Besides the Open Championship, no event in Europe this year will boast a stronger field than this long-established championship. Of the leading 27 Europeans in the world rankings, only Sergio Garcia is absent, and, given his recent form, I rather doubt he’ll be missed.
However, despite the guaranteed classy line-up, this flagship event hasn’t been dominated recently by the big names. In fact, since Colin Montgomerie won the last of his three titles in 2000, shocks have almost become the norm. Only Paul Casey, Angel Cabrera, Miguel Angel Jimenez and David Howell could be described as fairly obvious. The victories for Scott Drummond and Andrew Oldcorn remain two of the biggest shock results ever in golf betting, while Ignacio Garrido and Anders Hansen (who has won twice), were also available at big prices.
Thankfully for punters, that trend doesn’t extend to the places. Recent Wentworth leaderboards have rarely been packed with favourites, but most of the places have been taken by well-established European names. In the last three years, only two of the 17 players to make the top five started the event at 100/1 or more.
COURSE AND KEY STATS
The West Course really has everything you’d want in a golf course. Tough par 3s and par 4s; reachable, risk-reward par 5s where either eagle or triple bogey are possible. Most famously, the course finishes with a pair of par 5s, almost guaranteeing an exciting finish with the prospect of dramatic turnarounds. It would be a travesty were this superb layout to ever lose it’s place on the schedule. Indeed, it was disappointing to see the HSBC World Matchplay move to Spain last year, even if the new venue came up to scratch.
There have been significant changes this year, including completely new greens and new water features to toughen up the eighth, and the par-5 18th. The ‘easy’ 12th is now a par 4. Nevertheless, I doubt the changes will particularly reduce the validity of previous Wentworth form, because the key to success here has never really been about the greens. This is a narrow, tree-lined layout, which demands long-game accuracy at all costs. Especially when, as expected this year, dry conditions ensure the fairways are running fast.
No single statistical area stands out from previous results as being of critical importance, though driving distance has proved largely irrelevant. A combination of driving accuracy and greens in regulation looks the right ticket.
With three-quarters and half a million Euros going to the winner and runner-up respectively, this is a huge week in the Race to Dubai. Indeed, just about every week over the next three months is pivotal. The current list sees World Matchplay champion Ian Poulter out in front on €1.3M, but only a third of the way towards the expected winning total. With numerous huge prizes still to be won, this remains wide open.
Kaymer strikes me as solid value on the basis of his efforts both last season and early in 2010. He finished third in last year’s inaugural race, despite missing several key events with injury. Moreover, it was only halfway through the season that he really stepped up a level and showed that he was ready to fulfil the huge promise I’ve been banging on about ever since he graduated to the main tour. In the weeks ahead, the German will try and defend the French and Scottish Open titles, and isn’t without chances in the Majors.
BMW PGA CHAMPIONSHIP SELECTIONS
2.5pts ew MARTIN KAYMER @ 20/1 (GENERAL, 22/1 BET365)
In addition to the above long-term bet, Kaymer makes this week’s staking plan. He’s yet to contend at Wentworth, but has improved with each attempt and last year’s 11th was a fair effort. He is certainly a better player than 12 months ago, and is hugely respected on his early season efforts. The Kaymer we saw winning in Abu Dhabi, before going close in Dubai and at Doral, looked the real deal. His results have slipped back since, but failures at tough courses like Augusta and Sawgrass are perfectly forgiveable as they tend to take years of learning.
1.5pts ew MIGUEL-ANGEL JIMENEZ @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
He’s already won the Dubai Desert Classic this season, and there’s been plenty in recent weeks to suggest ‘The Mechanic’ can land another prestigious title in 2010. 12th at the Masters was a fine effort, and while 17th last time out in Italy will be remembered primarily for a truly disastrous Sunday, he’d played well enough for three rounds. Jimenez‘s recent record at Wentworth is superb, with top eight finishes in four of the last six renewals, including when winning the title in 2008.
1.5pts ew SOREN KJELDSEN @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
My initial impression of the new Wentworth layout is that it will increase the chances of shorter hitters like Jimenez and Kjeldsen. Positional play looks more important than ever, and even holes like the 18th, where distance used to be a huge advantage, may require greater caution now. Four of Kjeldsen‘s last five efforts suggested he was in good form, and with such an emphasis on accuracy, Wentworth could be just the place to turn good play into a win. He’s already made three top tens in this event, including both of the last two renewals.
1.5pts ew JUSTIN ROSE @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
We don’t see Rose, the 2007 money list winner, in Europe very often these days, but when we do he is entitled to great respect. Rose has been in decent form on the PGA Tour recently, registering three top 15s from his last six starts, including third at the Honda Classic. Notably, he’s been driving very accurately all season, and that must bode well for a narrow course like Wentworth, where he lost a playoff in 2007.
1pt ew ANDERS HANSEN @ 100/1 (BET365, TOTE)
100/1 about such a course specialist is simply too big to ignore. Hansen has already won this event twice, in 2002 and 2007, and has six top 25s from ten attempts. In my view, he’s a better player than when last winning this title in 2007, which is best illustrated by becoming the first ever overseas winner of the Sunshine Tour money list, after landing two South African titles in 2009.