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Thorny issues put European Tour's hardy annual at Wentworth under the microscope in landmark week

There will be a few notable anniversaries taking place during the BMW PGA Championship this week.

For a start, it is the 60th staging of the European Tour's flagship event. It is also 30 years since Wentworth became the championship's permanent home and 45 years since Bernard Gallacher became its youngest champion. That was until last May, of course, when 20-year-old Matteo Manassero seized that record by just 60 days.

Manassero picked up a tidy cheque for almost £650,000. Ken Boulsfield, the inaugural champion in 1955, skipped away with £400. Things have certainly changed in those six decades and as the scale of this showpiece event in the leafy Surrey stockbroker belt grows, so too does the scrutiny.

A year ago, Sergio Garcia's "fried-chicken" quip about Tiger Woods during a pre-tournament dinner ignited the flames. The attempted salvage operation by George O'Grady, the European Tour's chief executive, merely fanned them when he used the dreaded phrase "many of Sergio Garcia's friends are coloured" during a televised defence of the embattled Spaniard.

One year on, and the build-up to the championship has been overshadowed again, this time by the death of Iain McGregor, the Zimbabwean caddie who suffered a heart attack during last weekend's Madeira Islands Open. Under orders from O'Grady, play went on, a decision which has caused much anger among players and caddies.

O'Grady travelled to the Spanish Open last week to meet the European Tour Caddies Association in an attempt to repair relations. "We had a full and frank meeting, which was emotional at times and one during which I apologised to them for the hurt and upset caused by events in Madeira," O'Grady said yesterday.

On the playing side, the championship has assembled a stellar cast featuring 10 past Major champions and all but one - Graeme McDowell - of Europe's 2012 Ryder Cup-winning team. Martin Kaymer, the rejuvenated German, will arrive in buoyant mood following his victory in last weekend's Players' Championship at Sawgrass while the line-up is bolstered by the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel and Henrik Stenson.

There has not been a Scottish winner of the title since the unheralded Scott Drummond claimed the honours a decade ago. His victory was the fifth tartan triumph in seven years, a glory run aided considerably by Colin Montgomerie's hat-trick between 1998 and 2000. Marc Warren, beaten in a play-off last year, Paul Lawrie, the runner-up in 2012, and Ryder Cup hopeful Stephen Gallacher lead the home assault this time.

On the course at the Spanish Open yesterday, world No 690 Thomas Pieters will take a two-shot lead into the final round after home favourite Miguel Angel Jimenez's charge faltered. Jimenez surged two clear of the field thanks to six birdies in his opening 13 holes at PGA Catalunya, but bogeyed the 15th and 18th to card a third round of 69.

That left the 50-year-old, who was fourth in the Masters last month and then won on his Champions Tour debut seven days later, on five under par and allowed overnight leader Pieters to reclaim top spot with birdies at the 15th and 16th in a round of 71.

"I'm a little disappointed with that," admitted Jimenez. "I played well the first nine holes and was solid until the 14th, but made a bad bogey on the 15th where I three-putted from eight metres and also bogeyed the last."

Jimenez is already the oldest winner in European Tour history, beating his own record by winning the Hong Kong Open for a record fourth time at the age of 49 years and 337 days last December. But despite 20 tournament victories, he has never won his national open and added: "It would be nice. I'd love to win the Spanish Open of course and we'll see what happens tomorrow."

Pieters only turned professional in June last year and secured his European Tour card via the qualifying school at PGA Catalunya in November, aided by an opening round of 64.

The 22-year-old said: "It was a solid day. I stayed really patient, you need to be on this course and I'm getting better and better at it. You know that it's going to be a hard day and an even par is a good score.

"Playing with Jimenez will be fun, I'll get to learn a lot from him and I'll just soak it all in. The crowd will also be bigger and all the support will go to him but I just have to play my own game."

Scotland's Richie Ramsay, England's Chris Wood and Australian left-hander Richard Green are three shots off the lead on four under, Ramsay holing a putt estimated at 100 feet on the eighth for one of his five birdies. Compatriot Paul Lawrie, however, dropped back, to tied 15th after a 74 left him seven shots behind the leader. Marc Warren is a further shot behind after a 72.

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