The PGA Championship at Wentworth: What Should We Expect?
May 25, 2017
Later today, the 60th PGA Championship will take place at Wentworth, as the latest European Tour event gets underway in Europe.
While this event is not one of golf’s four majors, it was historically a prestigious championship that drew top players from across the continent, with previous winners including Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Tony Jacklin and the brilliant Arnold Palmer.
The tournament’s status and pedigree has been undermined by a combination of factors in recent times, however, casting a shadow over what should be a landmark tournament. So let’s take a look at this years’ event and consider which players are the most likely to challenge for the title…
A Brief History: Why Has the PGA Championship Lost Some of its Sparkle?
This year’s tournament organisers have done their best to prepare the Wentworth course for the PGA Championship, which has often been a source of criticism among competitors throughout the years. In fact, it was this criticism that first began to undermine the reputation of this once stellar tournament, as Europe’s leading players began to eschew participation in order to prepare for the U.S. Open in June.
This schedule poses a challenge in itself, of course, although this did not deter some of the game’s modern greats from gracing the tournament with its presence. The legendary Nick Faldo recorded four PGA Championship wins during his career, for example, in an 11-year period between 1978 and 1989. Only one of these was achieved at Wentworth, as the event was played at a number of alternative UK venues before making the permanent move to St. Andrews 33 years ago in 1984.
Perhaps a more significant issue has been the withdrawal of live television coverage, which is part of a wider picture involving the BBC’s declining share of the sports broadcasting market. This has had an adverse impact on the available level of prize money, which in turn has been exacerbated by the emergence of rival tournaments such as the Irish Open and the proliferation of purses now accessible through tournaments across the globe.
Altogether, these factors have combined to have a cumulative effect in the minds of players and fans, challenging the status of a once prestigious tournament.
The Bigger Picture, and Who Will Challenge for the Crown This Year
These issues aside, the tournament remains an iconic part of the European Tour and one that every single participant will be keen to win. This years’ event has also been boosted by the return of several big names, while the famous West Course has undergone extensive reconstruction in order to provide a more compelling and competitive proposition to players.
Ulsterman Rory McIlory is the biggest name to confirm that he will participate among the latest golf news, particularly as he was one of the many star performers to miss the event in 2016 (which was eventually won by the unfancied Chris Wood). The world number two will now headline this event alongside the world number one and last years’ US Open winner Dustin Johnson, adding some much needed lustre to a tournament that is the first in the European Tour’s new and exciting Rolex Series.
Jordan Speith and former world number one Jason Day have also announced their participation, having also chosen to miss last years’ installation with one eye on the upcoming US Open. These players have also expressed their excitement at the prospect of featuring this time around, hopefully on a course that reflects the gravity of the event. The creation of the Rolex Series has also provided a much needed win to the tournament’s prize fund, with a minimum of $7 million available to the winner.
It is no surprise that these players feature heavily in the betting too, with Ulsterman McIlroy the current favourite at an average price of 5/1. Johnson is similarly priced at 152, although he has only recently covered from the injuries sustained on the eve of the Master tournament in April. Spieth and Day can be backed at 9/1 and 11/1 respectively, although their indifferent form makes it hard to back them with any genuine confidence.
In this respect, McIlroy may represent the best bet, although those keen on backing a relative outsider may do well to consider the rising Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama. Golf betting news suggests he is competitively priced at 18/1, but he has the pedigree and the confidence to thrive even in a competitive field.