BMW PGA Championship Betting Tips: Five Picks for Wentworth
It’s time for the DP World Tour’s flagship event, as a star-studded field heads to Wentworth’s iconic West Course in Virginia Water, Surrey for the BMW PGA Championship.
BMW PGA Championship Tips
It’s time for the DP World Tour’s flagship event, as a star-studded field heads to Wentworth’s iconic West Course in Virginia Water, Surrey for the BMW PGA Championship.
The tournament was first played back in 1955, though headed to Wentworth for the first time in 1972, with it being held here at the home of the DP World Tour exclusively since 1984.
In 2019, the event went through a significant change, as it was moved on the schedule from its historical slot at the end of May, to this new slot in September. Meaning we have an event that stands alone this week, not having to compete directly with the PGA Tour for the eyes of the golf world and in turn hopefully attracting the strength of field it has this year heading into the future.
It has been noticeable how this change has had an effect on the difficulty of the test. With rain over recent years resulting in a course which has been receptive and scorable.
Over those last three years, we’ve had three winners at -19 or over. America’s Billy Horschel backed up an impressive debut effort in 2019, in which he finished 4th by winning the event last year on just his second visit, shooting -19 to beat Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jamie Donaldson and Laurie Canter by 1-stroke.
This was following on from Tyrrell Hatton winning in 2020, as he won by 4 shots over France’s Victor Perez, whilst in 2019 Danny Willett held off an array of high-class challengers, not least runner-up Jon Rahm who came up 3 shots shy of Willett’s -20 winning score.
Barring the 2015 renewal, in which Korea’s Byeong Hun An ran out an emphatic 6-stroke winner with a score of -21, each of those three most recent editions produced lower winning scores than every other edition since 2007. So with some more wet conditions on the way, I expect the low scoring will continue this year.
Wentworth’s West Course was originally designed by renowned architect, Harry Colt and opened for play in 1926. It has undergone multiple renovations since, with the most recent coming at the hands of four-time major winner, Ernie Els, who has a home on the property.
A par 72 measuring 7267 yards, this tree-lined course asks questions of every area of your game. It’s a course which requires strategy rather than brute force, with the fairways on the tight side, made to appear even more so by clever bunkering, with many doglegging and further protected by thick rough.
It is imperative to find fairways to give yourself the best chance to hit and attack these tricky, smallish greens, that are undulating and have many run-off areas, with the course ranking as one of the tougher on the DPWT in which to get up and down.
Despite providing a good test of every area of your game, there are plenty of opportunities to score around here if you’re on it. The par 3s are predominantly short and though possessing some of the trickier greens, if they are again receptive, quality approach play will be rewarded.
The par 4s have plenty of variety on offer, with the more challenging 1st and 15th holes, countered by many shorter, attackable holes. Of which there are five at under 420 yards.
The par 5s and setup of them are unique. Unsurprisingly, they offer the best scoring opportunities on the course, with all four reachable for most but further to that they play a huge role in deciding the outcome of the event, as not only do three of them come on the back nine but we finish with two of them on consecutive holes.
Most famously we have the 18th hole, which at 523 yards doesn’t look too challenging on paper but with those cleverly placed bunkers on show on the left of the fairway and water not only down the right hand side of the fairway but defending the front and side of this sloping green, with further bunkers on show around the putting surface, the hole not only offers up an excellent chance for birdies and eagles but also the potentially to ruin your week, with bogeys and worse certainly not out of the question. This, along with the longest, 610 yard 17th hole means that no lead is safe over the closing holes, with multiple shot swings possible and excitement right until the final shot hits the bottom of the hole.
This is a course that doesn’t discriminate. Though it’s tough to overpower, bigger hitters often go well due to taking advantage of the par 5s and being able to club down on many of the shorter par 4s to find position, whilst the narrow tree-lined corridors will certainly fit the eye of many of the more accurate types.
We also see this mixed bag in terms of skillset when looking at the winners.
Last year Billy Horschel produced a superb ball-striking performance to take the title, ranking 1st in approach, 1st in GIR and 2nd off-the-tee. Whilst he also scrambled well when his ball-striking let him down, ranking 3rd.
Tyrrell Hatton produced a strong all-round performance when winning in 2020, with 22nd in GIR his worst performance in any of the relevant stats, though the short-game was the particular standout, as he ranked 1st in scrambling and 2nd around-the-greens.
Danny Willett hit the ball excellently in 2019, ranking 1st in GIR, 8th in approach and 11th off-the-tee, combining this with a brilliant putting performance, where he ranked 1st.
