of 30/1 to some but I'm happy to pass here.

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Francesco Molinari put in a good showing at Sawgrass a couple of weeks ago to complement what has been a run of some solid performances over a number of months on the PGA Tour and he can bring that form onto a course that he knows every bit as well as Mr. Donald. His form here is excellent and much moreso since the course changes ; 5-7-9-7 here the last four years may be a typical performance of the Italian who just doesn't win often enough. He's priced about right @ 20/1 for the win and 2/1 for the TOP10 but the evens for TOP20 looks to be a giveaway.

Joost Luiten has put a lot of time and practice into his game this season and it's showing. From his eleven outings this season he's missed just two cuts, in Delhi and in Ireland. He never got going last week and can be excused for that one, even moreso that it gave him extra time to practice and rest ahead of this week. From the other nine events, the Dutchman has produced eight TOP20s, of which six were TOP10s. He also has three TOP20s from his six visits here and can produce another one here if not a "W".  We need a player with strong GIR stats this week and Joost is up there in the TOP10 for the season in that department.

I'm sticking with Thorbjorn Olesen again this week. His Wentworth form is not great, in fact there is very little encouragement there with four missed cuts in five visits. He played beautifully last Sunday and we shouldn't dismiss him lightly here given his course record. Like Luiten, the Dane has been very consistent this season producing a bunch of TOP20s; six from his ten starts (four T10s and a TOP5). He has been in the TOP20 in his last four starts and should take encouragement for the way he stuck in there last week and finished it off with a superb 66. He tweeted on Monday when asked how he would do this week at Wentworth  "Never played well there! But I like it and I feel like I can do well there! " There is no doubting his ability and he seems to be returning to the promising form he showed when contending at Augusta a couple of years back in 2013 and he can add to his win tally soon. It was only last October when he saw off Brooks Koepka to land the Alfred Dunhill Links and that solid form has continued as the number of TOP10s this year have proven and if he feels like Wentworth is a course that he can do well on, then this could be the week to prove it. Highly ranked for GIR this season, the Dane was 3rd in the category at The K Club and was TOP10 in Driving Accuracy. Same again this week please Thor !

Finally, Johan Carlsson has little form here too but like Olesen has been very consistent of late with 10/12 and six TOP20s in the bag. He missed the cut last week and may find this week another headache but @ 8.50 for another TOP20 could be worth a dabble. Instead though, I'll opt for Sebastien Gros @ 5.00 to finish in the TOP20 again this week to follow up on an excellent effort in Co. Kildare. But for the 17th hole late on Saturday evening, the Frenchman could well have played with Rory in the final group on Sunday. He found the River Liffey twice as the rain bucketed down and the light faded only to return on Sunday and secure a TOP10. That was his fourth TOP20 from his thirteen starts , indeed his second T10 and he can keep it going with another solid performance here.

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Selections:

1.0  pts WIN J.Luiten @ 40.00
.50  pts WIN T. Olesen @ 60.00

2.0 pts TOP20 J. Luiten @ 2.75
2.0 pts TOP20 S. Gros @ 5.00
3.0 pts TOP20 T. Olesen @ 3.75