Chris Wood limps home at Wentworth for biggest career win

Englishman grinds out tense victory with Danny Willett finishing two strokes adrift

In a picture postcard setting, where a peek through the hedgerows reveal pristine rose gardens of those millionaires who live in this stockbroker belt estate on the outskirts of London, it was entirely fitting that an Englishman should triumph in this latest edition of the BMW PGA Championship on the West Course.

The identity of the newest champion of this old tournament, though, was the real surprise. Not old warhorse Lee Westwood. Not US Masters champion Danny Willett. Certainly not Justin Rose, on-site to conduct a Q&A in the tented village but who didn't hit a single shot in anger due to a back injury.

No, as others wilted on a course where the greens crusted-up and a wind whistled through the trees to make players question their club-selection and to require creative shot-making, Chris Wood was the Englishman to warm the cockles of the hearts of packed galleries. Wood shot a final round 69 for nine-under-par 279 to claim the biggest title of his career, finishing a stroke clear of Sweden's Rikard Karlberg with Willett alone in third.

The 28-year-old Bristol man’s third career win on the European Tour - the others came in the Qatar Masters in 2013 and the Austrian Open in 2015 - earned him a cheque for €833,330 and pitched him into position to earn a debut appearance in the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine come September. It also moved him into the world’s top-25 and up to fifth in the Race to Dubai standings.


Out in a mere 29 strokes, and four strokes clear after a birdie on the 11th, the enormity of what was unfolding led to tightened muscles and a fuzzier mind. In the end, he limped home. Wood bogeyed the 14th, 16th and 17th holes and then - discovering clarity - was as conservative as could be on the Par 5 18th. Reachable in two for most, Wood hit fairway wood off the final tee and followed with a sand wedge lay-up and a gap wedge approach to 30 feet. Two putts for par later, and an emotional Wood had sealed the deal.

Wood, who didn’t look at leaderboards, had 208 yards to the flag from the fairway. “I fancied it, it was only a six-iron but there’s no margin of error,” he remarked. But his caddie told him not to. “As soon as he told me to lay-up, I knew (par) five was enough.” He followed his bagman’s instructions to a tee.

On a beautifully dry day, with a sufficiently strong crosswind on the homeward run to make players question themselves, the contrasts in scoring were remarkable: for instance, Karlberg - who had a hole-in-one on the second - produced a closing 65 for 280, eight-under, to leapfrog up 26 places into second; whilst overnight leader Scott Hend, of Australia, had a day to forget as he crumbled to a 78 that plunged him down to 15th place.

For Graeme McDowell, the only Irish player to survive the cut, a final round 72 for a one-under-par total of 287 left him in tied-27th (€45,250). It was a grind, the two standout departments of his game - driving and putting - deserting him: he found only nine of 14 fairways in the final round and took 30 putts.

“I drove it like a muppet! It is the worse I have driven the ball this year by far. This course does that to you, it doesn’t give you a lot of opportunity to hit driver on the front nine and then all of a sudden the back nine is into the wind and you have to hit driver. I drove it awful,” remarked a candid McDowell, whose next competitive outing will be at the US Open in Oakmont next month.

That the greens here will be bulldozed and rebuilt, starting next week, won’t bring any regrets to G-Mac. “Bring it on,” said McDowell, adding: “This is such a special event. We all know how weak this field is, but you’ve only got to look at (the crowds) that come to this tournament. It is class.

“Let’s get the course right and get the big players back here and let’s get the Americans over here and turn it into the Players of Europe. The (Tour) are really close, they’re on the cusp . . . it is such a well supported tournament on a lot of levels, if they get the course right and get the greens right. I wish them well.”

Keith Pelley, the chief executive of the European Tour, backed the upcoming redesign work. "I'm confident what (owners) Reignwood have planned will bring this back to the Harry Colt design and the Harry Colt magic that once made this the place where players want to play. (It) is majestic and has an aura that is simply outstanding. We have every intention to be at Wentworth for a long period of time."

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times