With the earliest year for which we have strokes-gained stats, the 2018 edition won by Francesco Molinari, we find a player once again pretty solid across the board, ranking no worse than 11th in any of the ball-striking areas though again shone around-the-greens, ranking 1st in scrambling and 2nd around-the-greens.
When we delve into the 2017 and 2016 winners, we find Alex Noren who has always had an elite short-game and Chris Wood, who at the time was an excellent ball-striker who could hold his own on the greens.
Though there’s enough example of quality in the short-game guiding players to victory, when we look a little closer at the leaderboards and those players in behind the winners, it’s the ball-striking that stands out as holding most importance, approach play in particular.
This was on show last year, as Laurie Canter one of the runners-up excelled in approach ranking 3rd, as well as 3rd in GIR. Jamie Donaldson ranked 10th off-the-tee and 12th in approach, whilst Kiradech Aphibarnrat excelled on the greens but also hit plenty of greens, ranking 6th.
Runner-up to Hatton in 2020, Victor Perez, again was at his best with his irons, ranking 2nd for GIR and 7th for approach. With 3rd place finisher, Andy Sullivan producing an excellent ball-striking performance, ranking 5th for GIR, 8th for approach and 8th off-the-tee.
Jon Rahm is one of the best ball-strikers around and ranked 1st off-the-tee when second to Danny Willett in 2020. Whilst in 2019, Rory McIlroy produced supreme quality in his ball-striking, ranking 1st in approach and off-the-tee, with 3rd place finisher, Lucas Bjerregaard ranking 1st in GIR and 4th in approach.
Key Stats: SG: Approach, SG: Off-the-Tee, Greens-in-Regulation
Secondary Stats: SG: Putting, Scrambling
European Masters @ Crans-sur-Sierre
Crans-sur-Sierre is a strategic, tree-lined course in which we’ve seen all types contend and is an event which has developed strong form-ties with Wentworth.
Danny Willett, Alex Noren, Luke Donald and Miguel Angel Jimenez have all won both events. In addition to this Tyrrell Hatton has three 3rd place finishes at Crans, 2013 BMW PGA champion, Matteo Manessero has also finished 3rd there, as has Jamie Donaldson. With many more form-ties on show from the likes of Richie Ramsay, Rikard Karlberg and Thongchai Jaidee.
Italy Open @ GC Milano
GC Milano, host of the Italian Open from 2015-2017 is a tree-lined course that developed some incredibly strong form-ties with Wentworth in just the three years it staged the event there.
Those three renewals were won by Tyrrell Hatton and Francesco Molinari who are both past champions at Wentworth, whilst the 3rd champion, Rikard Karlberg, finished 2nd at Wentworth in 2016. Further to this, Danny Willett finished 2nd at Milano, as did Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who was 2nd here last year.
Nedbank Challenge @ Gary Player CC
For all Gary Player CC is much longer (though that is tempered slightly as it’s played at altitude in South Africa), the course has many characteristics with Wentworth, with clever bunkering, tree-lined fairways and the need for a strong all-round performance. With this we’ve seen many players go well at both courses.
Alex Noren and Danny Willett have both won at Gary Player CC, as have Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who possess excellent records at Wentworth. Jamie Donaldson has twice finished 2nd there and Aphibarnrat also has a top five.
Hong Kong Open @ Hong Kong GC
Tight, tree-lined and strategic, with plenty of strong ball-striking types possessing form, Hong Kong GC should act as a good guide to players who can go well here this week.
Miguel Angel Jimenez has won both events, whilst other past champions here, Danny Willett, Francesco Molinari and Mattero Manessero, have all finished 6th or better in Hong Kong. Further to this Victor Perez has a 3rd in Hong Kong, whilst Shane Lowry and Thongchai Jaidee, both 2nd at Wentworth, also have 2nd place finishes there.
Turkish Airlines Open @ Montgomerie Maxx Royal
Montgomerie Maxx Royal hosted the Turkish Airlines Open from 2013-2015 and again in 2019. A tree-lined course with many of the fairways doglegging, the course has developed some solid ties with the BMW PGA despite staging just four events.
That was no more on show in 2019, when 2020 Wentworth 1-2, Tyrrell Hatton and Victor Perez where also 1st and 2nd there in Turkey.
Other past champions at Wentworth, Danny Willett, Chris Wood and Byeong An have all hit the top 5 in Turkey, whilst runners-up Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Jamie Donaldson have finished 3rd or better.
Open de France @ Le Golf National
I’ve put Le Golf National last as there’s a part of me that thinks this correlation works better when Wentworth has more teeth. Though despite being more exposed there is an emphasis on accuracy and the wind can often play its part, meaning form-ties are abundant.
