Wentworth – Rory McIlroy admits to having a weird relationship with the Wentworth course, but he will be hoping after a chastening experience at the Masters to rediscover a bit of his old sparkle at the PGA Championship.
The 29-year-old quadruple major champion, who looked well placed going into the final round to win an elusive Masters before his challenge fizzled out, makes his first appearance on European soil this year in a bid to win the prestigious title he claimed in 2014.
McIlroy is the major drawcard in a field that includes defending champion Alex Noren of Sweden and last year’s Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood.
“I’ve had a weird relationship with Wentworth,” said McIlroy in April.
“I had the win there back in 2014, but I haven’t really done much else.
“I think I had a top five back in 2009, but it’s been a place of high frustration for me so I’m looking forward to going back and trying to solve the puzzle again.
“At least I do have good memories there.”
The former world number one, who started the European Tour season with top three finishes in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is encouraged that his relationship with the course could be due a change because it has undergone a revamp since he last played it.
“I haven’t played there in a couple of years (he had a rib injury last year) but from what I’ve seen, with the new grass that they’ve put in, it looks a much better golf course, a much more playable golf course,” said McIlroy.
“It was always a great golf course but sometimes it could get very tricky with some of the lies you could get.
“For them to re-grass the place and for it to look as good as it does is great, and I’m looking forward to playing it.”
McIlroy carded a sublime 66 in his final round to win in 2014 – an annus mirabilis for him as he went on to win two majors, the British Open and the US PGA – but Noren bettered that in some style last year with an incredible round of 62 after beginning the day seven strokes off the lead.
Noren, who will tee off with McIlroy and veteran Lee Westwood, admitted he also had his issues with the course prior to his victory.
“It’s by far the biggest tournament I’ve won, and it would be unreal to defend it,” said Noren.
“I think it was a shock to me to win it.
“I played it ten times before last year and I always thought the golf course was not up my alley.
“I made it, in my head, a bigger tournament than it maybe is – it’s already huge and then I made it feel even bigger.
“I’ve watched the tournament since I was little, and then you get to play it, then you make the cut for the first time, so it’s always been a big tournament in my head and it was amazing to win it.”
Winning the PGA would all but guarantee the winner a place in the European team for the Ryder Cup later this year but Fleetwood for his part says that it would be a mistake to allow that to enter one’s thoughts.
“The Ryder Cup, for any of us, is a dream,” said Fleetwood.
“I’m desperate to play in the Ryder Cup, but the more you think about it and the more you put too much pressure on yourself to make it; if I was to go out and start on Thursday with a couple of bogeys and you’re thinking about the Ryder Cup in September, it’s only going to add pressure.”