Gary Murphy column: Wentworth the ideal venue for start of cash rich Rolex Series – Gary Murphy

Wonderful Wentworth plays host to the start of the cash rich Rolex Series .

This is the second year of the lucrative, eight tournament series which was introduced 12 months ago with the stated aim of challenging the might of the PGA Tour.

Next week’s Italian Open, the French, Irish and Scottish Opens and November’s Turkish Open, Nedbank Challenge and World Tour Championship are all on the schedule.

The BMW PGA Championship has always been a flagship event for the European Tour – but now it boasts the added prestige of being a launchpad for the Rolex Series.

No better place. Wentworth is an iconic venue and is the perfect host for the biggest event on the European Tour calendar.

Swede Alex Noren stole the show last year when he fought from seven shots behind heading into the Sunday to close with a superb round of 62 and record a new course record.

Alex Noren

Organisers will be hoping for similar final day drama and high quality golf at this year’s event.

The Rolex Series is the brainchild of tour boss Keith Pelley who is eager to lure the world’s top players back to Europe and he deserves credit for that.

Last year’s premier series delivered on that score, with all eight winners – Noren, Fleetwood, Rahm, Cabrera-Bello, Hatton, Rose and Grace – ranked inside the world top-30.

Jon Rahm won twice at the Irish Open and DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Pelley’s grand vision sees the European Tour imitating or following in the footsteps of the cash laden PGA Tour and the $7m dollars on offer this week are proof of his ambition.

Wentworth has always been a crossroads tournament for any player’s season.

As well as the money on offer, in terms of prestige the BMW PGA is a European version of The Players and the tournament the guys most want to win outside their own national opens.

The big names on show this week – including 8/1 favourite Rory McIlroy – won’t be fazed by the elevated stage, but the cash on offer is a game changer for the chasing pack.


Players struggling for traction in the rankings have most to gain and a productive week could set them up for the season.

The Rolex Series represents boom time for the European Tour and with the amount of prize money on offer, guys daren’t fall off the gravy train.

That brings pressure, particularly for those struggling for form, but fear is something you cannot afford to carry around Wentworth’s West Course.

That’s why marquee players with big game experience boast a huge advantage at these events – something that was reflected in last year’s list of Rolex champions.

With Ryder Cup points also on offer, there’s a lot at stake in Surrey.

Robin Dawson was fantastic in Down

Robin Dawson produced a stunning wire-to-wire display at Royal County Down to win the Flogas Irish Amateur Stroke Play Championship.

I was fortunate to play the iconic Newcastle course last week on the Flogas media day and it really is a stunning golf course.

Apart from some blustery winds on the Sunday, the brighter, benign weather allowed the players to showcase their talents and Dawson capitalised in style, leading from start to finish.

The Golfing Union of Ireland is currently very proactive in providing our top amateurs with the best possible avenue to the paid ranks and they deserve credit for taking a long-term view.

High profile strokeplay events on top level courses will help identify the next wave of potential stars and there’s no doubt Dawson, above, showed he is capable of playing at the top level.

The Tramore golfer did suffer a wobble on Sunday, but he effectively had the tournament won, so it’s possible he was lulled into a false sense of security.

It was a valuable lesson to stay focused for 72 holes.

I like the fact he has the game to punch low numbers and I look forward to tracking his progress over the summer.

The future looks bright for him.

Paul Dunne targeting another big week

Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan of Ireland

Paul Dunne will be targeting another big week on British soil at the BMW PGA Championship.

Dunne is the last Irish player to celebrate a win at a UK strokeplay event when his stunning final round 61 at Close House delivered the British Masters in October.

He also lifted the GolfSixes team title alongside Gavin Moynihan in St Albans a fortnight ago.

Most of our Irish players grew up watching these tournaments on TV, so teeing up at them is living the dream.

Dunne, left, has enjoyed an impressive record in Britain from leading at the Open at St Andrews in 2015 to his recent successes.

He’ll be keen to make another positive impression, not only for the €5,869,535 prize fund but the Ryder Cup points on offer.

His improvement with a driver should help as Wentworth rewards accuracy off the tee.

Here’s hoping he can deliver at odds of 25/1.

Tommy Fleetwood of England reacts

BMW PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Tommy Fleetwood – 12/1 EW

On both paper and recent form, the World No12 is the best player in the field.

Paul Dunne – 25/1 EW

I’m backing Dunne to produce another statement UK performance this week.

Andy Sullivan – 33/1 EW

Recent consistency – five top-20s in his last seven outings – could deliver a win.

FORT WORTH INDIVIDUAL

Matt Kuchar – 30/1 EW

Likes the course and I expect a big reaction to last week’s MC at the Byron Nelson.

Bill Haas – 125/1 EW

Slowly getting back to form after tragic car crash that killed his friend in February.

Sam Burns – 125/1 EW

Huge talent won recently on Web.com Tour and is capable of a big week in Texas.

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