Padraig Harrington, who realised a lifelong ambition when he became European Number One last November, will now turn his attention to achieving another long-term target by attempting to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club from May 24-27.
The Irish Ryder Cup player returns to Surrey to tackle the West Course with a new sense of purpose which stems from claiming the Harry Vardon Trophy as The European Tour Order of Merit champion at Valderrama.
The 35 year old, who finished tied sixth behind England’s David Howell at Wentworth Club last year, admits that he still “walks a bit taller” from securing his first Order of Merit and believes that the BMW PGA Championship is the event on The European Tour International Schedule which every player dreams of winning.
Harrington, aiming to become the first Irish winner since Harry Bradshaw 49 years ago, said: “Coming back to Wentworth as Number One in Europe makes me very proud and, yes, you unquestionably walk a bit taller when you win something like the Vardon Trophy. Winning any European Tour title is a thrill but winning the overall crown was very special to me.
“I regard the BMW PGA Championship as our Number One event outside the Majors for a number of very good reasons. It has a wonderful heritage, a premier title sponsor, a course with its own long and illustrious history and a list of champions that is second to none.
“Put all those elements together and you have an event of considerable magnitude fit for the world stage. That is where this Championship stands and deservedly so. It is our Flagship event and BMW have done all they can to ensure it remains as Number One on the Schedule.”
Harrington, winner of ten titles on The European Tour International Schedule, added: “Wentworth presents a great challenge, undoubtedly one of the best we face on Tour each year and I am looking forward to playing the West Course again, and hopefully playing well.”
The Dubliner plays in the Irish Open at Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort this week before turning his attention to the BMW PGA Championship and pointed out: “These are two great weeks on The European Tour Schedule and I always look forward to them immensely.”
Howell, the Champion by a resounding five strokes 12 months ago, is also relishing a sentimental return to Wentworth Club. He recalled: “The beauty of the final day was the fact that I could walk down the last hole five shots clear, knowing that all my family and friends were watching. It was probably the most special 15 minutes of my life and I savoured it.
“When you see the list of names who have won the PGA title, it makes you appreciate the victory even more. As an Englishman, to follow in Nick Faldo’s footsteps was something I will always treasure and I am very proud to have won it. This tournament, as most people will tell you, is undoubtedly the biggest in the UK outside The Open.”
The BMW PGA Championship boasts the strongest international field on The 2007 European Tour Schedule to date, with seven of the top 15 on the Official World Golf Ranking in the field challenging for the €725,000 first prize and 64 World Ranking points.
South Africa’s Ernie Els, ranked fifth in the world, heads the OWGR list with Vijay Singh of Fiji (sixth), Henrik Stenson of Sweden (seventh), South Africa’s Retief Goosen (ninth), Luke Donald of England (tenth), Harrington (12th) and England’s Paul Casey (14th).
In all, 20 winners from the current season are taking part – including Lee Westwood, who made a timely return to winning form in the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia yesterday- while last year’s European Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam has confirmed his participation along with 11 of his victorious side, namely: Casey, Darren Clarke, Donald, Harrington, Howell, Robert Karlsson, Paul McGinley, Colin Montgomerie, José Maria Olazábal, Stenson and Westwood,
No fewer than eight Major Championship winners are in the field with Els, Goosen, Olazábal, Vijay Singh and Woosnam being joined by Michael Campbell, Paul Lawrie and Sandy Lyle in the superb line-up while also includes European Tour champions Thomas Björn, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.
All four days will be broadcast live on BBC Television. Tickets are available on the Gate for each of the four days of the Championship, May 24-27, or online by visiting www.europeantourtickets.com
For further information, please contact:
European Tour Communications Division
Tel: +44 (0) 1344 840400 Fax: +44 (0) 1344 840444