Ben Coley's BMW PGA Championship preview and tips

Matthew Fitzpatrick

After more profits last week, golf expert Ben Coley previews the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

Recommended bets:


1pt e.w. Matt Fitzpatrick at 45/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)

2pts e.w. Tommy Fleetwood at 30/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. James Morrison at 140/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6)

2pts e.w. Alex Noren at 20/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

1pt e.w. Thorbjorn Olesen at 100/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6,7)

Another face lift to the West Course means there's more to be taken on trust as the European Tour heads home to Wentworth for the BMW PGA Championship.

It's been clear since chief executive Keith Pelley first took the reins that this tournament would need to up its game, and to do so required extensive work to a venue which had grown weary, a pale shadow of what was once considered Harry Colt's finest work.

Four greens have been reshaped, five more rebuilt, there's a top-of-the-range sub-air system to keep them fiery while almost 30 bunkers have been filled in and those which survived the cull have been restored.

By all accounts, the changes have been an overwhelming success. Fairway bunkers are now far less penal - a hazard, but one from which a player can recover if prepared to engage in a game of risk - and greens which were rightly criticised are now reportedly as pure as it gets.

Whether Ernie Els and those working for and alongside him can achieve their aim of making Wentworth the European equivalent of Augusta remains to be seen (they can't), but the mood is positive heading towards an event which conjures fond memories for those who grew up watching it on the BBC.

Now given the full Sky Sports treatment, an entertaining week is guaranteed and that should be supported by lower scores than a year ago - although it's doubtful Byeong-hun An's 21-under total from 2015 comes under any kind of threat.

An leads nicely to what looks like a decent starting point in trying to assess where to look for potential winners. He was 23 when winning this title, a Korean rookie with an American education playing in England for just the third time. Not so long ago, the idea of such a player contending this flagship event - let alone winning by six shots - would've appeared absurd.

Yet two years earlier, Matteo Manassero had shown that youth is no longer a barrier; that all those years others had spent learning about the West Course had been rendered at least less significant by the now perpetual reshaping of the layout. Manassero had just turned 20.

Between the two came Rory McIlroy - a freak of nature worthy of an asterisk, yes, but a 26-year-old nevertheless - and in 2016 it was the turn of Wood, experienced enough but still just 28 and very much winning the biggest title of his career.

They say Augusta demands six or seven visits before cracking it, but the evidence is that Wentworth can be figured out fairly quickly these days and I hope that's the case with Matthew Fitzpatrick winning on just his second appearance.

Unlike some of his counterparts, Fitzpatrick doesn't much remember watching this event as a boy, but like so many of them has nevertheless shown that playing on home soil can serve as inspiration.

Fitz broke through not so far away at Woburn two years ago for his first professional title, and said at the time that being cheered on by the galleries as players from Thailand, Paraguay and Denmark tried to hunt him down was a massive factor in his closing of the door.

Since then, he's continued his rapid rise through the ranks, making the Ryder Cup team as a 22-year-old and capping a memorable year with victory in the DP World Tour Championship, the 'other' flagship event which closes the curtain on the European Tour season.

The way in which Fitzpatrick capitalised on Tyrrell Hatton's generosity in Dubai confirmed him a ruthless, baby-faced assassin and while he's since demonstrated the typical inconsistency of youth, when next he gets a chance I would expect him to either take it or go down all guns blazing.

Why Wentworth? Because Fitzpatrick's game would certainly appear suited to it, revamp or no revamp. He's splendidly accurate from the tee and boasts a short-game which certainly carries a passing resemblance to Donald's. He arrives here similar but more complete a player than Manassero prior to his play-off win, too.

Granted, Fitzpatrick has to put behind him a pair of missed cuts at the Heritage and the PLAYERS, events played on courses similarly well suited to him, but there are no fundamental issues in his game and he's bounced back before. In fact, his form figures prior to last summer's Sweden win were MC-MC-MC-47, he'd also missed the cut one week prior to his British Masters success, and had been playing demonstrably poorly before the DP World Tour Championship.

None of which is to say that missed cuts can be seen as a positive, but they certainly aren't enough to set the alarm bells ringing and I'd rather focus on such a compelling combination of home comforts, the right game, a big-time mentality and as much potential as any player in this field.

Fitzpatrick is a much bigger price than Thomas Pieters, for whom Wentworth may still not be a perfect match, and therefore makes most appeal of the youngsters bidding to continue the run of 20-something winners.

Shane Lowry turned 30 last month but it would be an absurd dedication to numbers to rule him out on that alone, however while his course record is excellent, he's still making adjustments and doesn't quite appear ready to finally banish the demons of last year's US Open heartache with a first victory since.

Instead, I'm turning to an old favourite in Tommy Fleetwood, who goes from strength to strength and just looks ready to win an event like this at 26.

Fleetwood is already a winner this year, beating a better field to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and yet again confirmed that he's got a game good enough to compete anywhere with second place to Dustin Johnson in the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Yes, he was 200/1 there and he's 33s here, but the European Tour is significantly less competitive and his last start on it resulted in a play-off defeat in the Shenzhen International, one he can easily take on the chin given that he would've been a backdoor winner and lost out only to a brilliant birdie from Bernd Wiesberger.

Fleetwood is among the very elite on this side of the golfing world, certainly from tee to green, and his ball-striking means he can produce the goods anywhere. That he's done so before at Wentworth, finishing sixth in 2015 when making a memorable albatross along the way, is nevertheless a bonus.

