VIRGINIA WATER, England — Another year, another edition of the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event. Here are the five things that stood out from this championship, where Luke Donald took home the title for the second year in a row with a four-shot win over Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie.
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1. BACK-AND-FORTH: Let’s hope the World No. 1 trend continues.
For the second year in a row the BMW PGA determined who would go to the top of the official world order. Last year Luke Donald defeated Lee Westwood in a playoff to replace his fellow Englishman as No. 1.
Donald did it again this year. He only had to finish eighth after Rory McIlroy missed the cut to replace McIlroy at the top of the world order. Donald went seven spots better, winning the championship for the second year in a row.
“There’s something sweet about going 12 months and still being No. 1,” Donald said. “It’s an indication that I’m doing the right things.”
Many of Europe’s elite hate the changes Ernie Els has made to Wentworth’s famous West Course, but if the new, tougher layout identifies the best player in the world then let the trend continue.
Donald’s focus shifts to the U.S. Open and his quest for his first major title.
“I feel I am getting closer. Every time I get a success like this, it adds to my confidence. These victories are key to bringing that confidence to the majors,” said Donald. “It’s putting four rounds together like I did this week.”
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2. PROBLEMS? Rory McIlroy needs to sort things out.
Reigning U.S. Open champion McIlroy never excelled here. Aside from a fifth-place finish in 2009, Rory has been pretty much invisible in the European Tour’s blue ribbon event.
He was downright abysmal this year.
McIlroy missed the 1-over cut line by eight shots after rounds of 74 and 79. He was 21 shots off the halfway lead.
It was the second flagship event in a row in which McIlroy had missed the cut. He failed to play all four rounds in The Players Championship.
McIlroy hadn’t missed the cut in a European Tour event since the 2010 Masters. Excluding the majors, he hadn’t missed a cut in a regular European Tour event since the 2008 Alfred Dunhill Championship.
McIlroy’s second-round score was his worst since a final-round 80 in the 2011 Masters, and his worst score in a regular European Tour event since an 83 in the first round of the 2007 South African Airways Open in his first year as a professional.
“It’s not nice to play like this two events in a row,” McIlroy said. “I think I might have taken my eye off the ball a little bit, so I need to work hard and get everything back to the level it was before the Masters.”
McIlroy needs to get his eye back on the ball quickly. He’s in this week’s Memorial Tournament where he’ll be hoping to bounce back into contention. Otherwise he doesn’t look like a good bet to defend his U.S. Open title.
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3. HE’S HOT: Whatever Paul Lawrie is on it’s working.
The Scot is playing some of the best golf of his life, despite most people writing him off just a few years ago. Lawrie entered this tournament having won the Qatar Masters earlier this year, his second victory in two years after a nine-year drought.
The 1999 Open Champion is intent on making his second Ryder Cup team, 13 years after making his debut the year he tasted major glory. A joint second-place finish here for his fifth top 10 of the year has him on course to do just that.
Lawrie is now 43. He’s proof that life really can start at 40.
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4. BLOWING HIS TOP: Ernie Els needs to count to 10 before he let’s loose.
The South African came off the golf course on Sunday and launched an angry, expletive filled tirade against the European Tour and Wentworth green staff, accusing them of turning the Wentworth West course into a U.S. Open-style course by not putting enough water on the course.
Els’s 850-word rant included three “F’s”, six “bloodies,” one “damn” and one “pissed off.” As the man responsible for revamping the West Course, Els has taken a lot of flak in recent years from players who feel he’s wrecked the Harry Colt designed West Course.
The last thing the South African wanted was more grief. However, Els was paid a lot of money to redesign the course. He lives on the Wentworth Estate and is a member of the club. Sponsor BMW has invested a lot of money in this tournament, and the last thing the German car company and Wentworth needed was negative press.
Although it was great copy, Els might like to think a little next time before he starts sounding off.
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5. TIME FOR INTERMISSION: Enjoy five-star Euro Tour fields when they come along.
The Euro Tour is correct to be bursting with pride at another marquee finish to its flagship event. However, the Tour is entering a barren spell for the next couple of months.
Europe’s elite head to the PGA Tour or for well-earned rests. Next week’s Wales Open will be a shadow of the field that turned up at Wentworth. In fact, the next time Europe’s best get together will probably will be for the Open Championship.
Sad, but a fact of life on the current European Tour where only so many sponsors can afford to lay out big prize funds.