Golf in Europe for 2018 officially kicks into high gear the next couple of weeks with the first two (of eight) Rolex Series events.
The BMW PGA Championship is the first Rolex Series event, followed by next week’s Italian Open.
If your favorite player is British and really good, odds are he’s in this week’s field. The lone exception out of those British in the top 50 ranked players in the world is the highest-ranked golfer of the bunch, world No. 5 Justin Rose, who will play in the PGA Tour’s Fort Worth Invitational instead.
But No. 8 Rory McIlroy, No. 10 Paul Casey (playing this event for the first time since 2013), No. 12 Tommy Fleetwood, No. 21 Tyrell Hatton, No. 28 Ian Poulter, No. 40 Matthew Fitzpatrick and No. 44 Ross Fisher can all expect an enthusiastic welcome from the British fans.
All told, 16 of the world’s top 50 are in the field, with the highest-ranked international player being defending champion Alex Noren, the world’s No. 19 player and No. 23 in this year’s FedEx Cup standings while playing strictly a PGA Tour schedule up until this event.
Noren electrified last year’s event by posting a course-record 62 in the final round, good for a two-shot victory.
Here’s the rest of what you’ll need to know to be ready to enjoy the 2018 BMW PGA Championship.
Tournament: BMW PGA Championship
Dates: May 24-27, 2018
Where: Virginia Water, Surrey, England
Course: Wentworth Club, West Course
Distance: Par 72, 7400 yards
Architect: Harry Colt and Ernie Els
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,166,660
Defending Champion: Alex Noren
Marquee Players: Noren, Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Ross Fisher, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Francesco Molinari, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Branden Grace, Haotong Li, Alexander Levy, Dylan Frittelli, Thomas Pieters, Ernie Els, Martin Kaymer, Thongchai Jaidee, Chris Wood, Shane Lowry, An Byeong Hun, Matteo Manassero
TV AND ONLINE
Round 1: Thu 5:00 am-1:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 2: Fri 5:00 am-1:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sat 7:30 am-12:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 4: Sun 7:30 am-12:30 pm (GOLF)
Web | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Wikipedia | Bovada
Founded in 1955 as the British PGA Championship, the tournament is the European Tour’s flagship event, and annually contested at the historic Wentworth Club – home of the European PGA Tour.
As a Rolex Series event, the tournament offers a hefty $7,00,000 purse with the winner receiving over $1 million in prize money along with 64 Official World Golf Ranking points. An invite to next month’s U.S. Open, as well as the next three British Opens, is also awarded to the champion.
The host venue is the Wentworth Club’s West Course, an historic design first brought to life in 1926 by one of the game’s legendary architects, Harry Colt. Modernization efforts have been undertaken led by Ernie Els three times in the last dozen years.
No one has had more success at this event than Sir Nick Faldo, who claimed four titles over a 12-year stretch, highlighted by three victories in a four-year span (1978, 1980, and 1981).
Another great English player, Colin Montgomerie, has a singular claim of his own, as he’s the only player to have won this event three consecutive years, from 1998-2000.
Along the way, a slew of other golf greats have added British PGA titles to their resumes, including three-time winners Peter Allis and Bernhard Langer, two-time champs Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Luke Donald, and Tony Jacklin. Other big name winners include Arnold Palmer, Angel Cabrera, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy.
