Its Finally Here..
Since I started writing for fellow Tour Junkies listeners I have been eagerly waiting for this flagship event on the European Tour Circuit. I knew it would be the week I could give you the very best I can. Much like David and Pat with The Masters and Augusta National this is my home event and a venue that holds unreal significance in my golfing year.
It was here at Wentworth where I got to see my first tournament, where I found inspiration to turn professional, where I played my first tournament spec course and it's an event I try to attend every year and even when I haven't been able to go I religiously watch every shot.. To me this is the big one especially as there's still hope for me that one day I will qualify and compete at this glorious location with all the big boys on our tour.
As a normal rule I usually don't attend the practice days or the pro-am, however this year I made a point of taking some extra time out, made the short journey across to Wentworth to take in everything I could, simply to give everyone as deep an insight as possible of what's on offer.
Of course it almost goes without saying that I'm so pleased I did, not only has it been an incredible couple of days so far and I have thoroughly enjoyed every second of the 12 hours each day spent here, but its also been incredibly valuable for this write up.. I have seen almost every square inch of the course, chatted with more players than ever before and consequently I believe I now have an even better understanding of what it will take for players to be successful and take home the PGA Championship title.
On the Range and Putting Green
I have spent countless hours observing players warm up, practice, work on there game and get prepped ready for Tomorrow. It was on the practice grounds where you really get a chance to see who looks ready to take on the challenge ahead and those that are hoping that it all clicks at the right time.
There were a good number that seriously caught not only my attention but also the attention of my good friends and fellow pro's who I travelled with. More often for the quality we observed but in some cases certain players for their simply shocking ball striking and control.
Players that really impressed.
Hao-Tong Li, Nacho Elvira, Chris Hanson, Justin Waters, Kiradech Aphibarnrat,, Alexander Levy, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson...I could go on for a while, lets face it these guys are good
Players I wouldn't touch with a shi**ty stick
Goerge Cotzee, Ball striking on the range on Tuesday was shocking as was his control with driver.
Jeunghun Wang, At times may of done better if he tried hitting it with his...., really didn't look comfortable or happy out there.
Danny Willett. got to see a bit of Danny on the green and just didn't look comfortable, you have to putt well to win here and right now I think even Westwood will out putt him.
Callum Shinkwin, Hits it miles but was not under control of the ball all the time. Some of the balls hit on the range would of been reloads or smashed mansion windows.
On The Course
I absolutely loved walking the West Course, my legs may not agree after the miles covered but none the less its always a privilege to take in the delights of one of England's finest golf clubs.
Out here I got to see all the major and subtle changes, how the course was playing, in my minds eye and with plenty of discussion with friends how the course is best attacked, what players need to have in the locker in order to keep high numbers off the card, How players performed, What frame of mind they were in and if they were enjoying the lay out or not.
First and most important of all the new greens, every green here has been resurfaced and what a fine job they have done of it, stunning surfaces with great contouring.. A good putters delight and a poor one's worst dreams. One thing very noticeable was the firmness of them, we saw a lot of shots release to the back of the green, however anything struck well from the fairway, loaded with spin did react as players would hope.. One thing players may struggle a little more with is chipping and pitching.. I listened into Stenson as he was chatting to his caddie whilst chipping onto the practice putting green (tut,tut). He soon noticed how there was much less grip and almost like the ball was skidding when it made first contact with the surface.
The rough, although not very deep in most places, it is extremely lush and sticky, any shots coming out of this will either do well to travel well to reach elevated greens and miss the greenside bunkering or have anywhere near enough spin to hold greens, especially those that sneakily run away from the players.
Bunkers, The sand looks to be very soft and fluffy. We saw a lot of fried eggs (plugged lies), even when shots weren't coming in from a great height. Partly again due to the nature of the new greens we also saw players struggling to get the desired spin. Because its hard to predict what lie a player could get rather than have someone who's great from the sand id much rather have someone who misses them and hits greens.
Player Performance. Its obviously a lot easier to see more shots on the range rather than the course and maybe why I will sway more towards what I saw there, however just like the range certain players again got noticed for their superb, good, bad and down right ugly golf.
Paul Peterson really impressed me, watched him play a number of holes, his game looked sharp and it seemed as though the course suited his eye.. even though it was his 1st outing.
Zander Lombard absolutely rips the ball, hits his 2 iron as long as half the fields drivers and bullet straight, great temperament and a pleasure to watch
South African group and in particular Dean Burmester and Justin Waters, were all having great fun out there but these two hit it awesome.
