The BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth is both the preeminent event in the world this week while also serving as a nice warmup for the European Ryder Cup team. All 12 member of the European squad, fresh off a scouting trip to Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome on Monday, will tee it up at Wentworth on Thursday with all but Robert MacIntyre at shorter than 50-1 odds, according to SportsLine consensus, to win the event.
Obviously, the tournament is headlined by Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, by far the three best players in the field and winners of 13 events worldwide over the last 12 months; however, the European team includes the top seven favorites to win the tournament this week.
- Viktor Hovland: 13/2
- Rory McIlroy: 7-1
- Jon Rahm: 8-1
- Tommy Fleetwood: 12-1
- Matt Fitzpatrick: 16-1
- Tyrrell Hatton: 18-1
- Shane Lowry: 20-1
“As I said to somebody earlier, it’s an amazing month to have ahead of you,” Lowry said last week at the Irish Open. “Obviously, this week is our fifth major and … I do treat it like that, and then I’m defending at Wentworth, which is one of my favorite events.”
Last year, Lowry held off Rahm and McIlroy by one shot to win at 17 under, which, as far as ending to tournaments go, is up there. It also marked the second-to-last time Lowry finished in the top 10 in an event until his T3 last week in Ireland. He is finding form, it seems, at the best possible time for his teammates and the worst possible time for the U.S. side.
“Then buildup for the Ryder Cup the week after that,” said Lowry. “Yeah, it’s kind of dream stuff and something that I’m looking forward to the challenge the next few weeks, and very excited for what it could bring.”
There are other stories to follow, as well. Can Hatton find something after a bad missed cut in Ireland and a largely tepid run since this summer? Will Fleetwood capitalize on his great play with the biggest win of his career? Do three straight top 10s for Fitzpatrick lead to a victory?
How will Ryder Cup rookies Ludvig Aberg and Nicolai Hojgaard fare in their first starts since getting the nod from captain Luke Donald? Aberg is grouped with McIlroy and Hovland in Round 1, while Hojgaard gets Padraig Harrington and Victor Perez. They’ll both have a lot of eyes on them given the roles they’ll play in Rome here in a few weeks.
Further down the list, Sepp Straka and MacIntyre will be under some scrutiny this week, too. Straka was a captain’s pick, and his hot-and-cold run of golf is evidenced by the stretch seen below.
MacIntyre finished T50 at this event last year and is probably the player on the European side with the least firepower. That’s not to say he won’t be great in Rome, only that he is the least feared of the 12 from an American standpoint (which means he’ll probably win this week).
But the tournament — and most tournaments these days, possibly even including the Ryder Cup — rotates around those top three. That McIlroy has won the least of the bunch over the last 12 months should be telling given that he has been the second-best statistical player in the world during that span.
All three finished in the top five here last year. All three will be called upon over and over again for Europe at the Ryder Cup. All three have played arguably the best golf of their careers in 2022. It’s actually surprising that there is not more distance between Rahm at 8-1 and the fourth-shortest player in the field (Fleetwood at 12-1).
While all three will be among the heaviest hitters at Marco Simone when the festivities get underway in just over two weeks, it’s hard to imagine a better scenario for the Ryder Cup overall — other than maybe Justin Thomas winning the Fortinet Championship this week — than one of them winning once again going into Rome.
Whether that happens remains to be seen, but this is a tremendous opportunity for not just those three but all 12 European Ryder Cup golfers to get one last rip at a great golf course with a tremendous tradition before the 44th edition of the best team event in golf.