Finally after 78 rounds of golf on the European Tour, it is the turn of England to host what will be the flagship event this season. The BMW PGA Championship has a rich history and the Wentworth Club in Surrey is a course that has held the Ryder Cup and constantly attracts the best from the continent. Whatever the motives of the “PGA exiles” may be (money, closer to home, historic event) it should not matter because it will be a week of pure golf. And for all UK residents, you get to watch it on terrestrial T.V. listening to the dulcet tones of Peter Alliss. Bliss.
The course itself is a 7,302 yard par 72 and has often been described as a long-hitters track, but Luke Donald has won twice in a row and put pay to that theory. With relatively spacious fairways, you can understand why a bomber could do well here, but if you are completely reckless and constantly find the thick stuff, birdies will be hard to come by. Course resident Ernie Els has made the course more difficult, meaning good ball strikers and ‘thinkers’ will prevail. But the greatest challenge will come with the weather, as there is expected to be tough winds before the cut on Saturday. Anyone who can handle the pressures of a prestigious event alongside torrid weather will be at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.
PLUS many bookmakers are offering 6 places this week, so it would be foolish not to get involved. Check out who has the best odds and offers via Oddschecker.
We must note that the ‘top boys’, i.e the Donalds, Rose’, Westwoods etc are pretty much untouchable at their odds, so we are looking elsewhere, but we really feel there is value further down the field! Also, the British media will be going barmy and most probably biased for the English contingent; therefore we have kept a real impartial view at the whole field.
Martin Kaymer (33/1 various)
The former world number 1 had a well-documented nightmare for much of last season before pulling off the winning putt in the Ryder Cup at the backend of the year. Beginning the 2013 season, there was hope he would continue from that and push on back up the rankings and although he hasn’t excelled, there has been signs of the talent we all know he has. 4 top 10s this year have shown that and last week at the Byron Nelson his T5 finish was a joy to watch; the ball striking was back and formidable iron play looked to good to go unnoticed this week. He shot 4 rounds in the 60s and considering he was T55 in putting for the week, he could have challenged further. He ended T11 in GIR and T13 for driving accuracy, whilst averaging 299 yards off the tee, all of which will be a lethal combination for Wentworth. Now, he may not have a top 10 here yet but his T15 last year should have perhaps been better, but his poor form and awful putting put pay to any chances of a win. There are few better when the German is full flow and if he can get his putter going, he could genuinely run away with this.
Branden Grace (55/1 StanJames)
Grace is the first of our South Africans who we fancy this week and when you think of his calibre, 55s is a very high price. His first trip to Wentworth last year ended with a finish for 5th, in what was a very solid performance tee to green, no lower than 36th in any stat across the board. Admittedly his outstanding form last year has not been reciprocated into 2013, but trips over to the PGA have not helped matters, playing in many new tournaments and surroundings. He still finished T18 at the Masters and last week, back in Europe, got to the semi-finals at the match play. He began to look back to what he produced in 2012 and at a course that does suit; he really could prove to be good value. He currently lies 29th in driving distance on the European Tour and 38th Stateside, 34th in stroke average and 23rd in one putts in Europe. Plus, if the wind blows we are sure he will be able to handle it, as he is a ready-made links player, whose putting can keep him out of trouble at the crucial times.
Richard Sterne (66/1 Coral)
Our second South African comes in the form of Richard Sterne, who has had a superb 2013 so far. He won in Johannesburg back in February and barring a MC at the RBC Heritage, his worst finish is T25…at the Masters. What is really encouraging though is the fact that his only appearance at Wentworth was last year where he ended in 6th, in a performance that averaged only 259 yards off the tee. Even his driving accuracy was poor, which shows how well he played with his irons and around the green. But going into the tournament this year he is averaging 295 yards and over 62% accuracy, which could be an interesting recipe for success. He is also 19th in GIR, 2nd in stroke average, 4th putts per GIR, 14th in putts per round and 40th in scrambling. Basically the guy loves it when he is shooting into the green and once he is there, you can trust him to find his putts. Lets hope he produces a stern performance…
David Horsey (70/1 StanJames)
Without wanting to contradict ourselves from earlier, it would not be right to exclude every Englishman would it? David Horsey is an outsider that we have followed throughout the European season and he could upset the home nation applecart this week. Firstly, he is an excellent wind player; a battler in every condition who produced a superb performance in Morocco to end T2, in what was horrendous weather for a couple of days. That finish was in the middle of what is a great run for the lad from Stockport, with a T6 before and T4 in Spain after. He will be buzzing to get out onto a course he had a T7 finish at back in 2011, in which he really could of placed higher had it not been for a 73 on the Saturday. The conditions in 2011 could be similar this year and with an even tougher course laid out, Horsey will thrive. He currently lies in 34th in driving accuracy, 30th in putts per GIR, 38th putts per round and 55th for scrambling. Basically, if you want to steer clear of Westwood, Rose et al and fancy an English outsider, Horsey is your man!
Thomas Aiken (100/1 StanJames)
Our third South African is a man who is in glorious form of late. Aiken won the Avantha Masters in March at an absolute canter, before a T11 in tough conditions the following week and a semi-final appearance at the match play last week. Considering such high odds, it seemed foolish not to jump on him, when we have seen him as low as 16s previously. (Understandably without the stellar field on show this week) He is currently 16th for stroke average, 44th in driving distance, 11th in GIR, 51st putts per GIR and 18th in driving accuracy. And looking back to his T10 finish here in 2009, his driving accuracy was horrendous, finishing 59th in the field for the week, so if he brings his on-fire game to the course, he could be well worth a punt, especially at such high odds. For all-round stats, you will not find someone better than the South African.
Quick mention to 48-year-old James Kingston who can be found at a staggering 300/1 by some bookmakers. The fourth South African we looked at has been playing well of late and considering he has finished T6 here 3 years ago, if you have a few spare pennies, don’t waste them on the lottery, waste them on Kingston. 16th driving accuracy, 23rd stroke average, 12th putts per round and 16th in scrambling are all stats that make you sit up and take notice. He also won on his last outing…