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Stephen Gallacher: BMW PGA Championship is perfect team-bonding opportunity for European Ryder Cup team

Absence of American Ryder Cup players is a surprise, writes Press and Journal columnist Stephen Gallacher.

Shane Lowry won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last year. Image: PA
Shane Lowry won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last year. Image: PA

The stars are out for the flagship event of the DP World Tour, including the entire European Ryder Cup team, for this week’s BMW PGA Championship.

Playing here at Wentworth remains one of my favourite weeks of the season and it’s brilliant to be back for this week’s tournament.

It’s what I would call a mad busy week. The pro-am was huge and it’s so busy here that it is a week where you always need to get your practice in early.

It’s remarkable to consider European captain Luke Donald and all his vice-captains, with the exception of Jose Maria Olazabal, are taking part along with every player on the team.

Putting this event to one side for a minute, the chance for Luke to have his team together after everyone has been out to Marco Simone earlier in the week together is a fantastic team-building opportunity.

Absence of American Ryder Cup players is surprising

Billy Horschel is spending a month in Europe. Image: PA

It was interesting to hear Billy Horschel question why more Americans did not use the chance to come and play here.

This is our equivalent of The Players Championship and there is a stellar field here so I can understand where Billy is coming from.

He admits to having overlooked our tour in the past but after making the decision to come and play in this event four years ago he’s been a regular visitor and supporter of the tour since.

We’ve won him over so much that he has basically mapped out a month of golf here which began with the Irish Open last week and culminates with the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland at the beginning of October.

A chance to play on a top course against the leading players this close to a Ryder Cup should, you would think, be an enticing prospect for the likes of Scottie Scheffler who hasn’t played a competitive round since the final day of the Tour Championship on August 27.

Tom Hoge, who I played with at the Irish Open on Sunday, feels like this is a great chance to pick up ranking points which is why he’s in the field this week.

DP World Tour schedule should appeal to PGA Tour members in 2024

The introduction of ‘The Back 9’ on the DP World Tour schedule next year might help attract more PGA Tour players across.

The run from September to October features nine of our most historic tournaments and national opens and should be appealing to guys after the FedEx Cup has concluded.

I know the American lads on the US Ryder Cup team were also out to Italy for a recon trip last week but having made the flight to Europe I would have thought one or two might have fancied hanging around for a week.

But we’re just a few weeks away from the match now and everyone has their own way of preparing for a big week.

Irish Open delivered once again

Vincent Norrman poses with the trophy following his Irish Open win at The K Club. Image: PA

As an appetiser for this week the thrilling conclusion of the Irish Open on Sunday certainly whetted the appetite.

It’s hard to sum up what unfolded. Depending on who you were following it was either spectacular or outrageous.

The former certainly applies to our deserving winner in Vincent Norrman.

He played the best golf of anyone on Sunday as he came from six shots back to win the tournament thanks to a closing round seven-under-par 65.

Rory McIlroy may come in the latter category after finding the water not once but four times in his final round.

Rory McIlroy reacts after finishing final round. Image: PA

It was astonishing but trust me, on that course, it is not that hard to do.

The K Club is a fantastic course but the layout can punish you severely.

We all knew if our accuracy was off, even just a little, we could be in trouble and that’s precisely what happened to Rory as his bid to win his home open faltered.

Lowry revelled in front of his home crowd

There’s an added pressure which comes with being a home favourite.

You have a huge crowd behind and you so naturally you want to do well – but it does not always go to plan.

Shane Lowry won’t be feeling that way though.

I don’t believe there were too many critics of him when he was announced as one of Luke Donald’s captain’s picks for the European Ryder Cup team last week.

But if there were he certainly silenced them as he produced his best result of the season with a tied third finish.

I said last week he was a big-time player. He’s got the track record to prove that without needing me to come to his defence.

But it just goes to show how much difference some confidence can make.

He had that pressure of waiting to find out if he would be picked for the team hanging over him and it was almost as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

He’ll be thrilled but so too will his captain.

An Open outside Britain is not as outlandish as it sounds

The fantastic atmosphere in Kildare for the Irish Open has led to more chatter about the prospect of the Open being held outside Britain for the first time.

Portmarnock just outside Dublin has been touted as a potential venue for what would be a first for the R&A and Rory McIlroy certainly believes it has a chance of hosting a future Open.

Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland will host the Open in 2025 so for me the idea of taking the tournament to the Republic of Ireland really is not too big a leap.

Golf Ireland is the single governing body for the whole island so this idea of an Open outside Britain is not as outlandish as it might initially sound.

We’re talking 200 miles or so away from Portrush so it’s hardly the other side of the world.

I’ll say this much, if it were to happen I wouldn’t be surprised to see an Open there attracting the biggest crowd in the history of the tournament.

The course is good enough and the Irish fans would support it in their thousands.

I can’t think of one good reason why we couldn’t do it.