The long-time venue of the BMW PGA Championship has been the Wentworth Club at Virginia Water, Surrey. Lately there has been controversy and comment surrounding the club since its purchase by a Chinese consortium which seems minded to charge people a six-figure fee to rejoin the club of which they are already members. Keeping up with the latest situation isn’t worth the hassle unless you’re a member, in which case you’ll know all about it anyway, but before this year’s renewal of the tournament, which concluded yesterday, there had been speculation that residents of the estate might disrupt the event, and indeed there had been minor kerfuffles about the erection of a few signposts, leaderboards and the like prior to the action getting underway.
At the event, the sponsors and the European Tour weren’t so much disrupted as disappointed, at least at the beginning. For differing reasons, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia were not in attendance – three huge names in European golf, none of them at what is widely regarded as the Tour’s flagship tournament, or at least it was until Keith Pelley, the Tour’s chief executive, said last year that he didn’t regard it as such, given the greater riches on offer in Dubai in November.
Anyhow, Danny Willett, golf’s most recent major champion, was taking part. The winner of the Masters was enthused by the reaction of the spectators to his opening bogey-free round of six-under-par 66. “To be home is brilliant,” said the Englishman, “just as was that reception on the first tee. Touch wood, I’ll give them some good golf to watch over the next few days.” As it happened, “touch wood” turned out to be quite a prescient remark.
On Friday Willett duly carried on doing that. He reached the turn in 29 and at 12 under par after 27 holes he held a five-shot lead. Everything looked rosy for Danny. But distracted at being put on the clock for slow play in his group, he came home in 39 (two over) and his lead had evaporated. At least he’d had two birdies to offset four bogeys on his inward nine, but four further bogeys coming home on Saturday had no compensating birdies and he signed for 35-41=76 and at six under par, six over for his most recent 27 holes, he was three shots adrift of Scott Hend.
Sunday saw quite a few fireworks, though not from Willett, who shot 71 to finish third. He was well beaten on the day by Chris Wood, a former colleague at England amateur training camps. The 28-year-old Bristolian stormed into the lead with a front nine of 29 and at 12 under par after 13 holes he had a three-shot lead, not least being helped by having one-putted eight greens. But he three-putted the 14th and later bogeyed 16 and 17. Nine under par with one to play; pretty handy since most of his rivals were shedding shots as if they were cherry blossom (Hend, for example, blew away eight in six holes from the 6th), but not so great given that Sweden’s Rikard Karlberg had long ago shot 65 – including an ace at the 2nd – for a total of eight under. But Wood played the final hole securely, two-putting from 25 feet for his third win on the European Tour.
Last year Wood had a hole-in-one on the 14th on the last day to win a sporty BMW, a feat matched the time by James Morrison. (I guess Karlberg had to settle for a Carlsberg as his reward.) Wood will now have at least one eye on the upcoming European Ryder Cup team. Meanwhile, regarding Wentworth’s new owners likely embarking on that membership drive (to get members out; nothing to do with a BMW), then during the week of the PGA, if the local residents were revolting, at least they were doing it behind closed doors and drawn curtains.
Robert Green’s ‘Seve: Golf’s Flawed Genius’ is available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter @robrtgreen