Alex Noren and Miguel Angel Jimenez have won at both courses, Francesco Molinari has two runner-up finishes in France and Chris Wood has also finished runner-up there. In addition, Thongchai Jaidee is a past winner at Le Golf National, with Willet and Aphibarnrat appearing again, possessing top 10s in France.
Finally, seems we’ve got a number of current and ex PGA Tour players teeing it up, I felt the need to try and find a few pointers to events out in the states. The one which appealed the most was the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, though similarly to France, it would appeal more if Wentworth played tough.
Hatton and Molinari are both past champions there as well as Wentworth winners, whilst Billy Horschel was 2nd there this year and Kiradech has two 6th place finishes in the API.
In addition to this you can also look at the Honda Classic at PGA National and the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. Both tougher events, though can often have a European flavour on the leaderboard, particularly the Honda.
Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren, Byeong An, Billy Horschel, Jamie Donaldson and Shane Lowry have all gone well at PGA National, whilst Horschel and Jon Rahm have both won at Muirfield Village, along with Molinari, Byeong An and Shane Lowry also having some good bits of form there.
As already stated, the weather is set to be wet this week. Thunderstorms are predicted in the area throughout the week and though that disappears a little once play starts, the rain will remain and we should expect a soft, receptive course this week.
There is a bit of breeze about at the start of the week which will make it difficult if having to play in that as well as rain but once that dies down and the players are just left with a receptive course, I’d expect birdies to flow.
As always this is all subject to change.
We have a stellar field descending on Virginia Water this week. World #3, Rory McIlroy and #6 Jon Rahm both make their first trip here since 2019. They are joined by world numbers 10 & 11, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Fitzpatrick, whilst last year’s champion, Billy Horschel returns to defend his title.
In addition to this, 17 players from LIV Golf will be teeing it up, Talor Gooch, Patrick Reed and Abraham Ancer to name three.
As expected, Rory McIlroy heads the market at 6/1, followed by Jon Rahm at 8s and Matthew Fitzpatrick at 12s. All viable chances with good performances here but as usual I’ll be looking to try and get the favourites beat.
Shane Lowry comes next, another with an obvious chance though he isn’t quite playing as well as he was earlier in the year, so at 16/1 is passed by and instead I’m going to side with Norwegian sensation Viktor Hovland to be the man to give those guys at the top the most trouble this week.
Last time we saw Hovland he was finishing 15th at East Lake in the Tour Championship, a week where we also put him up and in which he continually threatened to get into the mix over the first few rounds.
This was his 3rd start since that disappointing final round at The Open. There was a small concern about how he’d come back from that first major championship disappointment but there’s been little sign of trouble in Hovland’s game, with him finishing 20th and 35th in those first two playoff events before the 15th at East Lake.
Across these starts, Hovland’s game, whilst similarly to Lowry hasn’t been quite up to the electric standard he was showing right at the start of the year, has still looked in good nick across the board. Gaining in every start off-the-tee and on the greens, and in two starts in approach. With that well highlighted short-game being the only issue.
This strong ball-striking is par for the course for Hovland, who has developed into one of the best ball-strikers in the game, ranking 15th in approach and 26th off-the-tee on the PGA Tour last season, combining it with a strong putter, where he ranks 25th. With the potentially receptive conditions this week, I’m less concerned about his short-game, as if at his ball-striking best he’ll find plenty of greens and won’t be called into action around the greens too much.
He showed his liking for this course on debut in 2019 when finishing 11th, following that with a 49th place finish last year. In addition he’s gone well in both the Arnold Palmer and the Memorial Tournament.
Hovland has shown himself to be a real danger when showing up on the DP World Tour over the last two years. In five starts on the tour he’s won twice and finished 4th, 6th and 49th, with that debut effort in 2019 showing how well he can go here I’m taking him to go a step further in dispelling the memory of that Open struggle and get back to winning ways this week.
After an underwhelming run in the middle part of the year, Tyrrell Hatton has been showing good form over the last couple of months. He can kickstart a strong finish to the year this week at Wentworth, the scene of his victory in 2020.
In his last five starts, Hatton has put up four top 25 finishes, the most impressive of which was an 11th place finish in The Open, whilst he also finished 8th in the Wyndham Championship.
All areas of his game have looked in good condition, with him only losing small strokes in a couple of starts around the greens and once off-the-tee, with the irons and putter looking like the strongest clubs in the bag. The latter shown by him ranking 4th on the PGA Tour last season on the greens, whilst in his 24th place finish in the Scottish Open and 8th at the Wyndham, he ranked top 10 in the field in approach.
