Stephen Gallacher says PGA switch from May to autumn is a Wentworth winner
Stephen Gallacher reckons a decision to move the BMW PGA Championship from May to a new autumn slot is a Wentworth winner all round.
The schedule switch has benefitted both the course at the Surrey venue and also the field for the European Tour’s flagship event.
World No 2 Rory McIlroy heads a star-studded line up that also includes Open champion Shane Lowry and American aces Patrick Reed, Tony Finau and Billy Horschel.
“The course is excellent, probably the best I’ve seen it,” said Gallacher, who first played in the event in 2000 and every year since then. “I think the change in season has helped it. It’s more green, the greens are firmer and it is going to be some tournament.
“You only need to look at the field to see the move has been better for the event. The field is fantastic. I think it has slotted in perfect with the end of the US season. We’ve got a few of the guys from that tour over playing this week and next week as well. I think it has benefitted from the change in all aspects, to be honest.”
Gallacher was still cutting his teeth in golf when he first visited Wentworth during his uncle Bernard’s spell as the club’s head professional.
“I used to come and watch him in this event here when I was 10 or 11. I also used to come and watch the World Match Play,” he added.
“It’s a totally different course now. Every time you come back they’ve made changes. They are subtle but all for the good. I wouldn’t touch it again now. I think it is perfect.
“You’ve got to shape it. You’ve got to control the flight if the wind gets up and becomes swirly. You’ve got to hit it high due to the greens being firmer and stopping it on them.
“There’s maybe more of an onus now to be coming into them from the fairway due to them being firmer. They can be tricky enough to hit as they are a bit slopey. It is just a great test.
“You can’t bluff it round here. You’ve got to play well for most of the week.”
Since landing his fourth European Tour win in the Hero Indian Open earlier in the year, Gallacher has struggled to hit top form. He’s sitting 83rd in the Race to Dubai and has a fight on his hands to get into the final three Rolex Series events of the season in Turkey, South Africa and Dubai.
“I’m playing the next six weeks to try and get myself into the Final Series events,” he said. “They are six brilliant events on great courses and it’s something I’m really looking forward to after having a little break.
“We’ve got some tough and demanding courses coming up and I thought to myself, the fresher the better.
“You have to play well on this course as it doesn’t let up. The Dunhill can also be tough, as is Le Golf National in Paris and the one in Italy as well.”
Along with Gallacher, Catriona Matthew has flown the flag for Lothians golf around the world over the past 20 years. They co-hosted an event for Edinburgh Audi, one of Gallacher’s current sponsors, a few years back and Gallacher was delighted to see Matthew leading Europe to victory in the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles last weekend.
“I was over the moon for her,” he said. “She got a wee bit stick over her Suzann Pettersen pick. She’s quiet a character, quite unassuming.
“She’s a great ambassador for Scottish golf and for it to end like that was unbelievable. For it to come down to the last putt and for it to be Suzann was amazing and she looked so cool.
“Catriona did a great job as captain by all accounts. So much so that they are talking about her doing it again in 2021, which shows how well she did last week. It is the players that will get her the job.”
Gallacher, who was at Gleneagles earlier in the year for the Paul Lawrie Invitationa, said of the PGA Centenary Course: “It looked brilliant. I know Craig Haldane, who is in charge of the courses, quite well and what a job he did.”