Ian Poulter won’t play the BMW PGA Championship. Never mind that it’s the flagship tournament of the European Tour at Wentworth.
Never mind the prestige of winning such a trophy and the prize fund of 5m euros. It’s not about the silverware or the money – the club pro from Hitchen is a Ryder Cup legend with a fleet of Ferraris and a mansion in Orlando.
Poulter simply hates Wentworth’s West Course. Just can’t post scores good enough to compete. And if he doesn’t have a chance to win, he doesn’t want to play. So he’s not coming.
His record at Wentworth this century is eight missed cuts and only once has he finished inside the top 25, tieing for 10th in 2002. So it’s hardly surprising he’s staying at home rather than jetting into Surrey. And who can blame him? No one can say he hasn’t tried.
There are some that tell him he is betraying his country, letting down his home Tour, chickening out even.
But Poulter has a point in choosing not to play – as well as skin thick enough to not care about being slated. Sports fans forget that golfers are not paid £200,000 a week like footballers whether they win or lose.
Golfers are globetrotting at their own expense. Miss the weekend cut and they (mostly) get nothing but a taxi to the airport. Golfers are freelance salesmen. They work out where the best markets are to get the best returns. They are not selling pots and pans and dodgy watches but the principle is the same.
Actually, some golfers are selling dodgy swings. Poulter used to sell mars bars when he was a club pro and worked in a market to make ends meet, so he knows his onions. He knows where to play and where not to pitch up. Those that don’t, go bust.
Golfers are independent traders and golf is a case of Only Fools And Horses For Courses. Indeed, Nick Faldo calls Poulter “Rodney”. This time next year, he’ll still be a (multi) millionaire despite snubbing Wentworth.
And Rodney is no plonker. Neither is he shy at fighting back against his detractors. Reacting to being criticised in the Daily Mail for not playing at the BMW PGA Championship, Poulter released his anger via twitter.
“It's a great tournament but my stats don't lie,” he said. "I can't shovel shit uphill forever. I've played 13 PGAs at Wentworth and had 1 Top 10. I've had 8 MC. Would Usain Bolt compete in a marathon. I didn't think so.... Enough said.” Fair enough, then.
He’s not the only player that will be MIA at the PGA. World top 10 players, and Poulter’s Ryder Cup team-mates, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia also share a dislike of this piece of Home Counties real estate.
America’s so-called version of Poulter, Patrick Reed, is making his debut but high-profile players from across the Pond no longer come. They don’t need the hassle of a trans-Atlantic flight and they don’t need the money. They don’t care about making history or following in the footsteps of 1975 champion Arnold Palmer, either. And that’s a shame.
The BMW PGA Championship might not be a major but it holds its place in the great British summer of sport that includes Wimbledon, The Ashes, The Grand Prix and The Open Championship.
This is its 60th year and the list of winners includes a pantheon of Europe’s finest golfers: Ken Bousfield, Peter Alliss, Harry Bradshaw, Bernard Gallacher, Tony Jacklin, Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Jose-Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie and defending champion and world number one Rory McIlroy. How’s that for a Hall of Fame Ryder Cup team?
This year there will be nine major champions in the field with 18 victories to their names.
Be upstanding for McIlroy, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, Ernie Els, YE Yang and Darren Clarke. The expected record crowd will also get to see home favourites Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.
Poulter’s mate, Rose, has finished runner-up twice at Wentworth. Employing the Only Fools and Horses For Course criteria, Rose loves it.
“It's a bucket list tournament for me,” he said. “I grew up watching it as a kid so it's definitely special.”
Westwood, another Brit exiled in Florida, also sings Wentworth’s praises. He would also like to see dialogue between the top players to create a run of three tournaments to attract more Americans to come over.
“I enjoy coming back to England and playing in front of the home crowd,” he said. “It's special, especially around somewhere like Wentworth where it's iconic and the tournament is held here every year, there's a familiarity about the place.”
So it’s England’s Augusta, then? Well, maybe not.
So where does this championship fit in the pecking order? “Outside the majors and the World Golf Championships, it's right there tied with the Players Championship,” Westwood said.
So there you have it. The BMW PGA Championship is the joint unofficial fifth major.
Paul Mahoney was voted Specialist Writer of the Year, British Sports Journalism Awards