Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy is hoping to draw on the memories of his famous win at Wentworth Club four years ago as he aims to secure his second BMW PGA Championship title, and his first on the Rolex Series, on his return to the event for the first time since 2015.
The Northern Irishman’s 2014 victory kick-started arguably his most successful season as he added the most recent of his Major titles – the 143rd Open Championship and the US PGA Championship – as well as the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, to an already spectacular CV.
With a victory on the US PGA Tour already under his belt this year, McIlroy is hoping that replicating the glory of that Sunday at Wentworth, during which he overhauled a seven-shot final round deficit, will lead to more success over a busy summer period.
Another returning former winner, Englishman Paul Casey, is confident of shrugging off a niggling back injury to add to his 2009 BMW PGA Championship victory, on the course where he dreamt of emulating his golfing heroes as a child.
Like both Casey and McIlroy, Ryder Cup legend Ian Poulter has also returned to winning ways on the other side of the Atlantic this year. As the qualification process for the 2016 edition of the biennial contest moves up a gear this week, with Ryder Cup points earned at European Tour events from now until Made in Denmark multiplied by 1.5 on both the World Points List and the European Points List, the Englishman is aiming for a successful week at Wentworth.
Rory McIlroy: “Four years ago seems like a long time ago. A lot has happened since then, but I still remember the final round and the stuff that I did, and hopefully I can draw on those memories this week.
“I guess all you need is that spark or that catalyst. I felt like my game was trending in the right direction in 2014 but didn’t quite have the win. On that Sunday, I was seven shots back going into the last day. I didn’t expect to win. I just wanted to go out and play a good final round.
“It did snowball from there and I got on to a nice little bit of a hot streak, and I’d love to be able to do something like that again. I’ve got a busy summer coming up. There’s a lot of big tournaments to play in. Still got three Major Championships and Ryder Cup, and everything else. So yeah, maybe this could be the spark that gets that all going again.
“I like the golf course. I think they have made some great changes. It’s definitely in the best shape that I’ve ever seen it in before. It’s shaping up to be a good week and I’m happy to be here. Did some good work in Florida last week on my swing and hopefully I can see some good signs with that over the course of the next few days as well.
“The positives this year have definitely been, well the win at Bay Hill was great. I think playing my way into the final group at Augusta was fantastic, as well, so they were real steps forward compared to, say, the last 18 months.”
Paul Casey: “I’m excited to be back. It’s great to be home. The fact that it’s where I grew up, right around the corner in Weybridge, this event is really one of the main reasons why I became a professional golfer, coming down here and watching Seve and Lyle and Woosie and Langer and all those guys when I was a kid growing up.
“Won twice around this great golf course. I’ve not seen the changes. Heard wonderful things. Seen the stature of this rise, even in the last couple years, how it’s grown now, with the Rolex Series. It’s got all the attributes for a great week. It has a special place in my heart, so yeah, I can’t explain how cool it is and how, touch wood, will be good for tomorrow to tee it up again.
“Working back, I had pretty good back pain starting at the Masters. It was significant at Hilton Head. Then got a lot of treatment. So fast forward to where we are, which is two weeks of therapy, basically. No disc issue. No other issues whatsoever. It’s just purely inflammation. And there was no trauma, nothing that caused it. It’s just frustration, that’s all it is, which is why I am excited and touch wood, go hit some golf balls after we’re finished here and there’s no pain and we just crack on and get on with it.”
Ian Poulter: “The golf course this week apparently is in the best condition it’s ever been. I thought the redo was a good one. It’s an impressive course. It always was. I’m very excited this year from what everyone’s been talking about in terms of the condition of the course.
“For me, it’s a golf course I haven’t had the results on through the years. It’s been extremely disappointing from my side not being able to force a decent finish. So, with the form I’ve got right now, I would like to think I’m coming in in the right frame of mind to be able to go out there and play well this week.
“I’ve got quite a bit of motivation to make the team again. I think Paris will be a fantastic Ryder Cup. I think the venue’s good. I think the team already is shaping up to be very strong.
“For me to have been Vice Captain last time around, to enjoy that for what it was, was great from an experience standpoint, but there’s nothing like playing. So for me to put myself in a position to be close now, and to have a big push this summer to try and make sure I make that team, it would be great. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”