Back in ye day, before wrap-around schedules and non-stop global competition here, there and everywhere, Wentworth was the place where the golf season effectively ended.

The World Matchplay Championship was a cherished, autumnal showpiece of turning leaves and head turning performances from the great and the good.

Here in 2019, the shifting of the BMW PGA Championship from its May slot to a later date in the calendar seems to have given the European Tour’s flagship renewed lustre and a touch of that old, back end charm.

The field is terrific, the crowds are vast and the West Course has benefitted from a summer of growth. Oh, and the unseasonably warm weather has added to the shimmering majesty of the scene.

On a day of global climate change marches, though, we probably shouldn’t have been championing the meteorological minefield that we’ve found ourselves in.


“It’s the best condition I’ve seen it in the ten years I’ve been here,” said Danny Willett who certainly prospered yesterday with a seven-under 65 which left him in a share of the halfway lead with Spain’s Jon Rahm.

The former Masters champion was robust in his assault and made more gains than a Surrey stockbroker during a thrusting front nine of 29 which included four birdies and an eagle.

It was a good day’s work for the Yorkshireman who seems to be fighting fit again after a period of physical dismay which, allied to a loss of form, saw him plunge from a high of ninth in the world to a low of 462nd just over a year ago.

“We’re in a good place with everything, really,” said Willett, whose renaissance was completed with victory in November’s DP World Tour Championship. “I now have the ability to travel around the world and not be in pain and not waste 2 ½ hours a day away from my family getting treatment on a physio table.

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“It’s now enjoyable to be playing and feeling good about yourself again. When I was struggling, I was really trying to smile and put a brave face on but the truth is I wasn’t enjoying it and I wasn’t playing well. It is embarrassing.

“People come and pay money for a ticket, not necessarily to see me play golf, but they want to see good golf and at times I wasn’t playing it. They don’t want to see someone walking around who theoretically has got a pretty nice life but looks as grumpy as sin.”

Rahm, meanwhile, could have been forgiven for feeling decidedly grumpy after a bogey, bogey start to his second round on the West Course’s exacting opening stretch.

With a history of tantrums, some observers may have been bracing themselves for the kind of fiery reaction you’d get in a blast furnace but Rahm kept himself calm and composed and responded to those early setbacks with surging aplomb.


He birdied four holes in a row from the third during an advance that was as menacing as the Armada. Rahm, the world No 6, finished with a flourish too and launched a superbly flighted 4-iron from 212 yards into six-feet on the last and knocked in the eagle putt for a 67.

“I made two bogeys on the first two but it’s not like I had major misses or it just felt bad,” Rahm said. “It happens on this course. The first is a tough hole and on two I was basically one yard short of being in the perfect spot. I didn’t lose patience or panic.”

Justin Rose, sporting a flowery shirt that could have got him embedded in the ornate borders of the nearby Savill Garden, kept himself very much in the hunt with a 68 which left him lurking in a share of third with Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Henrik Stenson on a nine-under tally.

Rose, the former US Open champion who has never won the PGA crown and has always declared it as a “bucket list” title, arrived at Wentworth with a painful hirple caused by a knee injury and was forced to pull out of the pre-tournament Pro-Am amid doubts over his participation in the actual championship itself.

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The 39-year-old picked up the niggle at his manager’s stag do. So, some high jinks, antics and capers then? Not quite.

“We were having a swim and I slipped on a wet surface,” said Rose with a smile. “I’d only been there (at the stag party) for half an hour and didn’t even have a beer in my hand. That’s the truth.”

Rose is very much a fan of the championship’s move to a September date and the memories of trips to Wentworth in his youth continue to stir the senses.

“You watched your idols like Norman, Faldo, Seve, Jose Maria,” he reflected. “I always came here with a backpack full of sandwiches and couldn’t wait to try out all the things I had seen when I got back to my local golf course. This tournament has always been special.”

Richie Ramsay continued his effective progress with a 68 to lead the Scots on the fringes of the top-10 on five-under alongside defending champion, Francesco Molinari.

Russell Knox is one shot further back on four-under with Robert MacIntyre sitting on three-under. Scott Jamieson, who was in the top-five after round one, endured a torrid day and a 77 left him scrambling to make the cut. He did but with nothing to spare on the one-over limit.

Jamieson was joined on that mark by the world No 2, Rory McIlroy, who had to produce a second day salvage operation to repair the damage done by his opening 76.

A three-under 69, highlighted by a chip-in on 16, squeezed him into the weekend although he certainly didn’t make life easy for himself at the end.

A wayward approach at the last flirted with the out of bounds markers to the right of the green and left him with a fairly hazardous chip down to the flag.

McIlroy dunted his third shot beyond the pin but safely two-putted for his par-five to make sure the event’s star attraction will be around for a couple more days.