BMW PGA Championship 2013 at Wentworth preview
PUBLISHED: 08:48 22 May 2013 | UPDATED: 17:48 25 May 2013
Once upon a time, the PGA Championship, the European Tour's flagship event, rotated around Britain's golf courses. Since 1984, however, Wentworth has remained its home. John Whitbread, of the Surrey Golf Partnership, reports
By attempting to capture the BMW PGA Championship for a third consecutive year, Luke Donald has his sights fixed firmly on a place in the record books alongside the Scottish golfing great Colin Montgomerie.
The 35-year-old Buckinghamshire star, who topped the Order of Merit in both Europe and America in 2012, joined Montgomerie and Sir Nick Faldo as the only players to have successfully defended the title in the illustrious history of this flagship event, when he won in considerable style last year.
Now Donald is aiming to complete a glorious treble at Wentworth in Virginia Water, from Thursday May 23 to Sunday May 26, a feat achieved only by eight-time European number one Montgomerie, who completed the previously unprecedented hat-trick in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Donald edged out Lee Westwood in a play-off in 2011 and with it leapfrogged his compatriot into the world number one spot before successfully defending the title, cruising to the four-stroke victory that again returned him to the pinnacle of the official world golf ranking.
“Obviously, the BMW PGA Championship is the European Tour’s flagship event and to win it back-to-back was very special for me,” says Donald, who also made history in 2011 by topping The Race to Dubai and the US PGA Tour Money List in the same season. “It will be a great honour to go there and try to do what Monty did. It’s a huge event on the European Tour schedule and the West Course is one that suits my game very well. I’ll be going there with high expectations of trying to emulate the great Colin Montgomerie.”
As a child, Donald would watch his idols grace the hallowed fairways of Wentworth, a memory which makes his victories all the more special.
“When I was 12 or 13 years old I’d be running around the course watching some of the great players: Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Seve Ballesteros; the top players in Europe,” he says.
“With the course being just 30 minutes from my home, it was a special event to me and I always love coming back to Wentworth. As golfers, we hope to inspire the younger generation and hopefully my two victories there have inspired some younger kids to go out on the course and practise hard.”
Hall of fame
One man who believes Donald can complete the hat-trick is Montgomerie himself. He was at a European Tour lunch in London when it was announced that he is being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
“Luke is a brilliant young player and I don’t think he will be under any extra pressure going for three in a row,” he told Surrey Life at the lunch.
“I got in such a groove at Wentworth in the late 90s that I used to turn up there expecting to win. What’s more, my rivals knew that I expected to win and that gave me a vital edge. Luke is the same sort of player who is really hard to stop when he gets on a roll.”
Donald will certainly not have it all his own way though as Europe’s Ryder Cup Team, including the likes of world top 10 stars Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, triumphant from September’s ‘Miracle in Medinah’ victory, regroup for the first time competitively on British soil at the BMW PGA Championship.
The marked increase in attendances in recent years has prompted the European Tour to throw open Wentworth’s doors to the public on Tuesday May 21, designated for the first time as an official practice day, and Wednesday is Celebrity Pro-Am Day, which attracts the likes of Gary Lineker and Sir Bruce Forsyth. Fortunately, organisers have also introduced a new park and ride system this year to handle those extra crowds!
Whether Donald fulfils his ambitions or not this year, what is certain is that the attention of the world’s golf followers will be firmly fixed on Surrey this month.
• For more information and tickets to this year’s BMW PGA Championship, visit tickets.europeantour.com
The Surrey Golf Partnership comprises 111 clubs in our county, which are also affiliated to the Surrey Golf Union and the Surrey Ladies Golf Union. For more information, visit their website at surreygolfpartnership.com