After last week’s rain affected, Irish Open we move to England for what is still known (for now) as the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
Over the years, Europe’s top names have turned out for this event and whilst the field is not as strong this year, this week will create as much excitement as ever.
When I say the field is not as strong, this year’s Masters Champion, Danny Willett headlines the event supported by the likes of; Shane Lowry, Russell Knox, Francesco Molinari, Martin Kaymer and two-time winner, Luke Donald.
In addition there is a plethora of top European Tour regulars here, in the hope that they can win this prestigious event.
Some excellent players have won here over the years, recent winners include; Byeong-hun An, who won his first European Tour event here last year, Rory McIlroy who won in 2014 and then Matteo Manassero and Luke Donald complete the winners list for the last five years.
Donald (2011 and 2012) and Manassero (2013) may have faltered in recent years and neither have won since winning here but they were both well respected players at the time and both are more than capable of contending even this week, at a course they both like.
Donald has played some decent golf of late in America, highlighted by his runner-up finish at the RBC Heritage six weeks ago and he will be hoping he can get his first win in four years on familiar territory this week.
Manassero is a different prospect altogether. It has been quite some time since he has contended on Tour and has only been in the top-5 twice since that win here, finishing T4 the week after that win a the Nordea Masters and then another T4 finish, this time at the Scottish Open in 2014.
Not to dwell on the past it is important to look at what the guys teeing it up this week will need to do well in order to play well here at Wentworth.
BMW PGA Key stats and trends:
Greens in Regulation – Last year’s winner An ranked 1st in GIR for the week, whilst Rory ranked a more modest, 22nd en-route to victory the year before. McIlroy as he often is though seems to be the anomaly. Before he won, the last three winners all ranked inside the top-4 with Manassero ranking 4th (runner-up Khan ranked 1st), Donald ranked 10th in 2012 but 3rd in 2011 and Khan ranked 3rd when he won in 2010, so clearly hitting greens is fairly imperative.
Course Experience – An was one of just three debutants to win in the event’s history (Event was established in 1955).
British winners – Due to the location of the event, this test unsurprisingly favors British players and since Colin Montgomerie went on his run of winning it three times in a row between 1998-2000, there have been seven other British winners.
With all this in mind, here are my picks for the 2016 BMW PGA Championship.
Rafa Cabrera Bello 28/1 (General) 2pts e/w: Cabrera Bello whilst often frustrating for punters is very much a top-tier player on the European Tour and now he is inside the top-30 of the World Rankings it is about time he had a recent win to show for it.
The Spaniard has not won since 2012, but the form he has been in, on both sides of the pond is absolutely immense. In 9 starts on the European Tour in 2016, he has not missed a single cut and his worst finish is a T36 effort in Malaysia.
His T8 finish last week at the Irish Open was his fourth top-10 of the season, if you include his 3rd place finish at the WGC- Match Play.
He finished runner-up in back-to-back weeks in the Desert swing back in January and I am confident he can go one better here.
In addition to his good play in Europe, Bello has played well in America, finishing T17 at the Masters, T11 at the WGC- Cadillac Championship and 4th at the Shell Houston Open, so minus a win he is having probably his best season of his career worldwide so far.
Bello’s form at Wentworth, much like his career is a bit erratic but there is some hope too. In seven starts in this event he has missed four cuts but also finished inside the top-17 on three occasions, so if he makes the weekend he generally finishes fairly high up on the leader board. Finishes of 15th, 16th and 17th when making the cut is enough for me to pull the trigger because should he play Saturday and Sunday this year, I am confident he can get that win his play so far this season deserves.
James Morrison 70/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Morrison grabbed his second win on the European Tour around this time last year, when winning the Open de Espana in the middle of May and I am hoping that May proves a fruitful month for him again.
Morrison secured his European Tour card for the first time in time for 2010 season and went on to win that same year, at the Madeira Islands Open. In addition to that win he also went on to finish runner-up at the Open de Espana.
He looks to have found a similar level in his game to that of his debut season over the last twelve months or so and looks a good bet to find another win this year.
The Englishman has had three top-15 finishes in nine starts this year, including a 10th place finish at the Irish Open last week and a 4th place finish when defending the Open de Espana last month.
At this course he has two top-11’s and three missed cuts in five appearances here, so assuming he makes the weekend this week, he looks a good bet to go close.
Through 36 holes back in 2012, Morrison held a four-stroke lead over compatriot Luke Donald but faltered to let Donald win this event for the second time.
I do however believe after getting his second win last year he may well be better equipped to win, should he get out in front again this time around.
He is in good form generally this year, missing just two cuts in Perth and China and now he is back home I am confident he can improve on a decent effort at the Irish Open last week.
Marc Warren 100/1 (General) 0.5pt e/w: Simply put, Marc Warren is far too big of a price not to bet this week. The three-time European Tour winner will be looking to end his almost two-year wait for his next win, at a course that clearly suits his game.
Whilst the Scot has been out of form this season (4/10 cuts made), he has shown flashes of good form over his last two events, especially last week where a round of 78 killed his chances of improving on his T23 finish at the Irish Open.
He is a big price due to his struggles throughout the season but he is playing a course he absolutely loves this week and I am confident he can build on last week and get himself into contention here.
In his last four starts at this course, Warren has finished 18-16-2-27 and that 2nd was a play-off loss to the aforementioned, Matteo Manassero.
If you factor in his second best showing of the season last week, with his obvious affinity with the course he looks great value at three-figure odds and I am willing to take a chance that he can up his game here.