x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Luke Donald targets repeat show at Wentworth

The Englishman is one of the few players to have mastered the venue of late, having finished second in 2010 and first last year.

Luke Donald, the world No 2, is out to defend his BMW PGA Championship title this week at Wentworth.
Luke Donald, the world No 2, is out to defend his BMW PGA Championship title this week at Wentworth.

A year after winning the BMW PGA Championship to become the world's top-ranked golfer, Luke Donald is back at Wentworth in Surrey, England, this week looking to successfully defend the title and ensure his return to the top of the pile.

In 2011, Donald dislodged Lee Westwood to take the No 1 spot after winning a play-off against his fellow Englishman. This time he has another Ryder Cup colleague in his sights: the US Open champion Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy, Donald and Westwood are the star attractions at the €4.5 million (Dh20.9m) event which starts today on a West Course that severely penalises the most minor of errors.

Retief Goosen and Ian Poulter have had particularly strong opinions on the tough nature of the course as has the three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, who disliked the Wentworth putting surfaces so much that he has stayed away from the event some years.

"I had been calling for the change of the greens and they have designed 18 tournament greens - they're certainly tough," Harrington said. "Initially, they hadn't settled but as a championship golf course, it is now as tough as you could get."

The halfway cut was 6-over par last year, which McIlroy only just made weeks before he grabbed his first grand slam win. Only 12 players finished better than level par.

Els helped toughen the course two years ago and further changes have been made since last year, with No 12 reverting to a par 5 and the fringe rough around the final green making it less likely that balls will spin into the water.

"Hopefully we'll have more smiling faces from the players this year," Els said. "You make changes on a great course like the West Course, people are going to not like it.

"That's part of what we do as designers, but we've passed that bridge."

Donald is one of the few players to have mastered the venue of late, having finished second in 2010 and first last year after Westwood - then the top-ranked player - found that water hazard at the famous 18th in the first play-off hole.

The flagship tournament will also have a massive bearing on Europe's Ryder Cup standings, four months ahead of the match against the United States at Medinah near Chicago.

Given the prize money and ranking points on offer, a successful week for a player in and around the top 10 on either the European Points List or World Points List - the two criteria for automatic qualification for the team - could give him a major boost to make Jose Maria Olazabal's line-up.