When the PGA Tour changed the tournament schedule last year, the BMW PGA championship at the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England, threatened to become a side issue because & # 39; the world's best golfers would probably have decided to stay in the United States to complete the tour.
But the changes to the PGA Tour brought the FedEx Cup playoffs from September to August, leaving a gap for the BMW. So the organizers moved the tournament from a busy May to September, allowing more top players to visit the BMW.
"It's weird," said Francesco Molinari last year after winning the second most prestigious event of the European Tour. "I have always played this tournament in May. I think I have probably played it 12 or 13 times, and always in May, so it will be a change. Hopefully we will get a stronger field than this year."
That is exactly what happened.
Now scheduled for Thursday to Sunday, the field includes more high-profile Europeans and a large number of Americans, some of whom would otherwise have missed the tournament.
Andrew Putnam, 30, is one of the Americans who plays the event for the first time.
"It's cool," he said in an interview last week. "I am still quite young and excited to travel to London – I never actually was. There is also the allure of playing against some of the best players in the world. It is definitely a reason for me to go there This was just a great opportunity. "
The crowded schedule translates into more flexibility, he said." Golf on the PGA Tour is such a year-long effort. We have so many events this fall that it was easy to skip one and go over it. "
The new schedule also allows Americans like Putnam to gain more experience during the European Tour.
" The European Tour has made it lucrative, attractive and easy for us Americans to go there and see different parts of the world, & Put 39 said, "I have the feeling that a few more guys are doing it this year, and still more will do it in the coming years.
"I love being there and playing in Europe to see and do new things," he said. “The prize money is good wherever you are. I think the fans are great to play for. I played the Scottish and British Open this year and had a lot of fun. It's a different feeling out there. It is a bit more relaxed than some of the PGA Tour events where it is a bit more of a show. "
This year's line-up also contains a deep field of talented Europeans.
" It has always been a week we emphasize planning, & # 39; said Molinari last week in an interview.
“It is the largest tournament outside of the majors in Europe. There is tradition. Yes, the field is better this year, but last year and the year before it was still the best field in Europe. I am really happy to see a few Americans and a few Europeans playing in America, but it always felt like an important event for me and all European players. "
Shane Lowry, who won the Open Championship this year, joins Molinari, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm and Paul Casey who win the Porsche European Open in Hamburg, Germany.
"The BMW PGA Championship is one of my favorite events," Lowry said when he announced he would play the tournament. "When I first played at Wentworth in 2010 I remember I couldn't believe how big it was. I felt like I was playing a major. I have had quite a success there, and I love the whole area.
With the transition from the traditional May slot to September, the tournament also marks the start of the qualification campaign for the 2020 Ryder Cup.
"Of course, Wentworth is also the beginning of the Ryder Cup qualification, and it has been no secret that my main goal is now for the next 14 months or so," Lowry said. "Hopefully I can play well, collect some Ryder Cup points and give a good run next year."
A band of Americans making their debut adds extra sparkle to the tournament. The players, including Patrick Reed, Billy Horschel, Tony Finau and Andrew Putnam, want to become the second American to win the event since Arnold Palmer won in 1975.
"It's great that this year's schedule changes mean we get the chance to come to Wentworth to play in the BMW PGA Championship for the first time," Horschel said in July when the Americans announced that they would play.
The popularity of Reed has increased enormously in Europe since he earned the nickname Captain America in his first Ryder Cup.The Masters champion of 2018 has an honorary membership in the European Tour, along with three other Americans: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson.
"I always like to play in Britain and the fans are always great, so it will be fun to play in the BMW PGA Championship for the first time , & Reed said in a statement. "Wentworth is an iconic location and it is one of the best tournaments on the European Tour, so I'm looking forward to it."
Graeme McDowell, a player from Northern Ireland, said the course was part of the draw of the tournament.
"This golf course was not a favorite among players, and they managed to really dig in this time and do well," McDowell said during last year's event. “The bunkers are great and the greens run spectacularly well. I think the European Tour flagship event requires a golf course that players appreciate, and I think we have it now. The golf course is as good in shape as I have ever seen. "
That's good news for newcomers like Putnam.
" It looks like the jobs I grew up in the Northwest – tree-lined left-type course, "he said." I look looking forward to playing jobs like that. "