Recap - BMW PGA Championship, Wentworth, Surrey, England.
As always Wentworth and the BMW PGA Championship put on an incredible showcase of golf, Alex Noren massively contributing towards the excitement with his incredible final round 0f 62 (-10) to come back from deep in the field, take the title and huge pay cheque in a truly classy field
As I mentioned maybe a few times last week this was and always will be one of my favourite events of the year, hopefully some of you relatively new to the European Tour or even experienced can see why I was so passionate about that one and why I was so keen to attend practice and tournament days. Its always a pleasure to visit this stunning venue and this year I couldn't miss out on the opportunity to share as much as I could with you and showcase it a little myself.
Something different but almost just as special.
After walking countless miles around Wentworths West Course I decided to set the alarm once again for very early Monday morning and travel back to Surrey but this time to Walton Heath where they were hosting US Open Qualifying.
36 holes in one day played on both the old and new courses (my poor feet and legs). Top 15 get an invite to Erin Hills and every player in the field is of outstanding ability, so much so that you wouldn't be disappointed to see these names as a starting field for a full Euro Tour events Competing for these spots were the likes of 'BEEF' Harrington, Colesarts, Larrazable, Lipsky, Levy, Coetzee etc.
All sounds great but how can it be almost as special as what we witnessed at Wenthworth? Well this event is a hidden little gem, almost like a special thank you to the golf enthusiast, there is no entry fee, no grandstands, no ropes, no prize money and hardly any cameras. You can walk side by side with players and caddies up the fairway, get the best vantage point for every shot, chat to them at the right opportunity and watch an additional 36 holes of tournament play.
Of course it was a no brainer to take in this event, it also gave me a chance to factor in 2 more rounds worth of form that most wont be aware of and the opportunity to chat to quite a few players and caddies throughout the day about what to expect in Sweden, what players other than themselves stand a good chance of winning and how they felt about other upcoming events in the season. Hopefully enough to give us a good edge in this weeks drafts.
Up next - Nordea Masters - Sweden
Although the prize fund is considerably less than what was on offer at Wentworth, I'm so pleased to see a massive amount of our top players have decided to include this in their schedule.
The field is extremely strong and headlined by the home soil talents of Stenson and Noren. Players are just kicking into the summer and starting to display some of their most exceptional golf so once again were in for a must watch event and hopefully just as much excitement and success as the last outing.
Although this is a consistent event on the schedule it has been 7 years since the tournament was held at Barseback, for many this will be their first viewing of the course and for those more experienced a lot of rounds on different courses between visits.
Located on the west coast of Sweden, Barsebäck Golf and Country Club is the home club of Open Champion and Ryder Cup star Henrik Stenson, he was made an Honorary Member here in 2007 here and unquestionably knows how to tackle this course better than anyone . The club has two championship courses: the 7,729 yard par 73 Masters Course will be the one in action, finished in, it is set to challenge the quality field assembling for the Nordea Masters especially if the costal wind blows, gusts and swirls through the tall trees. The greens here are fast and true, and the test is varied and often frustrating. The fairways are narrow and with a tree line that can creep in at some inconvenient spots, any shot a few yards out of position can cause all kinds of problems here and a little good or bad luck could decide the eventual outcome.
Just like David and Pat I will be abandoning this section, it would serve you far better to check just before the event or look out for any updates I post on Twitter
Key stats and strategy.
With such an abundance of highly talented players representing on home soil it would be wise to consider players from Sweden. They usually represent extremely well when playing in front of home crowds and with Noren's win, there is even greater motivation.
The most common remark I got from players and caddies was that its a fiddly course, long and demanding but equally awkward. Go with players who hit fairways and hit greens. Avoiding the trouble and consequently bogeys is the key to success at this location
Players wont need the high ball flight that was required to access pins at Wentworth or the distance from the tee to try to get shorter clubs in hand
Player fatigue, this could easily come into play or at least be the excuse for anyone with an early flight to the next location. Some of the field would of played 108 holes of tournament play in 5 days, rushed to catch flights to get onto the course in Malmo or travelled on Tuesday potentially missing out on a valuable days preparation.
Distance from the tee, surprisingly with a course measuring 7,729 is not going to help most with the challenge ahead, accuracy is far more important, ok someone who gives it a pathetic slap off the tee is going to find it to be monstrous but if their good with mid to long irons and playing from the fairway they too will get their chances for birdies or better.
Its one of those courses where you have to drive it well, strike your irons well and have a short game of high standard to either get you out of trouble or score well, no wonder Stenson chose this to be his home course
Henrik is the big favourite and along with Noren they are going to be extremely high owned, I will have plenty of drafts with these players especially in cash, however in GPP maybe avoiding both could pay off big. There's a good number of players who have the attributes and experience to win here and maybe worth noting the English contingent often play well in Sweden.
Once again I will be mixing up drafts featuring both of these players and fully expect to see both names at the top of the leader board come Sunday afternoon. However if you asked me to pick one I would go with Alex Noren. Somehow I missed out writing about him in last weeks article, mainly due to sleepy Pat syndrome however I just about managed to get out a post out on twitter calling his win after realising I hadn't seen him on the range the whole time I was there, I have strong beliefs that when Alex calms down the desire to be such a range rat he plays his very best stuff. With the added consumption of time off the back of his win, the distractions of returning home and now fueled with an abundance of confidence and desire to play well in front of home fans I can see a repeat performance of form and another win.
