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BMW PGA Championship. Manassero Magic.

Matteo Manassero produced some magic when winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in a play-off that lasted for four holes on the famous West Course.

Tight battle: It took four play-off holes for Manassero to emerge the victor

Matteo has become the youngest player ever to win the BMW PGA Championship with his thrilling victory at the Wentworth Club. The 20 year-old Italian was tied at -10 under par with Englishman Simon Khan, a winner here in 2010, and Scotland’s Marc Warren at the conclusion of regular play.

On the first play-off hole, Marc put his tee shot into the tree’s down the 18th and was subsequently eliminated. Matteo and Simon halved the par 5 eighteenth twice more before Matteo stepped up to birdie the hole at the fourth attempt, for his dramatic win. Simon unfortunately put his second shot into the water, while Matteo found the green in two on the par five, and then had a two putt birdie.

Two Spaniards finished tied in fourth place, Miguel Angel Jimenez and the overnight leader Alejandro Canizares finished the tournament at -9 under par, agonizingly just one shot from the play-off.

Lee Westwood had held a two-shot lead after his birdies on the second, third and fourth holes, but he followed that with a very disappointing back nine performance of 40 , and finished joint ninth at -7 under par.

Fell away: Despite early good form, Lee Westwood barely made the top 10 at Wentworth

 

Lee Westwood wilted under the pressure on the back nine.

BMW PGA Championship. Cañizares Claims Lead.

Alejandro Cañizares has claimed the lead after the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, played on the West Course at the Wentworth Club in England.

Alejandro Canizares   (Getty Images)

Alejandro Cañizares / Getty Images.

Alejandro Cañizares has a one shot lead at the BMW PGA Championship, shooting a third round of -4 under par 68, and claimed top spot of the leaderboard. He had been taken ill on the flight from Korea to China and had to withdraw from the Volvo China Open, being diagnosed with viral meningitis. He came here with little ambition;

” This week I was just happy to be able to swing the club,  after the practice round on Tuesday I felt really tired because it was the first 18 holes I had walked in three weeks. I had no idea how I was going to feel so I am very pleased that it’s working out for me. Every now and then I get a little weird feeling in my head, but the doctors say that is normal.”

Sitting right behind him on the leaderboard is Lee Westwood, his third round score of -5 under par 67 has put the Englishman firmly in contention for this title. This his first tournament in England since his move to Florida in the States, and this is his 20th attempt at winning the BMW PGA Championship. Lee thinks it would be ironic if he won now;

” I’m still far from holding the trophy but it would be ironic,  it would be great and I am after as many wins as I can get, but it’s a crowded leaderboard and I will have to play as well if not better than I did today. I felt much more in tune with my swing and had a lot better distance and direction control with my irons and set up a lot of chances. It was one of the most fun days I have ever had on a golf course. It was good to see a lot more smiling faces and a lot more people prepared to take their hands out of their pockets and applaud. I get great support here but even more so today.”

Matteo Manassero (69) and Mark Warren (70) share third place on seven under par, Mark said it would be huge for him to win:

” It would be huge to win, this is our premiere event, this is the biggest event we play outside the Majors for us, it doesn’t get any bigger. Career-wise it would mean the world to me.”

Sergio Garcia, who has had a rough time with the media this week, has enjoyed the support of the crowd at Wentworth, and thinks he could finish strongly tomorrow, he is in a group of eight players just four shots off the lead:

“I think it’s been a tough week but we’ve been getting better every day, so hopefully we can finish on a high note tomorrow. There’s no doubt that everybody has made it so much easier for me. The crowds here, I don’t have words to explain what I feel towards them. They have been amazing, every single tee, every single green, cheering me on. I can never pay them back.”

BMW PGA Championship. Francesco Molinari Leads at Wet Wentworth.

Francesco Molinari leads at the BMW PGA Championship after the conclusion of the second round at the Wentworth Club on the West Course.

Francesco Molinari   (Getty Images)

Francesco Molinari / Getty Images

On a wet and cold second day at Wentworth Francesco Molinari leads the BMW PGA Championship by just one shot after his second round of -4 under par, for a tournament total of -6 under par.

