Who’ll Win The 2018 Players Championship?
Golf fans might have to do without any Major action in May, but the golf action still promises plenty of excitement as the PGA Tour focus switches to The Players Championship, a tournament that is often considered golf’s fifth Major. Meanwhile, the European Tour also holds its flagship event the BMW PGA International at Wentworth, an event which also kick-starts this year’s Rolex Series.
Ryder Cup selection will also be on the minds of players on both sides of the Atlantic, and there should be tough competition is a whole host of other exciting events such as the Memorial Tournament and the Italian Open. The European Tour also launches two new initiatives in the Golf Sixes and the Belgian Knockout.
PGA Tournaments in May
Wells Fargo Championship (May3-6)
The Wells Fargo Championship was played at Eagle Point Golf Club last year as its usual venue was being prepared for use for a major. However, the 2018 tournament returns to Quail Hollow Golf Club, which hosted the event from 2003 to 2016. 11 of those 14 renewals were won by players from the US, with the only other winners being Rory McIlroy (twice) and Vijay Singh. Other winners include major winners Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, and Lucas Glover, though shock wins for James Hahn and Derek Ernst suggest the winner isn’t always easy to find. McIlroy heads a strong field this week, which also includes the likes of Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson.
The Players Championship (May 10-13)
The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most iconic courses on the PGA Tour thanks to the par-3 17th hole where thousands of fans park themselves for the day to watch the world’s best golfers try and hit an island green with a wedge or 9-iron. However, the whole course is a real test of a golfer’s skills. It’s not overly long, but finding fairways is a big plus when it comes to being in the right position to hit smaller than average greens that are tough to hit when the undersoil-drying system makes them firm and bouncy. There have been some high-profile winners in the last decade, with the likes of Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, and Sergio Garcia all winning The Players. However, this is a tournament that anyone who brings their A-game can win, with players from nine different countries winning this century. Interestingly, South Korea has been responsible for two of the last seven winners from only a small number of players.
AT & T Byron Nelson (May 17-20)
The AT & T Byron Nelson is one of the PGA Tour’s biggest charity fundraisers, and it has raised over $140Million since it began way back in 1944. It’s first three winners were the legendary trio of Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, and Ben Hogan. However, recent winners have been much harder to find. Those winners include names like Brendon Todd, Sang-Moon Bae, and Steve Bowditch, mixed in with a few more well-known golfers like two-time champion Sergio Garcia. However, past-form may be irrelevant this year as the tournament will be played for the first time at the Trinity Forest Golf Club, Texas.
Fort Worth Invitational (May 24-27)
The Fort Worth Invitational has been a PGA Tour regular since 1946 when the inaugural event was won by Ben Hogan, who also won the following year. It is hosted by the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. Only 2014 Champion Adam Scott has stopped a clean sweep for US Players in the last 10 years, and it’s interesting that four winners were winning the tournament for the second time this century. American winners who have won it once so far that could double-up include Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner, and Chris Kirk.
The Memorial Tournament (May 31- June 3)
The Memorial Tournament started in 1976 at the Jack Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village Golf Club. The winner also gets to shake golf’s best-ever player and all-round nice guy’s hand after the final hole. The nostalgia certainly wasn’t lost on Tiger Woods who has won the tournament five-times. Recent winners have been a real mix though with the likes of Justin Rose and Hideki Matsuyama winning, whilst there have also been breakthrough successes for the likes of David Lingmerth and William McGirt.
European Tour Events in May
Golf Sixes (May 5-6)
Golf Sixes is the latest innovation by the European Tour aimed at attracting new players to the sport, and it’s taking place at the Centurion Golf Club, St Albans, England. The tournament features a number of two-player teams from different countries like England, Spain, South Korea, France, and Australia, as well as novelty teams like the European Captains. LPGA professionals are also involved with women’s teams from England and Europe. Matches between teams take place over 6-holes, with Spain, Denmark, and France amongst the favourites.
Rocco Forte Sicilian Open (May 10-13)
The Sicilian Open was a new edition to the European Tour in 2011 and has since been played in 2012 and 2017. The last two renewals were held at the Verdura Golf & Spa Resort and were won by Thorjorn Olesen and Alvaro Quiros. The course is a links course, a fact which could help pinpoint the winner as Thorbjorn Olesen has plenty of links form to his name.
Belgian Knockout (May 17-20)
The Belgian Knockout is another new initiative by the European Tour, and this matchplay tournament will be hosted by Europe’s 2016 Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters. The young Belgian would be a popular winner but being the tournament host usually places too many demands on a player’s time off the course for them to be at the top of their form on the course. The tournament takes place at the Rinkven International Golf Club in Antwerp.
BMW PGA International (May 24-27)
The BMW PGA International is the European Tour’s flagship event and takes place at Wentworth Golf Club. The role of honour reads like a who’s who of European Golf, and includes Peter Alliss, Bernhard Gallagher, Tony Jacklin, Peter Oosterhuis, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, and Rory McIlroy. However, recent winners include Alex Noren, Chris Wood, and Byeong-hun An. The tournament is renowned for thrilling finishes, with winners often coming from well off the pace in the final round. It is also the first of this season’s Rolex Series Events.
Italian Open (May 31- June 3)
Golf fans don’t have to wait long for the second Rolex Series Event as the Italian Open follows the BMW PGA International in a two-week period which could play a big part in deciding who plays in the 2018 Ryder Cup team. Experienced European Ryder Cup Players are unlikely to have any advantage over their younger rivals this year though as the tournament moves to the Gardagolf Country Club for the first time. The tournament is likely to attract a classy field though as the prize money is equal to that offered at Wentworth.
European Ryder Cup Standings
The European Ryder Cup Team is starting to take shape, with the list of players who are currently in qualifying positions via the European Points List or World Points List comprising Tyrell Hatton, Justin Rose, John Rahm, Ross Fisher, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, and Alex Noren. The other four spots will be picked by Captain Thomas Bjorn, but players who look sure to be wanting to catch his eye soon include Paul Casey, Shane Lowry, Matt Fitzpatrick, Thomas Pieters, Rafa Cabrero-Bello, Alex Levy and Ian Poulter. Any of those players and several others are worthy of a place, so expect the competition to be fierce.