Commentary: BMW PGA deserves American attendance

Lee Westwood (file photo)

The elite of European golf gather at Wentworth this week for the European Tour’s flagship tournament, the BMW PGA Championship. Unfortunately, U.S. players will be conspicuous by their absence.

That’s a shame, for if one European Tour event deserves more respect from the top American players it’s the BMW PGA Championship.

Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy took a lot of flak for missing the recent Players Championship. Both have given up PGA Tour membership and chalked the so-called fifth major off their tournament schedules.

Well, every year the top U.S. Tour players skip the most important European Tour event outside the Open Championship. So maybe Westwood and McIlroy missing The Players was payback time.

Wentworth is home to the European Tour’s headquarters. Every European Tour member able to tee it up will be in attendance. The only notable American in the field is two-time major winner John Daly, who is in the tournament on a sponsor’s invite.

The West Course at Wentworth has a long history with the European Tour. It has played host to the PGA Championship on a continuous basis since 1984 and staged the tournament three times in the 1970s, too. It also was the long-term venue for the World Match Play Championship, staging the event from 1964-2007.

The 1953 Ryder Cup was the biggest event ever played at Wentworth, when Great Britain & Ireland came within a Peter Alliss putting collapse over the last two holes of winning the match.

It’s as much as a Harry Colt designed golf course deserves. Although there isn’t much of the Colt design left after three revamps by Wentworth resident Ernie Els.

Throw in a prize fund of €4.5 million, the richest on European soil outside the Open Championship, and it’s no wonder the BMW PGA Championship is considered Europe’s equivalent to The Players.

Past winners of this tournament read like a who’s who of European golf. Alliss, Bernard Gallacher, Tony Jacklin, Peter Oosterhuis, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie and Paul Casey are just a few of the names to have won this prestigious tournament.

Europe enters the event on a high. It has the Ryder Cup in its trophy case. Europeans have won the last four majors. Three Europeans hold the first three spots on the Official World Golf Ranking with six taking pride of place in the top 10.

So Europe has much to celebrate this week. Too bad there aren’t more top Americans to help the European Tour celebrate its biggest week of the season.

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