By Ashley Grint
The BMW Championship at Wentworth has teed off with many of the biggest names in golf set to take part in the tournament.
World No. 3, Lee Westwood, will be looking to go one better than last year after losing out in a play-off hole to fellow Englishman Luke Donald.
Despite shooting the final three rounds in eight shots fewer than Donald, Westwood had to settle for second place, even though many believe he should have claimed the title himself.
After appearing unable to hold his nerve on No. 18, when a five-foot putt for the championship was squandered, it meant a play-off hole was required. This time it was a combination of both accuracy and water which proved the obstacle, after Westwood over-hit an approach shot to the green, all but gifting the title to Luke Donald.
The elusive UK PGA title once again slipped away from the grasp of the Englishman meaning a 12 month wait until the chance to right the wrong came around.
This year Westwood will be looking for more than victory, he will be seeking retribution. Not only did he lose the tournament last year, he lost the money and perhaps most importantly, the title of “World No. 1”.
With the Wentworth course offering an unparalleled 64 world ranking points to the winner, alongside the €4.5million prize fund; it is easy to see why this major event on the golfing calendar is regularly contested by the world’s best.
Ever since the British PGA Championship settled down in the South-East of England, many of golf’s most famous champions have been victorious. Names such as Olazabal, Ballesteros, Faldo and Montgomerie (three times in a row for the latter), have graced the now famous course and come away victorious.
Yet one name still remains absent from the list, the 2009 Race to Dubai winner, Lee Westwood.
Westwood may have struggled in the Players Championship earlier this month, yet with the likes of Rory McIlroy, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker all failing to even make the cut in Florida; at least the Brit finished the four rounds, even if it were in an eventual T61 position.
The Florida “mishap” aside and the form is certainly coming back to the current world number three. With three top five finishes in his last four outings, including victory in Indonesia, Westwood is playing with the freedom and confidence that one Tiger Woods only wishes he could achieve.
The BMW championship is bound to prove a tougher test than the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Golf Masters, yet the winning mentality achieved, following victory in Asia, may prove to be a deciding factor in giving Westwood the edge this weekend.
If the reprisal, potential ranking points, monetary gain and title of BMW PGA Champion were not enough incentives, then add the impending climb up the ladder of the Race to Dubai standings, and suddenly the importance of this weekend’s tournament cannot be over-emphasised.
The Race to Dubai came around in 2009 as a way of preventing young European players moving to the U.S. Tour in search of greater financial rewards. With the top 15 golfers sharing a $10 million prize fund at the end of the season, alongside first place taking home $1.5 million, it is clear that financial gain is certainly accessible on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Westwood is currently lying in sixth position, and with four of the five golfers ahead of the 2009 champion set to take part in the lucrative tournament this weekend, the chance to climb up the Race to Dubai ladder will be at the forefront of Westwood’s mind.
The 39 year-old will go in search of his 39th title on Friday, and with last year’s stumble at the finish line still bound to be fresh in his mind, expect a strong challenge this weekend.