This strong all-round game is what drove him to victory here in 2020, a course he also finished 7th at in 2016. In addition to this he has plenty of correlating form, the best of which are victories in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 2017 Italian Open at GC Milano and 2019 Turkish Airlines Open. With him also possessing top 5s in the Honda Classic and European Masters.
Hatton will be looking to carry on his streak of winning years, having recorded victories in each of the last three years and this looks like as good a chance for him to do that as any as we enter the latter part of the year.
I have found it tough to weigh up the LIV golfers so far as I’m not convinced on the competitiveness of the tour and how that will translate to performances back on the DPWT or in other events in which players are permitted to compete. However, in Branden Grace we find a player who is clearly playing well and combined with a good record here, he can lead the way for LIV players this week.
Grace’s form has seem him go 3rd, 1st, 13th and 12th in the first four LIV Series events and he ranks only 2nd to Dustin Johnson on their money list. Whilst a 24th place finish at the Scottish Open, one in which he was 9th entering the final round shows his game is still sharp amongst the other tours.
Before he left to join LIV, Grace was showing form with the driver, something which was on show in that visit to Scotland three starts ago, whilst he’s also found something with the putter over recent starts. At his best he’s also a good iron player, something that has been missing for much of this year and that he’ll need to find this week.
Though he hasn’t fired here in the last three years, he wasn’t producing the type of results he is at the minute and prior to those last three starts he had an excellent record in the event, with his first six starts reading as finishes of 5th, 24th, 61st, 11th, 9th, 5th. In addition to this he’s a past champion of the Nedbank and has finished top five at Memorial.
With no strokes-gained stats available for the LIV events it’s tough to know exactly how well he’s playing in certain areas but his results suggest his game is in a good place and this laid back character looks the type who will handle any negativity directed at the LIV golfers this week at Wentworth.
Eddie Pepperell’s improved form is showing no signs of petering out and with him finding something with the driver last week, he looks primed for another strong performance at a course in which he’s had plenty of success in the past.
Pepperell’s form took a real turn for the better five starts ago at the Cazoo Classic at Hillside. There he finished 11th and has followed that with four consecutive top 20s, finishing 2nd in the Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews, 20th in the Cazoo Open, 8th in the Czech Masters and was 18th last week in Denmark.
His upturn in form has been engineered by him finally starting to show something in approach, an area of his game which enabled his super-strong form in 2017-2019, with him gaining strokes in each of those last five starts and now sees him rank 5th on the DPWT for the season. Whilst the putter also continues to behave well, with him ranking 29th for the season, arguably the best run of putting he’s had since SG stats came to the tour and 19th in scrambling should also be beneficial this week.
The driver has been solid if not spectacular, with Eddie far more about finding fairways than explosive driving performances, though last week he did record his 2nd best driving performance of the year.
His game has resulted in some strong performances here, where he’s twice finished 6th, the most recent of which came in 2020 where he was superb in approach. In addition to this he has recorded top 10s both in Turkey and in the Italian Open at GC Milano.
Pepperell is in fine form and coming to a course which clearly suits, with all of the areas you’d want in fine working order, he looks set for another big week this week.
Antoine Rozner is in the type of ball-striking form that can see him go well anywhere and if he can find something, ANYTHING with the putter this week, he can improve drastically on his 67th place finish here on debut last year.
Rozner has been striking the ball well since early May, though has taken another step over recent months, with him gaining strokes in his last eight starts in approach and six of his last seven off-the-tee. This was well on show on his last start, when we were on him in the European Masters as he finished 4th, thanks to a field leading driving performance and ranking 2nd in approach.
This has engineered his recent form, where he’d recorded three top 15s in his last six starts prior to that 4th place finish and he ranks 18th in GIR, 31st off-the-tee and 41st in approach on tour this season, stats that would be significantly improved if purely based on recent performances, as he was in no kind of form earlier in the year.
As mentioned, Rozner finished 67th on debut last year, where he hit the ball well enough but struggled on the greens. I am buoyed by that 4th at Crans on his last start, with a top 20 at Memorial not only showing his likeness for that test but also showing how capable he is in more esteemed company. Something he also showed in the WGC-Matchplay last year when he performed with credit in a tough group, defeating Bryson DeChambeau and Si-woo Kim, before ultimately falling to group winner, Tommy Fleetwood.
Rozner is a player who just possesses that bit of class. He’s won twice already on tour in just two full seasons and if he can get anything out of the putter this week, the quality of his ball-striking could well put him close to another big performance in this high-class company.