Danny Willett rejoices in ‘special’ BMW PGA Championship win as Richie Ramsay posts personal best

Richie Ramsay tees off the 16th hole during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Picture: Getty ImagesRichie Ramsay tees off the 16th hole during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Picture: Getty Images
Richie Ramsay tees off the 16th hole during the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Picture: Getty Images
As Danny Willett moved back into the world’s top 50 by landing a first success on British soil with a victory in the BMW PGA Championship, Richie Ramsay also left Wentworth with a spring in his step, not to mention a whopping cheque in his back pocket.

The first staging of the European Tour’s flagship event in its new September slot undoubtedly belonged to Willett, who claimed his seventh title triumph by three shots from world No 6 Jon Rahm after carding four rounds in the 60s over the iconic East Course at the Surrey venue.

The victory lifted the Yorkshireman from 58th to 31st in the world rankings, having dropped to 462nd after missing the cut in the same event last year in the middle of a slump that coincided with the former Masters champion being troubled by all sorts of aches and pains.

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“I’ve had a couple looks at The Open, but to be able to win finally on home soil on such an iconic golf course with one of the best fields they have had is a special moment,” said Willett, who picked up around £934,000. Referring to his return to winning ways having been sparked by a victory in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship last November, he added: “The last ten months, with a couple of wins in Rolex Series events, really kind of puts things right in my own mind, which is nice.”

On a day of heavy showers, Willett started out tied with Rahm before quickly bursting two shots clear as he rolled in birdie putts from 25 feet and 12 feet at the second and third respectively. Rahm, a three-time Rolex Series winner, is difficult to shake off and Willett had to follow his playing partner in for a 2 at the short tenth to retain his cushion.

After a wayward drive at the next, Willett then hit a tree with his second, hurt his wrist hacking the next one out of a clump of heather into a bunker, but limited the damage to a bogey by rolling in a 50-footer. “A real big point in the golf tournament,” admitted Willett, who was never really challenged over the closing stretch after Rahm’s challenge started to fizzle out having made a hash of the par-5 12th from just short of the green.

In signing off with back-to-back birdies, Willett closed with a 67 for a 20-under-par total, winning comfortably from Rahm (70), with the talented young South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout (68) finishing third on 16-under, one ahead of fast-finishing American pair Billy Horschel (65) and Patrick Reed (66).

“There was a lot of time where I didn’t enjoy any second of it whatsoever,” admitted Willett, who is now coached by American Sean Foley, of spending as much time on a physiotherapist’s table receiving treatment as on the practice range when he suffered that form dip around the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. “To be able to then come down the stretch today and enjoy it is a real beautiful thing.”

While not quite as wide as Willett’s, Ramsay also ended the event with a smile on his face after rounding off a polished performance to finish joint sixth, beating his previous best effort of ninth in 2013 in this event. In closing with a solid 69 for a 13-under-par total, the 36-year-old earned around £182,000 to jump to 62nd in the Race to Dubai. The top-ten finish also got him into this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, having been third reserve.

“My mindset now is that I really have to chase a win before the end of the season,” declared Ramsay. “This week proved that I can mix it with the best because, if you look at the field, it is probably the strongest field we have had.

“I have a bit of a spring in my step. I read (fellow European Tour player) James Morrison’s article. He wasn’t sure what he was doing and I felt I was in the same situation. What is the goal? I’ve been out here a long time. What do you want to do? I’ve won a few times, money is not too much of an issue. So what drives me? Well, out there today, I was thinking ‘this is what drives me’. I still want to win again. “

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After making the cut on the mark, world No 2 Rory McIlroy was 12 under for the weekend, following a 65 on Saturday with a closing 67 to secure a top-ten finish. “My start was undesirable, to say the least,” he said of a messy 76. “But I made the most of being here and I am proud of myself for that.”

Bob MacIntyre, who signed off with a 73 for a four-under total to finish inside the top 30 on his debut in the event, fancies his chances of winning here one day. “It was pretty rough. Every bad break that was going I seemed to get,” he said of his closing effort. “But this is another course on the tour chalked off and it’s one that I like. I know what to do around it and the next time I come back here I’ll not be settling for 30th but I’ll be looking to win. I just need to hole a few more putts.”