Molinari Worth A Punt In Without McIlroy Market
Golf junkies will be purring in anticipation, as the famous West Course at Wentworth again takes center stage for this year’s renewal of the prestigous BMW PGA Championship. This tournament is very much the flagship event on the European Tour schedule, and has duly attracted a strong field, headed by defending champion Rory McIlroy, although the no show from the likes of Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia, must disappoint the title sponsors.
The classic Par 72, 7,302yd parkland track, was originally the creation of legendary golf architect Harry Colt, but more recently has undergone an extensive and somewhat controversial 15 million pound redesign by West Course resident Ernie Els. Having visited this event before and after the changes, in my mind the West Course has certainly been beefed up since its revamp, and represents a stern challenge, particularly in blustery conditions. The key holes around this layout, are the ultra tough Par 4 first and third holes, and the final two holes, which can offer genuine chances of an eagle, but can just as easily wreck a scorecard. The 18th hole in particular will provide plenty of thrills and spills, with its somewhat controversial revamped island green, so in running punters beware.
The main requisites required to tame this course, are accuracy from the tee, the ability to read these subtle putting surfaces, and definitely course experience, as blustery conditions around this tree lined layout make it extremely difficult for the players and caddies to pick the right club. Bright conditions, with a steady breeze of around 10mph are forecast for the four days.
From a punting angle, the market again revolves around short priced favourite Rory Mcillroy. The World No.1 arrives here off a runaway victory at Quail Hollow last week, where his third round of 61 was just awesome, proving once again he has gears to burn, and if the putter behaves, he is a class apart from any other golfer in the world. However, for any brave potential layer of the favourite, there are a couple rays of hope. The first negative is that his form over the West Course is rather patchy to say the least, with one win, 3 missed cuts out of seven appearances, with his only other top 20 finish, a 5th place finish in 2009. Another possible negative are the notoriously difficult Wentworth greens, which at this time of the year, are unlikely to be in pristine condition, and might just frustrate the World No.1, who has been putting on much slicker surfaces in recent weeks. He may well outclass this field, but at a top price of 11-4, with a couple of negatives factored in, I have to believe the price is too short to recommend a punt, so this week we will be concentrating on the market without Rory Mac for our three selections.
My first selection goes to Francesco Molinari, who returned from a largely unsuccessful spell on the PGA Tour, with a Tied 2nd place finish in the Open De Espana in Barcelona last week. He boasts a really solid record around here,with three consecutive top 10 finishes in his last three outings, and this quality ball striker, who leads the driving accuracy stats on the PGA Tour, has the ideal game to contend again this year. His well documented putting frailties are a concern, and he certainly missed a couple of short ones down the stretch last week, but his long game looked in great nick, so still enough positives to warrant a bet this week.
Another player I fancy with previous course form, is the Scot Marc Warren, who has quietly sneaked his way up the World Rankings in recent months with some good performances on both Tours. He was beaten in a play off in the 2013 renewal of this event, and also finished a solid Tied 16th here last year, so there are plenty of positives for this much improved golfer. His win at the Made In Denmark event last year, included a remarkable third round of 66 in a howling gale, which in my opinion was probably the round of last year, so a bit of breeze around the West Course should not be a negative for this underrated and unassuming golfer.
The final selection goes to course and distance specialist Luke Donald, who won this event in both 2011 and 2012, and also finished Tied 3rd here last year. The last couple of years have been disappointing for this former World No.1, but he has shown just enough on the PGA Tour this year, with a Tied 7th in the Honda Classic, and a Tied 15th in the RBC Heritage, to warrant a small bet on a course he has such a great affinity with.
My final bit of advice is to book the comfy chair, find a suitable excuse to abstain from the weekend shopping trip/visit to the Mother-In-Law, and sit back and enjoy this great golf event.