The Southport man also played well in the British Masters late last year and won his first European Tour title in Scotland, so home soil brings out the best in him and this really is an event where there has historically been a discernible advantage for English players.

In fact, five of the last 10 BMW PGA winners have been English and a further seven of them finished in second. What's more, those exact numbers can also be found in the recent record of the British Masters, now back on the calendar and firmly based in England, too.

Granted, England will again be the most-represented country in this field but that's the case every week on the European Tour, yet nowhere do they win so frequently. It seems playing in this iconic event in front of family and friends can be a huge factor.

Fleetwood has been inside the top six in two of his last four starts in England, where he also boasts a runner-up finish in what was just his third start on the Challenge Tour, and looks primed to rise to the occasion and really underline that he's one of the best there is from these parts.

Of the home contingent trading at bigger prices, James Morrison is by far the most attractive option.

Granted, this two-time European Tour winner hasn't necessarily looked capable of making the step up in grade, but the same could've been said of Simon Khan, who both caused a massive upset to land this event in 2010 and lost a play-off for it three years later.

Besides which, Morrison has won the Open de Espana, a prestigious title in its own right, and the way he closed the door on some classy opposition that day offers hope that he could rise to the challenge here.

Morrison has experience of contending at Wentworth before, having led at halfway in 2012, and while a third-round 81 ended all hopes that week he did respond well with a closing 71 to finish 10th.

In three subsequent visits, he's carded some more impressive numbers including when 11th two years ago, again playing beautifully for three rounds only for a difficult Saturday to once more deny him the opportunity to be in there when it matters during the final round.

This is something which happens far too often with Morrison - he oozes class for half a tournament or more then throws shots away in devastating clumps - but a couple of top-six finishes and no missed cuts since Abu Dhabi confirm that he's playing some of the best golf of his life right now and he can limit the mistakes.

And for those looking for a potential quirk, how's this: Morrison made a hole in one at the 14th hole during the final round at Wentworth last year, exactly as Wood had done the year before.

Nonsense aside, Morrison is the best outsider I can find at prices in the region of 150/1. He really should play well so close to home.

Marcel Siem is the type who could pop up soon at a price and he's produced five good rounds in succession now, while Jaco Van Zyl is tempting given that he's good enough to go very close in an event like this even if his finishing efforts can be rather tame.

Back towards the front of the market and Francesco Molinari seems almost certain to go well, but I'm not sure Alex Noren should be a bigger price and the Swede is readily preferred.

With eight European Tour titles to his name, Noren has twice the haul of Molinari and what's really interesting is that he's won in England, Wales and Scotland. As for so many Scandinavians, the cool English mornings are no problem and these conditions bring out his best.

That was certainly the case late last year, as Noren won the British Masters to go with earlier victories in Scotland and Switzerland, and while there was a lull following yet another title in South Africa, he's right back on the bike now.

Over the course of the last couple of months, Noren has made a run at the World Match Play in Texas, contended until a poor Sunday at the Wells Fargo and finished 10th on his debut in the PLAYERS Championship at Sawgrass.

This is high-class form and Noren now gets to return to the European Tour, where he's been the dominant force in rank-and-file events over the last year and a half, winning once every three starts since last July.

Granted, this is a little more than rank-and-file, but Noren has two top-10 finishes and an under-par scoring average at Wentworth, where the swirling winds are not a bother to him, and with doubts around the market leaders looks a shade overpriced.

On those at the front of the betting, Justin Rose is fairly tempting at 14/1 as it'd be typical of the US Open and Olympic champion to finally win this title so soon after the heartache he endured at Augusta.

That said, he shot 80 in his last competitive round while friend and team-mate Henrik Stenson has played as badly as he ever plays recently, which alone is enough to avoid taking the plunge at the same sort of price.

Ian Poulter's Sawgrass second bodes well and he's playing with freedom now, but I'd be more tempted to chance Donald if you do want to side with experience. Three wins here must count for something and another near-miss at Harbour Town last month confirmed once again that he plays the same courses well so often.

But I want to focus on a perceived changing of the guard and, foolish though it may seem, am willing to ignore Thorbjorn Olesen's miserable record in the event.

So far, the Dane has made the cut once in six starts at Wentworth, where he's yet to so much as break 70, and to be frank his overall record in England is equally poor bar one Challenge Tour effort and a top-10 finish at the 2012 Open.

Those are the negatives. The positives are that Olesen is a four-time European Tour winner, who also has two team golf titles to his name, one of which came three weeks ago in the inaugural GolfSixes, held of course in England.

Silliness that may have been, but winning is winning and Olesen was clearly up for the challenge alongside friend Lucas Bjerregaard. Yes, the value of the form is of course questionable, but for Olesen it came on the back of a good fortnight in China, where he finished eighth and 31st and showed real control from tee to green.

When the Dane is on his game, he's up to winning any tournament on the European Tour and there's just no way he'd be 100/1 in this field were the event taking place on any other golf course. He is a fundamentally better player than all those around him who are in any kind of form and he's really good at winning, too.

Of course, this isn't any other course - it's Wentworth, one he just can't figure out. But all the quotes I've read suggest the changes made are fairly significant and that they are in favour of bigger hitters, so I'm willing to chance that they play into the hands of Olesen.

Also in his favour is the fact he owns a flat in London and just maybe that victory last time triggers an improved run of form close to his adopted home.

Posted at 2135 BST on 22/05/17.

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