Sports Betting Weekly

PGA Championship

When: Thursday, 21 May 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: Wentworth Club
With less than a month remaining before this year’s US Open takes place at Chambers Bay, Washington, the 61st edition of the BMW PGA Championship will give players the chance to build on their form and ranking positions going into the second major of the year.

Wentworth Club’s West Course has held the event annually since 1984 – when the scheduling of the tournament was changed to make Wentworth the host every year – as it had previously been shared among a variety of courses, with Wentworth being just one of several destinations.

Wentworth was one of the first golf and residential developments and the West Course underwent a £6.5m renovation after it was purchased by Richard Caring in 2005 – a renovation which was designed by South African professional, Ernie Els.

The course is known for being tight and tree-lined, but much of it was redesigned, with the new look including a new moat and elevated green at the 18th hole, which caused controversy among Els’ fellow professionals, as Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter were among the critics of the changes.

World number one Rory McIlroy will be aiming to defend the title that he won last year after coming back from seven shots behind overnight leader, Thomas Bjorn, to capture the tournament with a final round 66, which put him one stroke ahead of runner-up Shane Lowry.

The Northern Irishman’s tournament victory last year kick-started a run of form that saw him win the Open Championship at Hoylake in July, before going on to win the USPGA Championship at Valhalla in August to take his total of career major wins to four.

The 26-year-old goes into this year’s event on the back of winning the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina last week – which he secured with a tournament record score of 267, placing him seven strokes ahead of joint second-placed Patrick Rodgers and Webb Simpson.

The win marked his third tournament victory of the year, following his first place finishes at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club in January and the WGC-Cadillac Match Play earlier this month, and he has made six top 10 finishes in his last eight PGA Tour starts.

McIlroy was unable to complete the career grand slam at the US Masters at Augusta in April, as his fourth-place finish saw him place six shots behind champion, Jordan Spieth. With no other players in the world’s top five set to take part, however, McIlroy is the tournament favourite at 11/4.

Running in second behind McIlroy on the list of favourites is England’s Justin Rose, who has managed three top 10 finishes from the 11 PGA Tour events he has played in this year. Home supporters have also become used to seeing English players win the event since the turn of the century, as the BMW PGA Championship has been won five times by a native golfer in that time.

Despite finishing tied 37th at the Shell Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston in April, Rose then went on to finish tied second at the US Masters – his best result in a major since winning his maiden major at the US Open in 2013 – before winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana.

His success in New Orleans marked his seventh win on the PGA tour and kept alive a run of winning PGA events in each of the last six years. A 22-under-par total of 266 was enough for Rose to take the title, which included a weather-disrupted final round of 66.

The world number six has failed to make the cut in four PGA Tour events this year, the most recent of which being his last appearance at the Players Championship earlier this month.

Statistics in certain areas of Rose’s game make for contrasting reading, as his birdie average of 4.29 is the sixth highest on the PGA Tour this year, and the same can be said for his sand save percentage of 65.38%. However, he is not placed in the top 100 for strokes gained from putting, as he is ranked at 101 with .005, while his driving accuracy percentage places him at 136 with 58.72%. Nevertheless, Rose is 10/1 to taste victory after the final round at Wentworth.

McIlroy and Rose’s positions as the top two favourites are outlined by the fact that the third favourite, Westwood, is currently placed at 27th in the world rankings. The Englishman goes into the event having failed to make the cut in two of his last four tournaments, including his last showing at TPC Sawgrass.

His previous appearance, which came at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, saw him record his only top 10 finish of the year so far, as he finished tied ninth, but punters could make a sizeable fortune should they successfully back the 42-year-old at 25/1 this weekend.

Luke Donald is yet another Englishman among the favourites, and he can take inspiration from his back-to-back tournament wins here in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

Donald’s successful defence of the title in 2012 made him the third player to win the event in consecutive years, after Sir Nick Faldo (1980-1981) and Colin Montgomerie (1998-2000).

Like Westwood, one top 10 finish has been the highlight of his year so far, which was achieved with his final position of seventh at the Honda Classic at PGA National Resort and Spa, Florida in March.

Despite his previous achievements at Wentworth, the world number 60 goes into this year’s event having failed to make the top 50 in four of his last five tournaments, missing the cut in two of them – including the US Masters – and is 28/1 to reclaim the BMW PGA Championship title.

Looking outside British players this weekend, Italy’s Francesco Molinari is the shortest-priced. Once again, Molinari is an outside favourite that has made one top 10 finish on the PGA Tour this year, and he has failed to reach the top 30 in any of his last three PGA Tour events.

The 32-year-old did, however, manage to record his most successful performance of the season at the Open de Espana last week, as he finished as runner-up behind James Morrison. You can bet on Molinari to finish first at Wentworth at prices of 28/1.

McIlroy’s position as favourite is one of such strength that you can even find a market on who will be the best-placed finisher when discarding the Holywood-born player.

Taking McIlroy out of the field brings Rose down to 8/1, Molinari down to 22/1 and you can also find Scotland’s Jamie Donaldson at 25/1.

McIlroy’s odds are lengthened to 11/2 in the market for first round leader, but he remains the favourite in that field, followed by Rose at 16/1, while Donald, Molinari and Westwood are all priced at 35/1.