Francesco is happy to be at t he top, but is under no illusions as to how hard it will be to stay there on this difficult West course;

” I’m really happy with yesterday and today. The conditions were quite tough but I hit the ball well and the putter is working well so I am really happy at the moment. Six under is a good score given the conditions, I live over here now so I am used to it,  and I’m in a great position going into the weekend, but it’s a really tough course so anyone six or seven behind is still in it.”

Tied in second place is George Coetzee, at -5 under par, the South African has fared better than his compatriot James Kingston, who topped the leaderboard yesterday but collapsed today with a second round 77. Ten shots worse than his 66 of yesterday, he now has a tournament total of -1 under par.

Joining George at -5 under par are Alejandro Cañizares, Marc Warren and Mark Foster.

Lee Westwood is lurking at -3 under par and thinks he could be dangerous if his short game keeps improving, and his long game comes together;

 ” My short game’s been red-hot. I played some nice pitches and walking off the back of the 12th green, where I pitched to about four feet, Ernie said ‘Bit of a short-game wizard now.’ I also got up and down on 18 after hitting it in the hazard and those sorts of things can make a big difference to your week and going into the weekend with momentum. If my long game starts to come together, I could be dangerous.”

Lee’s Ryder Cup team-mate Luke Donald made a premature exit in his bid for a hat-trick of titles and fellow heroes of the Miracle at Medinah also made an early departure from The European Tour’s Flagship Event, with Rory McIlroy (75), Graeme McDowell (75), Ian Poulter (76) and Paul Lawrie (72) all joining Luke in missing the halfway cut.

BMW PGA Championship. Play Suspended, Kingston Claims Lead.

 

Play in the first round of the BMW PGA Championship has been suspended due to darkness on a dramatic opening day on the West Course at Wentworth Club. Currently James Kingston of South Africa has claimed the lead.

 

James Kingston   (Getty Images)

James Kingston / Getty Images

James Kingston has completed his first round at the BMW PGA Championship with a leading score of -6 under par, 66 at the Wentworth Club in England.

A 90-minute delay at Wentworth, due to the threat of lightning meant the last group, who had only just then teed off, could not complete the course in daylight hours. They will return early on Friday morning to complete their first rounds, and with second round tee times unchanged, all should go smoothly.

In second place is Mikko Ilonen at -5 under par, with Scott Henry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño a shot further back at -4 under par. All of these players have completed their rounds.

Also at -4 under par is Austrian Martin Wiegele, Martin has only completed 13 holes, so has a chance tomorrow of climbing further up the leaderboard. There were five groups still on the course when play was suspended.

James recieved an invitation to play in this event, he lost his card for the Tour and currently has to survive on these kind of opportunities. He was feeling pretty upset about losing his Tour card;

“I never felt like I played poorly enough to lose my card and that’s what makes it even more frustrating. I felt like I played half decent throughout the whole season, but just never managed to put a score on the board. It does make it a little harder to accept. Getting an invite into this event, what a great feeling to be back here. I think I’ve made the most of it today.”

Mikko was happy to survive in the very cool Wentworth temperatures;

” It was pretty nippy when we started and stayed that way, “all day I was thinking ‘Can I get these waterproof trousers off?’ and never managed it. We even had hail on the ninth tee. I said to a friend last night it was going to snow today and she laughed at me. It’s British summer and we have proof of that.”

Scott Henry, who graduated from the Challenge Tour last season, only found out he was in the tournament as he boarded a flight from Madeira on Monday morning. He is another player who has grabbed an opportunity, and played well;

“It was nice to see my name on the leaderboard on the back nine, it was a bit surreal. I was pretty nervous this morning, it’s a big tournament and the first time I have been here. It’s a great test of golf and for the first time this year I could put everything together.”

All but one of last year’s victorious Ryder Cup team are in the 150-man field, but several of them fell victim to the closing stretch at Wentworth Club’s famous West Course.

Justin Rose at even, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, last weeks winner started with rounds of 74, Ian Poulter 76 and Luke Donald 78.

 

Joburg Open, 1st Round. Sterne and Kieffer Lead.

