“The BMW PGA Championship is the tournament we players all want to win,” says Paul McGinley, captain and mastermind of the Europe Ryder Cup team that triumphed over the United States at Gleneagles last September. With the European Tour’s flagship event fast approaching (May 21-24), McGinley – who has twice finished runner-up over Wentworth’s famed West Course just outside London – said: “It’s without a doubt our number one event. It’s got a great history to it and it seems to bring out the best in the best.
“Look at the great players who have won it through the years – you’ve got the likes of Nick Faldo, Severiano Ballesteros, Colin Montgomerie. And then last year we got Rory McIlroy, the current number one in the world. The championship has a fantastic roll of honour.”
McGinley remembers the West Course before it was remodelled by four-time major champion Ernie Els five years ago and believes it is now as tough a test as can be found on tour. “You used to be able to run and chase the ball along the ground. Now it’s a different and very testing challenge,” said the Irishman. “You have to play it a lot more in the air and be able to stop the ball quickly. There are also a lot more undulations and subtleties on the greens.
McIlroy trailed third round leader Thomas Bjorn by seven shots going into the final round last year, but overturned this deficit thanks to a stunning round of 66. “The fact that Rory won the BMW PGA Championship last year gives the golf course real credibility. It’s great that he’s back this year to defend his title.”
McIlroy consolidated his position at the top of the world rankings on Sunday with victory at the WGC World Match Play Championship in San Francisco, where he beat America’s Gary Woodland 4&2 in the final at TPC Harding Park. Among the golfing superstars lining up against him at Wentworth will be a trio of US Open champions – Martin Kaymer (2014), Justin Rose (2013) and Graeme McDowell (2010).
Such is the interest generated in the championship that advance ticket sales have reached record levels. As a result of the demand, the European Tour has increased capacity in grandstands at the 1st tee and 18th green. There have been 475 extra seats added at the 18th, taking the capacity to 2,561, while at the 1st tee the grandstand has been increased by more than a third and will now hold 288 spectators.
Jamie Birkmyre, Championship Director, said: “The BMW PGA Championship continues to go from strength to strength, attracting many of the best players in the world and fantastic crowds. This year’s event has seen record levels of interest and advance ticket sales, which is testament to the quality of entertainment on offer – both on and off the course. We pride ourselves on providing the best possible experience for fans and this year we are making further improvements for everyone coming to Wentworth.”