2007-18: BMW PGA Championship
2005-06: BMW Championship
1988-04: Volvo PGA Championship
1984-87: Whyte & Mackay PGA Championship
1980-83: Sun Alliance PGA Championship
1978-79: Colgate PGA Championship
1975-77: Penfold PGA Championship
1972-74: Viyella PGA Championship
1967-71: Schweppes Open
1961-66: Schweppes PGA Close Championship
1955-60: PGA Close Championship
2017: Alex Noren (-11)
2016: Chris Wood (-9)
2015: An Byeong Hun (-21)
2014: Rory McIlroy (-14)
2013: Matteo Manassero (-10)
2012: Luke Donald (-15)
2011: Luke Donald (-6)
-21 An Byeong Hun (2015)
4 – Sir Nick Faldo (1978, ’80, ’81, ’89)
3 – Peter Alliss (1957, ’62, ’65)
3 – Bernhard Langer (1987, ’93, ’95)
3 – Colin Montgomerie (1998-2000)
Alex Noren entered the final round at the BMW PGA Championship tied for 20th, seven strokes behind leader Andrew Dodt of Australia, and with 17 other world-class professional golfers between him and the leader. But after shooting a course-record 10-under 62 on Sunday, highlighted by an eagle on the 18th, the then 34-year-old Swede beat them all, and became the first golfer from his country to capture the BMW PGA crown.
At the halfway point, with Noren in the clubhouse at 11-under, Dodt, Henrik Stenson, Shane Lowry, Hideto Tanihara and Branden Grace were in a five-way tie at 9 under, and the odds seemed high that one would be able to at least force a playoff. But all five faded down the stretch, leaving Noren with a full two-stroke cushion.
Italy’s Francesco Molinari birdied the final two holes to finish solo second at 9-under, a shot ahead of Stenson, Tanihara and Nicolas Colsaerts, who also eagled the 18th to jump into the top five.
The victory was Noren’s fifth European Tour title in an 11 month period.
FINAL TOP 10
1 Alex Noren -11
2 Francesco Molinari -9
3 Hideto Tanihara -8
3 Nicolas Colsaerts -8
3 Henrik Stenson -8
6 Andrew Dodt -7
6 Graeme Storm -7
6 Shane Lowry -7
9 Branden Grace -6
9 Ross Fisher -6
9 Dean Burmester -6
The 2018 BMW PGA Championship has enough depth, history and talent in its field that pinning down a favorite for the week becomes very difficult.
Many people will default to Rory McIlroy, at No. 8 in the world the highest-ranked player in the field, and the 2014 champion of this event.
If he’s completely on his game, he will be tough to beat, as evidenced by his victory two months ago in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and his fifth-place showing at The Masters (not to mention top-three showings in three of the last four European Tour events he has played.) Doubts could be raised, though, by his missed cut at THE PLAYERS Championship in his most recent outing.
Paul Casey returns to Wentworth for the first time in five years, and at No. 10 in the world, is a member of the top 10 for the first time since 2010. He had a March victory of his own on the PGA Tour, holding off Tiger Woods to claim the Valspar Championship, and posting a tie for fifth three weeks ago in his most recent start at the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s hard not to believe that defending champ Alex Noren won’t plug into the positive vibes of returning for the first time to the site of the most scintillating win of his career, digging deep and coming up with a course-record 62 in the final round that stood up for the 2017 BMW PGA title.
Although he hasn’t won any event since, he has had a number of impressive showings on the PGA Tour this winter, with top-three finishes in three different tournaments, most recently the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play event.
World No. 12 Tommy Fleetwood won the first European Tour event of this year, taking home the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, but since February, he has only one top 10 showing.
The good news for Fleetwood is that it was in his last start against the strongest field in any tournament in the world since 2016, a tie for seventh at THE PLAYERS Championship.
Two players who are coming in hot who bear watching are Brandan Grace and An Byeung Hun. Grace, ranked No. 33 in the world, finished tied for ninth at last year’s BMW PGA and is coming in off a round of 62 of his own — a final round charge to the top at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.
Having also shot a 62 in last year’s British Open, the South African should have confidence in his ability to go really low. Hun is only ranked No. 87 in the world, but he, too, went really low at Wentworth in 2015, setting a tournament scoring record in finishing 21-under par.
That 2015 performance is his only career victory on either the PGA or European tours, but he’s seen his game rise steadily so far this year, with top 10 finishes at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Honda Classic and, most recently, the RBC Heritage in April. His last outing produced a tie for 30th at THE PLAYERS.
FIELD RANKING & ODDS
The full field with world rankings, and odds.
Credits: European Tour Media, Getty Images