Richard Sterne   (Getty Images)

Richard Sterne / Getty Images

Richard Sterne and Maximilian Kieffer lead the Joburg Open with fabulous first rounds of -8 under par of 63 on Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s par 71 West Course. Both players now face three rounds on the tougher par 72 East Course, but Richard knows this course pretty well, the South African had a victory here in 2008, the five-time European Tour winner said:

” I had three good rounds around the East Course that year. If I can do that now I’ll have a chance on Sunday.”

Richard suffers from a dodgy back, which held him back during the last two years, he said he never knows when its going to be good;

” Some days it feels good and everything kind of happens, golf is strange, you’ve got to hit the right kind of shots at the right time. I hit 17 greens today, so I was never really in trouble at all.”

Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer continued the impressive start he has made to his rookie year campaign, having already finished tied for fourth in Durban and tied for 17th in Dubai. Maximilian said he enjoyed his great first round here;

” When you come from the Challenge Tour everyone says that you have enough to play out here, but you still want to prove it. It’s a new world and you don’t really know what to expect, so I’m happy that it went pretty good so far. That round was great,  I’ve been playing well the last few weeks and I just tried to stay positive on the golf course, and luckily today was another good round.”

Bryce Easton of South Africa, had a hole-in-one on his way to posting the best round on the tougher East Course, a 65, which gave him third place on -7  under par. Speaking about his hole in one, Bryce said;

” It’s one of those things, you don’t think about it when you’re playing the hole, but when it goes in it takes a couple of seconds to realise that it’s actually disappeared.”

The defending champion Branden Grace, and two-time winner Charl Schwartzel also played on the East Course on day one, but while former Masters Tournament winner Charl opened with a four under 68, Branden could only produce a level par 72.

BMW Championship at Easy Wentworth.

Drysdale dodges damp ending to lead with Lawrie

David Drysdale (Getty Images)

David Drysdale and Peter Lawrie both shot first round 66′s, for -6 under par on the first day of The BMW Championship at Wentworth. The Championship is being played on the West course, recently revamped by Ernie Els to make it easier to play, because he said some aspects of the old course were “unfair”. Since when has golf meant to be fair, if Ernie thought it was too difficult now  he should have tried to play it with old style clubs. It would appear that he has eased the difficulty a little too much, with two opening rounds of 66 and they were followed by five rounds of 67 and a further 13 rounds of 68.

David Drysdale used every trick in the book on the way to his 66, including a Barnes Wallis shot, bouncing the ball over the water on the eighteenth hole and achieved a birdie. He said of his magical shot;

 “You could hit 1,000 balls and never have it happen. I don’t know what it hit, maybe a fish. It was a massive break. I don’t think I can say what I would have thought if I had taken six or seven there.”

 Co-leader Peter Lawrie said:

“I played so well in practice that I was kind of very nervous starting out. I missed a couple coming in, but 66 can’t be sneezed at. The course is set up great for me, I’m not one of the longest hitters on Tour, but one of the straightest. You have to very patient and I’m quite a patient person. My wife wouldn’t believe that, but I am on the course!”

Luke Donald was one of the finishers tied at 68 with his -4 under par round, which included to bogies. Luke  has the chance to join Sir Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie as the only players to make a successful defense of The European Tour’s flagship event.

Justin Rose achieved his score of -5 under par, 67, after fearing he might have to withdraw before the round.

“An hour before my tee time, I thought: ‘I can’t play’. I guess it was some sort of vertigo, I was nearly falling over and was sitting in the doctor’s chair for a while. He gave me an anti-nausea or something and did a good job getting me ready. I felt fine all the way round.”

Lee Westwood managed to get round in -2 under par, 70, despite not even playing his B game. He remarked;

 “I didn’t have anywhere near my A-game and not even my B-game really.”

Lee’s play-off defeat to Donald 12 months ago cost him the World Number One position, was delighted with the days score in the circumstances.

Two big names who missed out on the day were Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell who both had rounds of  +2 over par, 74′s, and could not have been best pleased with their efforts on the day. Rory even managed to get out of bounds, albeit by only an inch as he ran up a six on the long par five 12th hole, the last of four bogeys in five holes and a double bogey at the 16th was to follow.

Ernie Els thinks the West Course at Wentworth should be easier.

