The BMW PGA Championship, which starts next Thursday (May 24) at Wentworth and runs until May 27, boasts the strongest international field on the 2007 European Tour schedule with seven of the top 15 in the world challenging for the £400,000 first prize.
South African Ernie Els, ranked No.5 in the world, heads the list with Vijay Singh (6th), Henrik Stenson (7th), Retief Goosen (9th)and England's Luke Donald (9th). Other leading challengers include Padraig Harrington (12th) and Paul Casey (14th).
Twenty winners from the current season are also taking part including Lee Westwood, who dramatically won the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia on Sunday and Australian Masters champion Justin Rose. Among the majors champions in the field are Michael Camnpbell, Ian Woosnam, Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul Lawrie and Sandy Lyle.
Defending champion and looking for a return to form after a lean period, is Swindon's David Howell, who won over the West course last year by five strokes.
“My best memory of the final day was walking down the last hole five shots clear, knowing that all my family and friends were watching. It was probably the most special 15 minutes of my life," Howell recalls.
“When you see the names of those who have won the PGA title, it makes you appreciate the victory even more. As an Englishman, to follow in Nick Faldo’s footsteps was something I will always treasure and I am very proud to have won it. This tournament, as most people will tell you, is undoubtedly the biggest in the UK outside The Open.”
Harrington, who this week signed up to represent the Bank of Ireland on Tour, rates it even higher.
“Put all those elements together and you have an event of considerable magnitude fit for the world stage. That is where this Championship stands and deservedly so. It is our flagship event and BMW have done all they can to ensure it remains No.1 on the schedule.”
Harrington, winner of ten titles on the European Tour added: “Wentworth presents a great challenge, undoubtedly one of the best we face each year and I'm really looking forward to playing the West Course again - and hopefully playing well.” Sixth last year, he's aiming to become the first Irish winner since Harry Bradshaw 49 years ago.
“Coming back to Wentworth as No.1 in Europe makes me very proud and, yes, you unquestionably walk a bit taller when you win something like the Vardon Trophy. Winning any European Tour title is a thrill but winning the overall crown was very special to me."
He says: “I am feeling very positive that my back injury will continue to improve and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to win the BMW PGA Championship as all the players know that this is means so much to us. It will be good to play the West Course again and I’ve been told about the changes made by Ernie Els so I know it will be a challenging examination."
“I’ve been climbing the world rankings this season and with the high number of points at stake, winning title would lift me close to the top ten, which is obviously a target with the US Open and Open so close.”
All four days will be broadcast live on BBC Television. Tickets are available on the gate for each of the four days or online by visiting www.europeantourtickets.com.
Europe's finest set for Wentworth next week