Defending BMW PGA Champion Matteo Manassero returned to Wentworth Club’s iconic West Course to recreate the shot that won him the biggest title of his career, ahead of the 60th edition of The European Tour’s flagship event from May 22-25.
Heading down the fourth extra hole – the par five 18th – after a titanic Sunday battle in the heart of Surrey almost 12 months ago, and having seen off the challenge of Scotland’s Marc Warren at the first hole of sudden death, Manassero was in the middle of the fairway and facing a shot of 209 yards to the front of the green with the flag positioned towards the back left of the putting surface.
With the tournament on the line, the then-20 year old fired a pin point rescue club into the heart of the green, and when his opponent Simon Khan found the water with his fourth shot, the Italian needed just two putts to take the title.
Standing in the middle of the 18th fairway, the memories started flooding back for Manassero who, having found the putting surface once again, turned his attentions to this year’s Championship and how much he is looking forward to returning to Wentworth Club to defend his title.
“As I’ve said many times, this is a very special place,” said the four-time European Tour winner. “It doesn’t matter what I come back for, it is always great, and I always look forward to that week in May that gave me such a lot of amazing experiences. It is a great memory for me, and I hope to do it again.
“Right now my win here last year was the biggest of my career. Amateur life was very important to me and winning the Amateur Championship was a big moment; but this one is the top, and will always have a special place in my heart as it was such a nice week and a great place to be.
“The sponsors and The European Tour organise an amazing week year after year, and I would say the atmosphere they are able to create here with the crowd is the most amazing of any regular Tour event.
Being the flagship event it deserves to be like that, but it is not easy to create that atmosphere, and I really appreciate what the Tour, BMW and Wentworth do for us. It is a combination of the sponsors, the club, and the crowds that make this tournament the way it is.
“People who live nearby know how good this place is, and it is not difficult to convince a British crowd to come out and watch golf. They know the field that this tournament gets, they are very knowledgeable about golf, and there won’t be any doubts. There will definitely be plenty again this year.”
Alongside his compatriot in the middle of the 18th fairway trying to recreate history was Italian football legend Gianfranco Zola.
He might not have matched Manassero’s magic with a three wood in his hands, but the man once voted Chelsea’s greatest ever player was glowing in his praise of the defending champion, and is also relishing the opportunity to tee it up again in the all-star Celebrity Pro-Am on Wednesday May 21 ahead of the four tournament days.
“Matteo is an artist,” said the former Italian international. “He has an unbelievable talent, and he is still very young, although the way he speaks and behaves is much more mature. He is a very nice guy and to be here today trying to recreate his shot from last year has been great.
“I’m really looking forward to coming back to Wentworth in a few weeks. I played in the Pro-Am last year and had a lot of fun, so it will be great to be back on this great course, with the big crowds that were out last year. It should be a lot of fun.”
In a year that marks the 60th anniversary of the BMW PGA Championship, it is fitting that this season will also celebrate a decade of support from the title sponsor.
Peter Walker, BMW General Manager, Partnerships and Sports Marketing, said: “It’s been great having both Matteo, our defending BMW PGA Champion, and Gianfranco Zola, one of our celebrity Pro-Am players, back at Wentworth today.
“The course is looking fantastic, and we can’t wait to be back here in just three weeks’ time. This year’s line-up, for both the tournament and celebrity Pro-Am, is one of the best ever; perfectly befitting this special year in which BMW is celebrating its 10th anniversary as title Partner and The European Tour is celebrating 60 years of the tournament.”
In such a special year for the European Tour’s flagship event, it is fitting that the field descending upon Wentworth Club in May will be one of the strongest in its illustrious history.
Four-time Major Champion Ernie Els will return to the Wentworth Estate, having made his home there for so long, as well as having redesigned the West Course in recent years, and he will be joined by local hero and US Open Champion Justin Rose. Another multiple Major winner, Rory McIlroy, and Race to Dubai Number One Henrik Stenson will also be in attendance.
Advance tickets are selling fast on www.europeantour.com/tickets while hospitality packages, reserved grandstand seating at the 18th green and limited on-site parking are almost sold out. Children aged 16 and under will be admitted free of charge if accompanied by an adult ticket holder.
As in previous years, BMW Owners and Official Badge Holders will be able to park on site, while pre-paid parking on Wentworth Estate is now completely sold out. All other ticket holders – and spectators turning up on the day to purchase tickets on the gate – will need to utilise the popular Park and Ride service.