CHARLIE MULQUEEN: Strong Irish charge can swing first Wentworth win in 54 years

The big guns of Irish golf will contest this week’s BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship tournament, at Wentworth.

With Rory McIlroy returning to action and Graeme McDowell and Pádraig Harrington showing decent form in Spain and Texas respectively over the weekend, there is optimism our dismal record in the event — Harry Bradshaw’s 1958 win, the sole Irish title — can be improved on this occasion.

Also in the field for the €4.5m tournament are Darren Clarke, Michael Hoey, Shane Lowry, Paul McGinley, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and David Higgins, the Waterville pro who qualifies as leader of the 2011 Irish PGA Region order of merit.

It is surprising the Irish haven’t done better in the PGA given the quality of players from these shores. It has been staged over the Burma Road layout at Wentworth since 1984 and produced an unusual variety of winners — such as major stars like Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Seve Ballesteros, Jose-Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, Angel Cabrera and the current holder Luke Donald — along with a number of “springers” including Mike Harwood, Tony Johnstone, Andrew Oldcorn, Scott Drummond and Simon Khan.

The standout names this week in addition to McIlroy, Donald and Lee Westwood (the current top three players in the world rankings) are Justin Rose, Ben Curtis, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Nicolas Colsaerts, winner of the Volvo World Match Play Championship on Sunday.

The European Tour, however, are disappointed that Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen, two of their marquee players, have opted to skip Wentworth in favour of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Fort Worth on the US PGA Tour.

While there’s more than €4.5m on offer, it isn’t a tournament of any particular prestige on the American circuit.

Nevertheless, it does boast the presence of the two current big names in the States, Matt Kuchar, recent winner of the Players Championship, and Jason Dufner, who claimed the Byron Nelson Classic in Texas on Sunday night. They have come rushing through the points list to stand 5th and 14th. respectively, in the world rankings.

The Byron Nelson event proved that Harrington is far from a spent force. He finished four under par in a tie for 15th, seven strokes behind Dufner but this time his putting was a lot more solid and was admirably consistent for the most part. He has improved five places in the world rankings to 90th but acknowledges his prospects of playing in a sixth consecutive Ryder Cup match in September are diminishing.

McDowell has also been rewarded for reaching the match play final at Finca Cortesin by moving up from 20th to 18th in the rankings.

He remains 8th in the Ryder Cup points list behind McIlroy, Peter Hanson, Kaymer, Paul Lawrie, Rose, Donald and Westwood and immediately ahead of Garcia and Colsaerts. McIlroy is still out in front in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai with 1,348,517 points, narrowly ahead of Rose (1,304, 837).

McDowell is up to 11th with (646,020); Michael Hoey, (323,255); Harrington, (234,512) and Damien McGrane, 43rd, (227, 462).


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