THERE is something so familiar and yet slightly strange about this week on the European Tour. On the one hand, action on the West Course at Wentworth in the autumn is a fond reminder of the golden days of Europe’s golfing renaissance in the 1980s. On the other, we will not be watching the World Match Play, which was traditionally played this time of year, but the BMW PGA Championship, which has been rescheduled from May. There’s a fantastic field, the course conditioning is reportedly superb and there’s a great weather forecast. Perfect for the Tour’s flagship event.
Winner – Paul Casey 12/1
First of all, let’s address the other names at the top of the market. Rory McIlroy’s consistent 2019 form has to be a threat, but you’d be taking a short price about a man who has bettered 74 in only half his 18 pre-cut rounds on the course. Justin Rose hasn’t made the top ten in his last four-course visits, Tommy Fleetwood has one top ten in seven starts there and Jon Rahm is a debutant. Henrik Stenson’s last two visits have earned top tens, but his on-going failure to drain a lot of putts has to be a concern.
In contrast, Paul Casey arrives back in Surrey fresh from third in the PGA’s Tour Championship and victory in the Porsche European Open, the latter confirmed with an excellent final lap of 66. His record on the West Course is strong. He was a dominant winner of the old World Match Play in 2006 and has seven top 20s in the tournament including one last year and victory in 2009. He’s flying high on confidence at the moment and there looks to be every chance of him contending on Sunday.
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) September 8, 2019
Each-Way – Shane Lowry 33/1
The Irishman has been seen just the twice since his Open victory in July and whilst his failure to break the top 40 in either start has to be a concern, both times he broke 70 in two of the rounds so he’s far from lost his mojo. What’s more, he’s had a month off to recharge the batteries and refocus the mind. The latter is especially key and don’t overlook the importance to him of mentor Neil Manchip, whose pep talk ahead of the win in Royal Portrush was vital. You can be sure that the pair have been reassessing goals for the closing months of 2019.
What’s more, Wentworth is the perfect spot for Lowry to rediscover form. No less than six times in his nine visits he has ended the week inside the top 15, four of the top six finishes. The track has been renovated and redesigned over the last decade, but the tweaking has never affected his soft sot for it. The original layout was produced by Harry Colt, also responsible for Portrush, and he was second in the Canadian Open at Hamilton in June – yet another Colt design.
Outsider – Tyrrell Hatton 45/1
It’s not just fans who get misty-eyed about a return to this venue. Last year’s winner Francesco Molinari talked of how the course always reminds him of watching compatriot Costantino Rocca win there in the 1990s and another Italian, Matteo Manassero (winner in 2013), said much the same thing, but his inspiration was Severiano Ballesteros. Other champions in the last ten years include Simon Khan, Luke Donald (twice), Chris Wood and Rory McIlroy, all of whom, like Casey, walked the fairways as boys, seeking autographs and gloves, their enthusiasm being fuelled by the stars.
Final pick Tyrrell Hatton seeks to run with that theme because he also has memories of shouting for spare balls. If the bare bones of his season don’t scream good form that, to some degree, reveals how far he has come in the last few years because 21st in the U.S. Open and sixth in the Open far from shoddy. Winners here tend to have experience of contending on the course and three years ago he headed into the final round at this event in second place. He ended that week seventh and has it in him to improve on that this week.