Billy Horschel- photo Getty Images
The completion of this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club west of London marked decision time for European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, his task to add three players to the nine who had automatically made the team through various qualifying criteria.
Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and 2019 Open Champion, Shane Lowry have been given the nod to complete the team to take on the USA at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin on September 24th
They join Jon Rahm, Victor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Tyrell Hatton, Paul Casey, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Lee Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood and Bernd Wiesberger in the 12 man European team who will be attempting to defend the title they won in France in 2018.
For Lowry, it will be his first appearance at the Ryder Cup with last year’s event postponed due to Covid issues and he will be joined by fellow rookies Wiesberger and Hovland.
The unlucky player in terms of the European Team was perhaps Justin Rose who despite a last round 65 to finish 6th this week will miss Ryder Cup team inclusion. Rose has played in five Ryder Cups, three of those winning sides but the decision between he and Shane Lowry went the way of the man from Ireland.
Harrington displays his final team – photo Getty Images
Perhaps ironically, the BMW PGA Championship title was won by an American who was unable to make the USA team, Billy Horschel. Horschel’s final round of 65 was enough to hold off a late bid by Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat who was attempting to overcome his third round of 74 after leading through 36 holes.
Aphibarnrat raced to 8 under for the day through 12 holes and when he birdied the 16th it appeared the comeback might well be complete.
He would, however, bogey the first of the two par fives to finish at Wentworth, opening the door for a final hole birdie by Horschel, playing an hour behind him, to take the title.
Wales Jamie Donaldson birdied his final two holes to finish in a share of 2nd place with Aphibarnrat and England’s Laurie Canter, the latter of whom was playing in the final group of the day and was unable to secure the one extra birdie he needed over the closing six holes to force a playoff.
Canter’s finish moves him inside the top 100 in the world from 179th and after missing his last three cuts it was a remarkable effort by a player yet to win on the European tour.
Horschel has now won two big events in 2021, the WGC Dell Match Play and now the European Tour’s flagship event and could be considered unlucky that his timing was sufficiently out to miss US Ryder Cup team selection.
“Man, I’m speechless, which is very, very rare,” said the normally talkative Horschel. “As I’ve said two years ago and as I said this week the crowds are absolutely unbelievable here and they supported me when I came over in 2019 and they supported me this year. Played really good today, really well. Obviously missed a few putts but to win this event means a lot.
“I didn’t realise I was the first American to win a Rolex event. Obviously, the Rolex Series has been around for a few years, and I know some of the other guys have played some of the other Rolex Series events. I didn’t realise that I was the first one to do it, and that’s pretty special.
“To add my name to Arnold Palmer, that’s legendary stuff. That guy, if it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t have this modern era of golf to play in front of thousands of fans and big sponsors. Tiger Woods took it to another level but Arnie is the one who started it.
“So to have my name on that trophy next to his being the second American to win this event here at Wentworth is pretty special. As I said yesterday and as I said today, this event to me after I left here in 2019 was an event I wanted to win in my career before it ended and it rivals or it’s equal to me in the sense of THE PLAYERS. This event has historical preference. The winners of this event are legendary. You know, this is very equal to me in the sense of THE PLAYERS Championship on the PGA TOUR.”
As Horschel suggested, he becomes just the second American to win the event, following in the footsteps of Arnold Palmer who won at Royal St Georges in 1975.
Adam Scott was within two of the lead starting the final round but was unable to make any progress on a day of extremely low scoring and actually slipped to finish as the leading Australasian but in a share of 14th after a final round of 71.
Scott had talked on Saturday afternoon of the need to begin his final round faster than had been the case in rounds two and three but once again he was on the back foot early with bogeys at the 1st and 6th.
Wade Ormsby was 49th and New Zealand’s Ryan Fox 63rd.