Chris Hanson and Jordan Smith, followed these boys for a while. Both swinging it great and striking it solid. Have the perfect ball flight, length and ability to do well if they can take that relaxed confidence into the tournament days
Didn't like so much (Remember what I saw were glimpses, everyone has bad holes)
Danny Willett this is an obvious fade for me and most, still hitting it sideways and not sinking putts.
Matthew Fitzpatrick, I'm always routing for Matt and his caddie Jamie to do well, I went to college with Jamie and can assure you he is one of the best green readers out there. However what I did see of Matt wasn't his best. I really hope he does well but I might struggle to draft him.
Matthew Southgate, Really struggled to read the greens, hit it ok and I really didn't like the way he approached his practice round.
Course Info - Its Wentworth West, one of the finest around. Steeped in History, Former Ryder Cup Venue and a true Gem. Measures 7,267 and a par of 72. As traditional as they come, tree lined and natural rolling landscape. original designed by harry colt and once again redesigned by Ernie Els.
Go for ball strikers this week, the key to playing this course well is so very simple. Hit your fairways and hit good approaches, you need to work the ball and be patient. Chances will come but shouldn't be forced, one year I followed Sir Nick Faldo as he put on a masterclass of golf whilst paired with Adam Scott and Darren Clarke.. Not much has changed other than the necessity to hit it much longer and higher than he did back then. Chris Wood won here last year because his overall accuracy stats all year were exceptional and that gave him confidence going in to the tournament to stand a good chance.
Were in for perfect golfing weather, it was gorgeous today and forecast for more of the same, I wont be taking my umbrella with me tomorrow. Instead I'm unleashing the pasty white legs again.. You might spot me. tanned legs and arms... very white legs... shouldn't be too tough amongst all these British golf fans... oh yeah ill be wearing my TJ cap.
Both Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson will feature in line ups, Rose will be higher owned than Stenson due to form and course fit, but when Stensons on and in the right frame of mind he can be lethal. From what I saw of Henrik he was very happy, joking as usual and giving fans an abundance of his time, all looking very relaxed and ready to break recent trend and kick start his summer. Rose has the perfect methodical game for Wentworth. No wonder these 2 are the 2 favourites since Rory's withdrawal.
$9,000 - $10,000
Tyrell hatton - Course Fit, Form and Attributes
Tommy Fleetwood - Course Fit, Form and Attributes
Martin Kaymer - Course Fit, Form and Attributes
I apologise for the simplicity of my reasoning however it is that simple these guys have the perfect game to score well here, all know the course really well and should all compete for top spots.
$8,000 - $9,000
Thomas Pieters - Absolute birdie machine, wow does this guy hit it good. might make the odd mistake but stays aggressive and usually bounces back with more birdies.
Lee Westwood - Hold The Press... Lee's actually a great putter, was rolling it lovely during practice and knocking them in with ease... Obviously a ball striker and played this course countless times.
Ian Poulter - Form has been exceptional of late, playing golf in the manner he plays best.. He knows this place as well as anyone and would love to follow up the form with a win on home soil.
$7,000 - $8,000
Alexander Levy - Form sensational, game fit to course is perfect, hitting it awesome and swinging well on the range. Solid cash pick
Hao-Tong Li - If I had to pick a potential winner from what I witnessed and nothing else, here's your man, on the range hitting it soooo good, was in such a good place, laughing, joking and so relaxed.
Dean Burmester, Hits it miles hits it straight another birdie machine. Not finished well in recent events. but still gotta play him at this price.
Less than $7,000
David Lipsky, always a solid pick to make a cut and push for higher spots. the way he has been playing and style of course will only add to his chances
Jordan Smith, you have to play a little Jordan at this price. Ball flight is perfect, swings it incredible, I do have slight doubts on confidence but that could change very quick with a great start.
Nacho Elvira, Simply hitting it awesome on the range and course, looked very confident and well suited, especially with a straight ball flight with driver.
Zander Lombard, wow this guy hits a ball and well, doesn't need to hit driver everywhere, as he has a 2 iron that bullets down the fairways. full of confidence and looked comfortable.
Chris Hanson, Range work looked great, on the course looked solid, again ball flight and length very well suited.
Ernie Els, I wont have a lot of exposure but why not play the guy who redesigned the course, knows it better than anyone and has the course literally in his back garden.
Matteo Manessero, Just keeps getting better and better, such a good all round game and way to cheap not to play.
Paul Peterson, Cant believe he is this low priced but good times as it means I can play Stenson and Rose together if I want to, from what I saw I really liked, kept it simple on the course, seemed to be enjoying it out there, gotta be worth a punt.
Anyway that should be enough these are my top plays and I hope they pay off for us all, I need to grab a few hours sleep and then head back to Wentworth to get my fix of tournament atmosphere, hope you enjoy the write up, the course and the event.