Like I said I will be playing Henrik Stenson as well but slightly lower exposure. This is his home course, perfectly fitted around his key attributes and from what I saw of him at Wentworth getting ever closer to the form we expect of the 'ice man'
$9,000 - $10,000
Lee Westwood - Going into my drafts for his accuracy and solid driving game, Lee can be the most frustrating player on tour, if he holed half the opportunities he creates he would be close to unstoppable, however you can always rely on him to make the cut and feature. He also knows how to win on tough long courses and could always grind out an overdue victory.
Alexander Levy - Such a solid game and in great form, played well but got unlucky at times at wentworth, however followed it up with a 63 and 69 at Walton Heath to finish T3 and earn his spot in the US Open. Very capable of a win as he proved recently in China. Great course fit and hopefully lower owned after an average last drafting. Also very good at battling through a course and avoiding bogeys, really liked what I saw at Walton Heath.
Nicolas Colsaerts - The big hitting bomber from Belgium has been hitting driver long and straight both at Wentworth and Walton Heath. Finished T3 at Wentworth and should of made the play offs at Walton Heath. He scored really well but 3 putted the last to miss the play offs by 1 believing he needed birdie to get in. If the driver form continues his length and experience can only benefit him this week.
$8,000 - $9,000
Hao-Tong Li - I loved what I saw of him both on the range and on the course at Wentworth struggled on day 2 and 3 but still finished T30, I was also massively impressed with his rounds of 67 and 64 and Walton Heath to finish 2nd and pick up a US Open spot. His games in a great place right now and he too seems to be very happy with everything going on.
Pablo Larrazabal - A final round 66 at Wentworth earned him T24, his first round of 67 at Walton heath was also very solid. didn't get a US Open spot as he shot a level par 72 in the afternoon. But you could partially blame a lack luster last round down to losing his playing partner early in the 2nd round and consequently losing almost every spectator apart from the occasional visit from me and the buzz and challenge he thrives off. Great form, course fit and very capable in tougher conditions if he needs to start varying his ball flight.
Thongchai Jaidee - This is a recommendation from Alexander Bjorks caddie, although he finished a very average T54 last week this was still a solid performance on a course that really didn't suit his game, however this week without the necessity of a high ball flight to access pins, Thongchai has the perfect game to compete for at least a top 10 finish.
$7,000 - $8,000
Richie Ramsay - T30 at Wentworth and followed up with T3 at Walton heath, on a high after earning his spot and in solid form. Great play in cash and gpp as other bigger names may be more tempting to some.
Jorge Campillo - Got to see a fair bit of him at Wentworth and Walton heath and looking very relaxed and steady, consequently each of his last 5 rounds has been very steady, if your looking for just a cut maker. he's your man for Barseback.
Zander Lombard - I followed Zander for loads of holes at Walton Heath. Got to get to know him and his caddie better and couldn't of been more impressed with his temperament, you can see there is a fire burning inside him yet he controls it and his game with the experience of a veteran, shot 2 solid round of 69 after missing heaps of chances. Only concern was a little issue with his back. However beware the injured golfer and trust me Zander has the abilities to repeat his performance in Italy and compete amongst the best. Hits it long, straight and hit loads of greens.
$7,000 or less
Bradley Dredge - I was very lucky to witness some of the golf that Bradley played in his 1st round of US Open qualifying where he shot 62 (-10) he hit the ball so crisp all day and was holing anything he looked at. Just earned his place next month and believe he can improve on his T40 from last week, and get himself into the top 20 here.
Peter Hanson - Home soil... Good result last week T21 and a closing round of 68. No rounds played on Monday so a day ahead of a lot of the field in terms of preparation and potentially less fatigued
Paul Dunne - Usually very steady and reliable in making the cut, I don't think he will win here but there's no reason he cant see a top 10 finish with a little luck and 4 steady rounds.
Eddie Pepperell - Seems to be in a better place at the moment and as was his most recent performances, T34 in Italy and a qualification for the US open thanks to 2 very solid rounds on Monday. Eddie has to be going into this one with high confidence and that's what will make the difference for him moving forward.
Alexander Bjork - Although this is home soil, I discovered he has never played this course, however this doesn't put me off drafting him. He shot 66 on the final day of the BMW PGA to finish T14. I followed him round Walton Heath and got chatting to both him and his caddie and watched him play stunning golf at points. In particular his last few holes where he went on a birdie blitz whilst literally running round the course and through other groups in attempt to qualify and still make his flight to Sweden that evening. Both the player and caddie seem to make a great team and Alexander's iron play, driving ability and form are solid going into this event.
Sebastian Soderberg - Another player from Sweden, not missed a cut all year and not expected to change things here. T18 in Italy, ticks a lot of stat boxes but mainly and with fingers crossed a cheap safe bet to see the weekend.
Matteo Manassero - T30 last week and seems to be grinding out solid performances, week in week out, what great value at his price, another player expected to make the cut but could also compete much higher up the leader board.
As always I hope you enjoy the write up and it adds a little value to your drafts. Best of luck in all your drafts, I'm off to catch up on sleep, let those tired legs and throbbing feet rest then crack on with some practice of my own.. who knows with no event to attend I might just have time to share some of the things I'm working on with my game right now and offer a little advice to anyone who wants it.