BMW PGA Championship
Course: Wentworth Club, West Course
Location: Virginia Water, Surrey
Low Winning Total: 269 Anders Hansen (2002) Scott Drummond (2004)
Course Record: 63(-9) Robert Dinwiddie 2008
Cut: After 36 holes, low 70 and ties
Tee Off: Thursday BST: 07:00
The BMW PGA Championship is the flagship event on the European Tour and Wentworth's West Course will be the host venue for 29th consecutive time. Wentworth also staged the World Match Play Championship from 1964-2007.
The PGA Championship has a rich history and the list of champions reads like a 'Whose Who' of European golf with names such as Tony Jacklin, Sir Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie etched on the trophy.
This year features another world class field with the best three players in the world and the battle for the coveted World Number 1 position continues.
If World Number Two Luke Donald wins he'll move back to the top and displace current World Number One Rory McIlroy and depending on how McIlroy performs, Donald could finish eighth or better and still reclaim the Number One position. However victory for World Number Three Lee Westwood would leave him just shy of the number one spot.
Last Time Out
Going into the final round Lee Westwood was two behind Luke Donald but went one in ahead with a front nine 33 and was two clear when he birdied the 15th. However, he bogeyed the next and Donald hit his approach to a foot and made the putt to draw level.
After Westwood missed a birdie chance from inside six feet on the last hole Donald was left with a 30-footer for victory but his two-putt par meant they tied on six-under.
At the first extra hole Donald pitched to six feet and then Westwood, from four yards closer, saw his approach shot spin back into the water. Westwood took a double bogey seven and Donald won the £655,250 first prize with a birdie four.
The West Course at Wentworth was designed by Harry Colt in 1927. It is an old style tree lined parkland course with a wide variety of holes that provide a solid all round test of ball striking.
Ernie Els modernised the course in time for the 2007 championship adding twelve new tees and over forty bunkers. Richard Caring bought the property in 2009 and initiated a £6.5 million redevelopment for the 2010 championship.
All the bunkers were deepened, all the green complexes were remodelled and re-laid with Colonial Bentgrass, a new tee box was added at the eighth to make it a drivable par four, the twelfth was shortened and changed from a par-five into a par-four and the eighteenth was redesigned with a new water hazard in front of a small green heavily protected by bunkers.
This year there have been more changes. The 12th has been turned back into a par-five and Wentworth will once again play to par 72. The big bank in front of the 15th green has been flattened to make the long approach shot easier and a fringe has been added to the drop off area by the 17th green so balls will not role down the hill.
The 18th fairway has been levelled and the bunker on the right hand side has been removed which will allow players to be more aggressive off the tee.
Wentworth plays 7,302 yards but the tree lined fairways and recently deepened fairway bunkers make this a test of accuracy as much as power.
The par-threes range from 154-212 yards, the par-fours from 383-490 yards and the four par-fives from 531-610 yards so players will use nearly every club in the bag.
The rough is considerably lower than previous years but the players will still get 'flier' lies which make it difficult to control approach shots.
The Poa Annua greens that came in for considerable criticism in the past were all replaced by Colonial Bentgrass in 2010 which is smoother and copes better with the traffic than the old greens which used to become very uneven in the afternoons.
Some Poa is now creeping back into the greens but not enough to make the putting surfaces uneven.
The green complexes are small by modern standards. Most are raised and protected by deep bunkers with high lips which require high soft landing accurate approach shots. The greens are undulating but good approach shots will funnel down towards the pins.
This year the greens will get faster as the week goes on and are set to run around 10 on the stimpmeter.
"(This year) I think the guys will have a lot better scoring opportunities. I think the scoring will be better. I think the 6-under won last but 14 to 16-under is going to be the winning score again." - Ernie Els
"The golf course plays fairly firm and the ball is rolling out a lot even though it was raining here. I think the golf course was in better shape the previous year but it's not a big deal." - Martin Kaymer
"You don't have to be long to win here. It suits all types players long hitter or accurate. Everybody has a chance." - Lee Slattery
"The rough is not as severe as last year and the greens are a little slower but it will firm up as the week goes on." - James Kingston
Horses for Courses
There are ten previous course winners taking part this year - Luke Donald (2011), Simon Khan (2010), Paul Casey (2009), Miguel Angel Jimenez (2009), Anders Hansen (2007 and (2002), David Howell (2006), Scott Drummond (2004), Ignacio Garrido (2003), Colin Montgomerie (1998-2000) and Jose Maria Olazabal (1994).
Luke Donald has established an excellent record at Wentworth with four top-seven finishes in the last five years and having finished 2nd in 2010 he went one better and claimed his first victory in 2011.
Paul Casey is one of the few players to have won both the PGA and World Match Play at Wentworth. He took the Match Play title in 2006 and the PGA in 2009. He has finished inside the top 25 in each of the last six years.
The West course is renowned for its exciting closing holes which finish with two par-fives giving the players a chance of an eagle-eagle finish.
The 538 yard 18th came in for a lot of criticism in 2010 after a water hazard was added in front of a small green with bunkers flanking the right side and the back of the green. Most players opted to lay up and in affect it became short par-three.
Last year the green was been lowered, flattened and extended and many more players went for the green in two.
This year the right fairway bunker has been removed and the fairway flattened allowing players to be more aggressive off the tee. A tree has been removed on the right side of the green and players can now draw the ball into the green. A collar of rough has been added around the green so ball will not spin back into the water hazard.
A good drive will now leave players around 200 yards to the green and an excellent chance to make the green in two but while a good shot leaves an eagle chance any miss will be penalised. It has become a true risk-reward hole and the changes should make for another dramatic finish come Sunday afternoon.
There is a slight chance of rain on Thursday afternoon otherwise warm and sunny conditions are forecast. On Friday and Saturday the wind will blow around 15mph but will drop slightly on Sunday.
The tree-lined nature of the course means the wind can swirl which can make club selection tricky if the wind really picks up.
The changes over the past few years were designed to make Wentworth one of the toughest if not the toughest course on the European Tour and prepare players for the stern test that awaits them at the US Open in three weeks time.
This year the organisers have relented and changes to the course, especially the par-fives, combined with less rough will mean much better scoring.
The course is not in its best condition due to the recent wet weather but with good weather forecast it should get firmer and faster as the week goes on.
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