Monday, April 26, 2010

Westwood & Co. at Wentworth

World Number Four Lee Westwood has confirmed he will play in the BMW PGA Championship next month, completing a powerful trio of Englishmen in the world’s top ten who are chasing victory at Wentworth Club. Ian Poulter, the 2010 WGC – Accenture Match Play champion and World Number Six, has also confirmed his participation in The European Tour’s flagship event from May 20-23 after an absence of two years while World Number Eight, Paul Casey, returns to defend the title he won in dramatic fashion last May.Westwood, who was runner-up to Phil Mickelson at the Masters Tournament earlier this month, had his best performance at Wentworth Club in 2000, when he was tied second behind Colin Montgomerie on his way to becoming European Number One for the first time. He has been in a rich vein of form in the past 12 months, winning the inaugural Dubai World Championship in November to be crowned Europe’s Number One for 2009. He also finished third in The Open Championship and the US PGA Championship last year, before going one better in the first Major of 2010after a brilliant performance at Augusta National. Westwood, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Saturday, is relishing seeing the extensive redevelopment to Wentworth Club’s iconic West Course, which has undergone major work over the last year following a redesign of all 18 greens by three-time Major Champion Ernie Els. “They have changed it dramatically and to be honest I welcome the changes because the way I usually play on the course has meant that I have never really had a chance around Wentworth. Any change is a good change for me,” said Westwood. “I think that we will now have an even stronger field for what is our flagship event and that can only be good for the tournament. I would love to win it – the world ranking points on offer are great and the prize fund is one of the biggest in the world and it is The European Tour’s most prestigious event.” Poulter returns to the West Course for the first time since 2007, having enjoyed a tremendous start to the year, finishing second in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January before going on to win the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February and finishing tied tenth in the Masters Tournament earlier this month. Those outstanding results have helped propel Poulter to the top of The Race to Dubai Rankings and he said: “I am delighted to be playing in the BMW PGA Championship again. It is a great Championship and I am looking forward to checking out the modifications to the West Course which Ernie has undertaken and I am sure the changes will be for the better.” Casey, who was beaten by Poulter for the the WGC – Accenture Match Play title in the first all-English final, is excited about returning to Wentworth Club as defending champion, having finally shaken off the rib injury which marred the second half of last season. “I know I’m going to have a good attitude about defending my title,” he said. “I’m intrigued to see what Ernie’s done and how the greens perform, but I know with these two par fives to finish we are going to have fun and excitement. Anything can happen, and that’s the beauty of Wentworth. “From the history, to the course, the clubhouse, the players…that is why everyone one of us playing on The European Tour wants to win. Just stand in the middle of the first fairway and look back at the tee and that famous clubhouse and it makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.” Another Englishman in the World top 20 – Luke Donald – has also entered for the sixth successive season. The 32 year old from High Wycombe, who has twice finished in the top three in the past three years, makes his first appearance on European soil since last November. However the World Number 19 has shown outstanding form in America this year and will be keen to add the BMW PGA title to his list of achievements. Ross Fisher, who played at Surrey’s Wentworth Club as a junior, is also in the field and hoping to improve on the second place he achieved in 2009 following a compelling final-round duel with Casey. Their compatriot Oliver Wilson, another who grew up in Surrey, will also play, and the 29 year old will hope to build on a promising start to the 2010 season which has yielded fifth place finishes at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters and the WGC – Accenture Match Play. Fisher said: “There is a sentimental element for me as well because I grew up there and it was a classic Harry Colt course so it will be quite strange for me. “Behind the Majors and WGCs the BMW PGA is the one that I would most like to win. You just have to look at the history of the course, the past champions and then, of course, my own history of growing up there. It would be a very nice title to win.”

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