Golf | 25 May 2017 | By Michael Vlismas

The BMW PGA Championship is still a driving force

| Photo by Dan Sevel

It was said within the context of the Olympic Games, but the point Barrack Obama was making could easily apply to this week’s BMW PGA Championship on the European Tour.

In an interview with David Feherty in August last year, Obama – a self-described 13-handicap golfer with a passion for the game – was explaining the importance of the Olympic Games in relation to being a doorway to other countries and cultures through the many backstories of the athletes.

“Particularly for Americans, who sometimes – because we’re such a big country – don’t always feel as if, unless there’s bad news out there, we need to know much about any place else.”

This week, the BMW PGA Championship has gone to impressive lengths to identify itself as a major tournament on the European Tour and the first event on the Tour’s new Rolex Series, and of which the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City is a part.

It still has no Americans, of note.
But it has diversity, with 156 players from 27 countries.
It has pedigree, with a total of 60% of its field having won on the European Tour.
It has history, dating back to 1955 and played on a venerable Wentworth layout which has had its challenges in course design of late, but which now appears to have the right blend for this year’s tournament.

And it has gravitas, with nine Major winners in the field, as well as 10 World Golf Championship winners, 26 Ryder Cup players and four former world number ones.

This year it also has 15 South Africans in the field, amongst them a rising brigade of stars in Haydn Porteous, Dean Burmester, Brandon Stone, Dylan Frittelli and Zander Lombard.

Zimbabwean Tony Johnstone remains the only African winner of a tournament that has Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, José Maria Olazábal, Colin Montgomerie and Rory McIlroy amongst its past champions.