Like Rory McIlroy, I enjoyed a good week at Quail Hollow last time out with American duo Mickelson and Simpson ably supporting the Northern Irishman in my line-up. However, my score of 108 was 18 shy of weekly winner Mark Darby whose ‘Charthur02’ team included stand-out performers Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland as well as Simpson and the world number one.
McIlroy will no doubt have slept soundly on the flight back to the UK in the early hours of Monday morning, warmed by becoming the first two-time winner of the Wells Fargo. That victory and his incredible form – no lower than 11th in his last six starts including two wins – will temper any tiredness as he embarks on week three of a five-week stretch.
Next up is a trip to Wentworth for the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship. McIlroy is defending his title after a final round 66 gave him a one-shot victory last year and he forms part of a strong field with Rose, Kaymer, McDowell, Els, Harrington and Westwood amongst those teeing it up at Wentworth’s West Course.
Ernie Els’ 2011 revamp may have failed to win everybody over at first but drama is guaranteed on the closing par fives of 17 and 18, and even more so since the South African’s addition of water in front of the final green. Accuracy is the key around this iconic tree-lined layout with shorter hitters Manassero and Donald enjoying recent success on the 7,302-yard par 72.
If you’re looking for trends, only two of the last 10 winners – McIlroy included – have been outside the top 12 for greens in regulation while Englishmen – Donald, Khan, Casey and Rose – tend to fare well. Despite some rain earlier this week, the tournament is expected to stay largely dry with gusty winds over the weekend the only minor concern for the field. Here’s who I’m backing to shine in Surrey…
Rory McIlroy, £7.5m
Justifiable big price will be felt more this week given the line-up but the potential punishment is far greater if he’s omitted. Defending champion who’s in incredible form.
Luke Donald, £2.4m
Form doesn’t offer much but he played well – tied 15th – on another of his favourite courses at Harbour Town in the RBC Heritage last month. At the start of the season I backed him to get his career back on track with a win here where his record is outstanding – two wins and three other top-three finishes in his last seven visits.
Francesco Molinari, £1.6m
Second in Spain last week on his European reappearance after a mixed set of results across the Atlantic. Fits the bill here with his incredible ball-striking and pinpoint long-irons while the sometimes shaky short stick shouldn’t be tested unduly on Wentworth’s comparatively slow greens. Top 10 finishes in his last three visits here.
Branden Grace, £1.6m
Lightly raced since a flying start to the season when he won the Alfred Dunhill in his native South Africa before further success in Qatar. Has been on the PGA Tour since then with a tied-7th at the RBC Heritage the highlight. Was fifth here in 2012.
Gregory Bourdy, £1.0m
Trending nicely with five straight cuts yielding three top-20s, including the Spanish Open last week. Inside the Tour’s top-20 for greens in regulation this season and was 12th here two years ago.
David Howell, £0.9m
Previous winner (2006) who has finished no worse than fourth in his last three starts, making seven straight cuts.