A Decade (Almost) of BMW PGA Champions
Time travels so fast. It seems like just last week it was 2009, and Paul Casey was holding off Ross Fisher to claim the BMW Championship at Wentworth. Now, the most prestigious competition on the European Tour has rolled around again and a new golfer looks to claim the crown. But let’s not forget all those players who came before and all the great championships leading up to this one. Come with me for a stroll down memory lane, as I relive the last (almost) decade of BMW PGA Championships.
2009 – Winner: Paul Casey
I’ve already looked back to the 2009 championship, but there’s no harm in revisiting it again here. Back in 2009, Paul Casey was just coming into his prime, hoovering up tournaments left and right. At the halfway mark, Casey had a two shot lead, but the game started to get interesting late on Sunday, when an unknown local lad named Ross Fisher suddenly appeared on the leaderboard. When all was said and swung, Fisher totted 64 blows, only one off the course record. A birdie drought from Casey meant it was tight and with holes to go he was a couple behind. He managed a birdie on 15, parred 16 and then added another at the par 5 17th. In the end, it took a nervy five footer for a third and final bird-dog on the last to seal victory.
2010 – Winner: Simon Khan
As far as Wentworth was concerned, 2010 was the year of the underdog. The winner? Simon Khan. Precious few had heard of the Englishman when he stepped onto the first tee on Thursday. But by Sunday, his name was more familiar to the crowds. Make no mistake, though: Khan’s victory was still a shock. Starting Sunday he was seven shots behind the final round leader Chris Wood. Robert Karlsson, fresh off a course record 62, also stood in his way. A top five finish looked a brilliant result. But Khan, who had had to go back to European Tour Q-School the year before, produced a final round 66. And when the overnight leaders fell apart, the championship fell to him.
2011 – Winner: Luke Donald
Like 2009, I was lucky enough to experience this tournament in the flesh. Fittingly for one of England’s only remaining great international golf tournaments, the 2011 PGA all came down to a shootout between two Englishmen: world number 1 in waiting Luke Donald, and the stoic and ever-unperturbable Lee Westwood, the incumbent world number 1 at the time. 1 and 2 were locked in a sudden-death playoff on 18. They both hit good drives, but both opted to lay up. With wedges in hand, who would blink first? The answer came when, trying to respond to a Donald pin-seeker, Westwood over-cooked the spin on his approach. Westy could only watch on in horror, as his ball rolled back into the water and, with it, his chances of winning the cup.
2012 – Winner: Luke Donald
Rory McIlroy shot 79; missed the cut. Other top players hacked and slashed. By Sunday, however, fears that all the stars would go dark at Wentworth were proved unfounded when Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Ernie Els and Luke Donald all found themselves in the mix. The latter had a two stroke lead over Rose going into the final round, a position from which lesser players might crumble. Not so cool hand Luke. Displaying the deft putting that was behind his victory at the same event a year earlier, Donald started draining them from all over. In the end, he came in at a canter, successfully defending his title and regaining the world number one ranking which he had forfeited earlier in the year.
2013 – Winner: Matteo Manessero
Westy, Westy, Westy, what are we going to do with you? Coming into 2013, I thought 2011 had been Lee Westwood’s low point, the nadir of his horror-show putting. On the 7th he three-putted from 15 feet. His massive head bowed. Westy turned a two shot lead into finishing tied 9th. Matteo Manassero prevailed in a play-off.
2014 – Winner: Rory McIlroy
After several near misses, 2014 was finally the year of Rory McIlroy, who, beating down fellow Irishman Shane Lowry, perched a leprechaun on the BMW PGA trophy’s cut glass. As with many previous years, Sunday was a two-man shootout, a thrilling blow for blow match-up between the two Irish players. Lowry turned up the heat with an early birdie burst, but a bogey 6 at 13 stalled his momentum. Back-to-back birdies from McIlroy on the 17th and 18th turned the screw. Just before the event, McIlroy had blown up his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki. High profile relationship implosion? What high profile relationship implosion? The BMW PGA trophy salved his pain.
2015 – Winner: An Byeong Hun
This was a dominant performance from a young Korean finally cashing in on his mega potential. Hun’s winning score of 21 under par was a record, beating the previous low tournament mark by two shots. Some interesting trivia: Hun’s parents were both Olympic medal winners, having competed for South Korea in table-tennis. I doubt that a top-spin forehand would have been much help in nailing a drive, but whatever his swing mechanics, An Byeong Hun sure knew how to stack up a score.
2016 – Winner: Chris Wood
In 2010, Chris Wood tossed away the BMW PGA, wilting under the heat of the English sun. 2016 brought a chance for redemption, and, this time, he seized it with both his hands. Knocking in the kind of putt that many, less pressure-proof golfers would have certainly missed, Wood claimed the biggest victory of his career to date and added another first-time winner to the PGA trophy. Steely stuff from the Englishman.
2017 – Winner: Alex Noren
62 blows. Sounds like many people’s front nines. For Alex Noren, however, 62 shots was enough to negotiate a full 18 holes, as he romped home to victory in the 2017 PGA. Lee Westwood was once again in contention, but sunk, laboring, into the chasing pack; so it was left to Francesco Molinari to apply pressure. Noren though was impervious, having the luxury of watching the best part of the afternoon unfold from a seat in the clubhouse, having already signed for his 62. Sometimes such shock victories leave a bad taste in the mouth – it can feel like the winner hasn’t really ‘earned’ it. With Noren, however, there was no question of the win being undeserved. 62 blows on a Sunday at Wentworth! Alexander Noren, take a bow.
2018 – Winner: Francesco Molinari
Francesco Molinari’s triumph at Wentworth marked the start of a magical few months for the Italian, culminating in his fending off one Tiger Woods to win the Open at Carnoustie in July. Wind back to May though, and Fran was just starting out on his summer run. A 4 under par final round of 68 proved sufficient to keep back Rory McIlroy, with whom he was tied for the lead going into the final round. Sadly, Molinari’s form has evaporated this season; but you can count on his eventual return.
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