Golf - European Tour - BMW PGA Championship - Wentworth Golf Club, Virginia Water, Britain - September 12, 2021 Billy Horschel of the U.S. celebrates winning the BMW PGA Championship Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
September 12, 2021
By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) -American Billy Horschel birdied the 18th hole to claim the BMW PGA Championship title in a tense finish on Sunday in a tournament with huge implications for Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
Horschel was tied for first in a group on -18 as he stood over his third shot at the par-five 18th at Wentworth but produced a sensational wedge for a nailed-on birdie to complete a sizzling round of seven-under 65.
With Horschel in the clubhouse, Englishman Laurie Canter needed to find a birdie at the last to force a playoff but was unable to do so and ended in a tie for second alongside Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat who shot a superb closing 64.
Horschel, whose bag sports the colours and emblem of English soccer club West Ham United, is only the second American to win the title, following in the footsteps of Arnold Palmer.
Afterwards he said he would celebrate by going to dinner with West Ham’s England international Declan Rice.
“I am speechless really, and that’s rare,” Horschel, who has missed the U.S. Ryder Cup team, said. “To win this event means a lot, this is like the Players’ Championship.”
“I knew if I could birdie one of the last three holes I could win and one was enough.”
Apart from the title at stake in the European Tour’s flagship tournament, the race to nail down the four remaining automatic spots on Europe’s team for this month’s Ryder Cup offered an intriguing sub-plot throughout the week.
Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, who required a top-50 finish to book his Ryder Cup debut, ended with a level-par 72 which was enough for a share of 20th and a seat on the plane, qualifying after finishing fourth on the European points list.
“It’s unreal you know, it was really tough out there today,” Wiesberger told Sky Sports. “You try to stay away from all the noise but it was difficult. I had to grind. But at the end of the day I’m really proud and relieved to make the team.”
England’s Matt Fitzpatrick also guaranteed his place after a closing 68 earned him a top-20 finish while Tyrrell Hatton, who missed the cut on the defence of his crown, is also in.
Justin Rose did not claim the title which would have elevated him into the Ryder Cup team on merit despite a sizzling last-round 65 which included him coming close to holing an albatros on the 18th hole.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry was left sweating on receiving a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup after failing to secure the top-eight finish he required to grab an automatic spot.
But he was handed the third captain’s pick by captain Padraig Harrington and will make his Ryder Cup debut later this month at the expense of Rose who was left out.
Lee Westwood’s dismal round of 77 had opened the door for Lowry to edge above him in the race to grab an automatic place, but Lowry faltered on the back nine.
After moving into a tie for fifth place Lowry bogeyed the 14th and followed that with a double bogey, ending on 12 under in 17th place — a relief for veteran Westwood who will make his 11th appearance in the biennial match.
Five players — Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland and Paul Casey — had already qualified on merit for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits from Sept. 24-26.
Harrington’s other two picks were Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia.
(Reporting by Martyn HermanEditing by Toby Davis)