BMW Championship: Naming rights vs tradition
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2005 BMW Championship | Preview | 25 May 2005
In what appears to have been a strange decision by the European Tour, the event known previously as the PGA Championship has become the BMW Championship. It is true that they have tagged the PGA Championship link in there somewhere as an add on, but in what seems a sell out to commercialism one wonders just how long the time honoured PGA Championship will retain its place in the event’s name. Surely the BMW PGA Championship would have been the way to go. I just don’t get it. After all this is the flagship of the European Tour outside of the majors and a time honoured event at that.
The British PGA Championship has had a naming right sponsor for many years. The Viyella, the Colgate, the Whyte and McKay and since 1988 the Volvo have all been naming right sponsors but now the event, instead of having the sponsor’s name tagged on to the event title it is the other way round. In fact in many media outlets it seems to be only known as the BMW Championship.
Congratulations to BMW for their continued support of golf both here and in Asia and the European Tour generally but let’s get things in their right perspective and allow the tradition that is the PGA to continue.
Putting that to one side however what a brilliant event. One of the best fields the event could muster is assembled. Three of the top ten in the world namely Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Padraig Harrington are here but so also are other USPGA Tour regulars in Luke Donald and Peter Lonard and the likes of Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, Lee Westwood, David Howell and Nick O’Hern. Nearly all the leading players are in form and the event looks, on paper at least, like being one of the most tightly contested in years.
Wentworth’s West course, or Burma Road as it is affectionately known, is a fine golf course, the reputation of which has been built around the staging of this event and the World Match Play Championship. Nestled amongst an exclusive and high priced housing estate near the Surrey village of Virginia Water, it is also home to the European Tour’s headquarters and once staged the Ryder Cup back in 1953.
There is an intimate atmosphere at Wentworth that players and gallery alike enjoy. All holes are stand alone and provide a feeling of privacy and intimacy when playing or spectating there.
The course was designed by the great Harry Colt who also designed courses such as Pine Valley, still considered the greatest course in the world, and the nearby Sunningdale.
Ernie Els, playing in his own backyard, is the favourite and why wouldn’t he be. He has won the HSBC World Match Play six times around here and although he hasn’t won this event, it’s a fair bet to assume that he just might. He was 10th in Dallas two weeks ago before heading for Monaco to watch the Grand Prix last week but his form prior included a 13 shot win in China.
Retief Goosen missed the cut at the Byron Nelson but played well in China and at Augusta prior. Goosen has had a mixed bag of form here at Wentworth over the years but there has been the occasional good effort.
Darren Clarke has been a regular good finisher here and is in good enough form to do well again. He played well in the US and then had solid weeks at the Daily Telegraph British Masters and the Nissan Irish Open. He is a bit hard to predict but if everything falls into place he can win this event.
Luke Donald is playing here for the first time in tournament golf but so talented is he that it should not make any difference. He is perhaps the most talented of all the current list of European golfers and as such he should figure somewhere here.
Padraig Harrington did well last week given that he has family illness and neck injury distractions. Wentworth and Harrington have not always seen eye to eye in the very few times he has played here however. He has copped a lot of criticism in recent years for not playing the event, preferring instead to play in the US in preparation for the US Open. It is nice to see such a quality European Tour player playing such a significant event.
Thomas Bjorn is in great form at present winning his last start at the British Masters, but also recording several other good finishes this season. He has not played this event all that well given his status as a player, but can boast a runner up placing here at the HSBC Match Play two years ago.
Peter Lonard is playing this week after two very good events in the US in the past month. He won the MCI Heritage before struggling with equipment issues at the Wachovia Championship but then bounced back last week at the Colonial to finish in a share of third. He has advanced to number 23 in the world ranking and compared to when he was playing the European Tour on a regular basis four years ago, he has now established himself as a world class player.
Angel Cabrera has often played well here in fact he has twice been runner up in this event. He played well last week when third at the Nissan Irish Open which suggests he might just do well again here this week.
Colin Montgomerie is a course specialist here with three PGA victories and one at the World Match Play. He is in reasonable form at present but perhaps not sharp enough to beat this field. This event represents his last chance to move back inside the top fifty from his current 53rd position and therefore gain a start at the US Open. That is an incentive in itself to do well although motivation, or lack of it, is not a concern for Montgomerie.
David Howell is overdue for a win but he has been for five years now and his previous form at Wentworth hardly suggests it will be this week.
Nick O’Hern keeps knocking on the door and the knock is getting louder and louder. His near miss at Royal Melbourne was followed by a marvellous week at the Accenture which included a victory over Tiger Woods, a 9th place at the MCI Heritage and then a share of 5th last week after the best round of the tournament on the final day. His efforts at Wentworth do a leave a little to be desired and that is the main concern here for him.
Of the other Australasians there are plenty. Michael Campbell, Richard Green, Brett Rumford, Peter O’Malley, Marcus Fraser, Terry Price, Stephen Scahill, Wade Ormsby, Peter Fowler, Peter Senior and Brad Kennedy all have a start.
The event carries prizemoney of €4 million or A$6.6 million.