Ernie Els thinks the West Course at Wentworth was too hard, and unfair, he has redesigned it over the last twelve months to make it easier. He is now predicting that the winning score will be in the double digits at the BMW PGA Championship this week. Els said;

“The scoring is going to be better I think 14, 16 under is going to be the winning score again. Hopefully we will have more smiling faces from the players this year.”

Ernie Els  (Getty Images)

Ernie Els (Getty Images)

Among the changes is the 12th hole which has reverted back to a par 5, measuring 531 yards. A bank on the approach to the 15th hole has been flattened, and there is now a fringe which has been allowed to grow on the right of the 17th to slow any errant shots, which normally would have rolled down the slope. Personally speaking I thought that in golf, errant shots deserved to be punished. Ernie spoke about the changes to the 12th;

“The green was designed for a par five. It’s quite a severe green.”

Ernie was of the opinion that the bank on 15, as you approached the green over a bunker was “unfair” for players going in with a long iron and required a flatter area so the ball could pitch and stay on.

Changes to the 18th include removable of the big tree and the bunker on the right hand side, along with the raising of the fairway in the landing area and also now features a collar of rough around the green to make it less likely that a ball will spin into the water as happened in the play-off last year.

Most people are amazed that a golf course designer actually changes the normal layout, just to make it easier to play. Ernie spoke about the criticism;

“The way it was put forward the first year was a little childish, but hopefully we’ll have more smiling faces from the players this year. You make changes on a great course like the West Course people are going to not like it. That’s part of what we do as designers, but I think we’ve passed that bridge.  It’s history and we’ve patched things up with all the players. You’re not going to please everybody, but I don’t believe everybody should criticize just because there’s changes.”

The weather has played a part this year with head greenkeeper Chris Kennedy saying it was;  ” The most difficult build up I have ever known. March was the warmest and driest in 120 years and April was the wettest on record. Now May is shaping up to be the coldest in decades. We’ve had hail, white frosts and driving rain. It’s been so hard getting quality grass to grow.”

Not to worry too much Chris, the course is now so much easier to play. Incidently Chris did not make any comments regarding the changes to the course.

Luke Donald and BMW PGA Championship

Luke Donald is excited about playing in the BMW PGA Championship and cannot wait to defend his title at Wentworth Club next month. Luke rates this as the biggest tournament outside the Major Championships, and this is where he beat Lee Westwood in a play-off last year to not only claim the coveted trophy but rob his compatriot of the World Number One spot, a position Luke held on to for a total of 40 weeks. Luke spoke about his ambitions for this year;

“The BMW PGA Championship is the best event we play outside the Majors on The European Tour. Obviously the Majors come first. Those are the events I’m looking to try to win at the top of the list, but Wentworth isn’t far behind. For me it has a special, personal feeling too, because I grew up so close to it. I came as a kid a few times to watch and I have some special memories having won there as well. There’s a sentimental factor. I had a few wins last year, but I think Wentworth was the most fun and the most enjoyable because I got that World Number One ranking. It just all seemed to happen for a reason that week, at the flagship event of The European Tour, going against Lee who was World Number One and doing it in front of lots of friends and family. Especially having grown up just down the road, it was very special.  It’s a bigger event with the world class field that it attracts, and you always get up for those big events. I’m extremely excited to go back there and defend.”

“Who better to take down than the Number One player?” he said. “And the fact he happened to be British and English, that made that one much more satisfying.  If I’d been going against a lesser name, the win still would have been special, but in terms of going head to head with Lee, it was a special one. Right now we have so many guys who are ranked highly. We are always trying to get one over the other. We do have good relationships off the course, so on the course, certainly we are trying to beat each other.”

Last year's BMW PGA Championship was a truly special week for Luke Donald  (EuropeanTour)

Luke Donald (EuropeanTour)

Since then the World Number One title has seesawed between Luke and  Rory McIlroy, but the 34 year old knows that if he can produce a similar performance over Wentworth Club’s demanding West Course to last years super effort, he will return to the pinnacle of the Official World Golf Rankings. It would be a real boost for Luke to win at Wentworth, and return to the number one spot and I will be cheering him on, albeit from my TV armchair down here in New Zealand. Incidently, I too lived just up the road from Wentworth, used to drive past it everyday, but have never played there. Perhaps one day I will make it, its on my bucket list !!!

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