Monday, 23 May 2005
The historic past merges with an exciting future this week when the inaugural BMW Championship - the PGA Championship - is contested over the famous West Course at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England, with a truly international field pursuing the title most coveted by all European Tour Members.

The Championship, steeped in history and tradition dating back to the first event in 1955 at Pannal Golf Club in Yorkshire, has evolved over half a century into a glorious golfing celebration now universally recognised as The European Tour's flagship event. The 2005 edition will be a compelling and enthralling spectacle to stimulate the senses, offering a record prize fund of €4,000,000 with four days of global television coverage.

A new and dynamic partnership between The European Tour and BMW unites the history and traditions of Wentworth Club and the expertise and special organisational skills of BMW, who have been an important partner of the Tour since the first BMW International Open in 1989.

Twelve months ago, Scott Drummond of Scotland became the 50th winner and followed in the footsteps of a roll call of great champions including Peter Alliss, Bernard Gallacher, Tony Jacklin, Peter Oosterhuis, Arnold Palmer, Neil Coles, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, José Maria Olazábal and Colin Montgomerie.

Many of the world's most recognisable names and faces, including the winners of no fewer than 18 Major Championships, 11 of last September’s triumphant European Ryder Cup Team, the 2004 European Tour Order of Merit winner and the reigning US Open Champion, are chasing Drummond’s title.

This intoxicating combination adds considerable stimulus to the race for the first prize of €666,660 in a landmark week for The European Tour and BMW who, with tournaments featuring in Shanghai, Munich and now Wentworth, clearly share the Tour's global vision.

Additionally, with 64 World Ranking Points available to the winner, the BMW Championship remains at the forefront of the very highest world rated events outside golf's four Major Championships.

Wentworth Club plays host to a number of iconic figures in the world of professional golf - players of the calibre of six-time Major winner and four-time winner of this championship, Nick Faldo of England, who heads a master class of eight Major Champions seeking to capture the BMW Championship.

Ernie Els (two US Opens and one Open Championship), Retief Goosen (two US Opens), Sandy Lyle (one Open Championship and one Masters Tournament), José Maria Olazábal (two Masters Tournaments), Ben Curtis (one Open Championship), Paul Lawrie (one Open Championship) and Ian Woosnam (one Masters Tournament) are also bidding to be crowned BMW Champion.

For Els, the 2003 and 2004 Order of Merit winner, a first victory to set alongside a record six HSBC World Match Play titles over the West Course would be especially sweet, as he not only lives on Wentworth Estate but recently accepted the role as the host club's touring professional.

Colin Montgomerie, winner of a record seven successive European Tour Order of Merit titles, will be bidding to equal Faldo's four wins. He said: "I stand on the first tee at Wentworth and I feel somehow one up because I am very confident on the West Course. After winning this Championship three times in a row from 1998, I would be delighted to capture it again and equal Nick's record."

Goosen is the current US Open Champion and, like fellow South African Els, a staunch supporter of the BMW Championship.

The 36 year old, who steps on the first tee as leader of the 2005 Order of Merit, has yet to taste victory in the event, despite going close in the past dozen years where he has been an ever-present in the field.

He said: "The fact that I have played in the last 12 PGA Championships underlines the importance I attach to the event. It is, quite rightly, recognised as the flagship event on The European Tour and the arrival of a blue-chip company in BMW further emphasises the status of a Championship which is high on my list of goals."

There will also be a nostalgic reunion for 2004 Ryder Cup heroes Paul Casey, Darren Clarke, Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington, David Howell, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Thomas Levet, Paul McGinley, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood along with the respective 2006 and 2008 Captains of the European Team, Woosnam and Faldo, who own six PGA Championship titles between them.

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