European Stars In The Wilderness Ahead of U.S. Open
As Matteo Manassero became the youngest ever winner of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday, most of Europe’s top stars were licking their wounds following early exits from the European Tour’s flagship event.
Lee Westwood provided the only notable exception, entering Sunday as the favourite to lift the trophy, but a disappointing final round 73 meant the Englishman drifted back to a tie for ninth place.
Top-ranked European, world No. 2 Rory McIlroy missed the cut as a result of numerous uncharacteristic errors in his first two rounds. He was however in good company, with Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter also failing to reach the cut line.
Poulter made the most of his unexpected weekend off, taking in the Monaco Grand Prix, but his current form is a significant worry for the passionate Englishman.
Having missed the cut at both The Masters and the Players Championship, Poulter returned to Europe a couple of weeks ago in the hope of finding some form. A poor showing at the Volvo World Matchplay last week and again this weekend adds to his woes, and certainly does not meet the lofty expectations he sets for himself.
Having won the BMW PGA event in it’s last two stagings, Luke Donald will have surprised himself and others in missing the cut. A master tactician, Donald has everything that is required to win at Wentworth, and his game seemed to be firing on all cylinders as he approached the event.
An opening round of 78 made the task all but impossible for Donald, and a creditable 72 in horrendous conditions on Friday wasn’t enough to see him through to the weekend.
Graeme McDowell couldn’t match his Volvo World Matchplay form, as rounds of 74 and 75 sent him packing too. The fact that McDowell’s record at Wentworth is not great and following his victory last week, I’m happy to put this one down as a minor blip.
I expect McDowell and Westwood to be serious contenders at the U.S. Open in Merion in a couple of weeks time, but would be very concerned about the ailing form of both McIlroy and Poulter.
Manassero’s victory was essentially the only good news story in European golf in what has been a week to forget. Unpalatable comments from Sergio Garcia and George O’Grady got the week off to disastrous start, and the form of the Tour’s star players did little to boost morale ahead of the U.S. Open.