The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth may well have lost its status as the European Tour’s marquee event to the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, but that does not mean it is any less important for those taking part.
This year’s event is also unique as it marks the start of the European Tour’s brand new Rolex Series, which was announced by the tour’s chief executive Keith Pelley back in November.
The series features a minimum of seven events (starting at Wentworth) all with a prize fund of $7 million, except the final event (the DP World Tour Championship), which will boast a $8 million prize pool.
The idea is to bring golf fans closer to the world’s best players and increase the European Tour’s pulling power to prevent a host of the best players switching to the PGA Tour.
It is looking like paying off as early signs are very positive ahead of the PGA Championship at Wentworth in May.
The Surrey event is still one of the biggest events outside the Major tournaments (especially on the European Tour) and has drawn a strong field for 2017 after last year’s rather dismal turnout.
Headlining the event and already amongst the favourites to have a go at winning the title is 2016 Open Champion Henrik Stenson, who is currently priced at 20/1 with numerous bookmakers.
The popular Swede will step foot on British soil for the first time since winning the Claret jug after an intense dual with American Phil Mickelson and is guaranteed to generate a large following.
Also announcing his intention to play is 2016 Masters Champion Danny Willett. Sheffield-born Willett’s form may have dipped since claiming his first major title last year, but the 29-year-old is still a popular figure and deadly when on his game.
Another former Major Champion confirming his place is Justin Rose. The 2013 Open Champion was runner up at the Masters earlier this month and has been consistently in the world’s top ten for a number of years now.
“Rory McIlroy” (CC BY 2.0) by Andrew Campbell Photograph
The event will also be the first time the Englishman has played professionally on home soil since claiming gold for Great Britain at last year’s Olympic Games in Rio.
Rory McIlroy is returning to the line-up after famously skipping the event to rest in a bid to rediscover some form last year.
It certainly worked as three tournament victories followed for McIlroy throughout 2016, but the Northern Irishman is hoping to claim his second BMW PGA Championship title this time around.
It is not just the professional golfers to keep your eye out for, as a whole host of other sports stars will be taking part in a celebrity Pro-Am event the day before the tournament kicks off for real.
Former Manchester United players Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Peter Schmeichel will all tee off with McIlroy, while Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler will play with Thomas Bjørn.
It is not just football players that are getting in on the action, legends from the world of cricket will be teeing off in the Pro-Am including Kevin Pietersen, Sir Ian Botham and Brian Lara.
2016 may well have a been a disappointment for Wentworth but 2017 is shaping up to be the best yet.