Can anyone stop Rory? BMW PGA Championship preview

Words by
Dan Davies
Can anyone stop Rory? BMW PGA Championship preview

It’s the flagship event on the DP World Tour schedule and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth has attracted its strongest field in years. Fresh off his third victory in the FedEx Cup, Rory McIlroy is the main attraction and one of five players in the top 20 of the OGWR to tee it up this week. But who else has the game to feature? Clippd offers insights on some of the leading contenders.

Clippd analyses these players using two dynamic performance metrics, Shot Quality and Player Quality, which present a compelling new way to understand and measure golfing skill — both overall and in each area of the game. Shot Quality is the foundation, measuring each individual shot – both on and off the course. Shot Quality is represented as a number between 0 and 200, with 100 being the quality expected of a shot by a typical tour player and 200 representing “perfection”, such as a hole-in-one or a hole out from the fairway. Player Quality works on the same scale (0-200) and is created via a proprietary Clippd Algorithm that rolls up all of the shots a player hits. Find out more here.

Rory McIlroy

After his FedEx Cup-clinching win at the TOUR Championship, McIlroy’s Overall Player Quality is now at a stunning 110 (100 is tour average; 110 is currently the highest on Clippd). He is at 108 for OTT, 111 for APP, 108 for ARG and 104 for PUTT.

Over his last 20 rounds (not including majors), his Average Shot Quality for APP is 115 (15 points above tour average of 100) at 100-120 yards, 120-140 yards and 180-200 yards.

Over the same period he has holed 75% of his putts from 6 feet and 70% from 7 feet.

Jon Rahm

After a win in Mexico in early May, the former US Open champion recorded two top-10 finishes in the three FedEx Playoff events. His Overall Player Quality is currently at 102.

Over his last 20 rounds (not including majors) he is trending up in all putting distance categories. In that time he has made 50% of his 42 putts from 12-15 feet. His PUTT Player Quality is 105.

He had three strong driving rounds at the Tour Championship, including an Average Shot Quality for OTT of 123 in his second round 63. Like East Lake, Wentworth calls for length and accuracy off the tee. Rahm last played in the BMW PGA Championship in 2019 when he finished second.

Viktor Hovland

After an indifferent stretch of form over the summer, there are now signs that the Norwegian is getting back to his best. He is trending up in all four APP distance brackets and his Player Quality for APP is now 106. Approach play is his most important driver of low scoring.

He shot 67, 65 over the weekend at the TOUR Championship. His 65 included a hole in one and a perfect Shot Quality score of 200, and two other shots in the 190s – all in his first six holes!

There has been plenty of commentary around Hovland's chipping but his ARG play is showing a marked improvement over the last month.

The improving Viktor Hovland. Photo: BMW

Matt Fitzpatrick

After an opening 64 at East Lake in the TOUR Championship (120 Average Shot Quality for APP), the US Open champion’s iron play was not quite as sharp in the rest of the tournament. 

One of his key differentiators is his APP play from 180+ yards. Over his last 20 rounds (not including majors), Fitzpatrick is averaging 104 for Shot Quality from 220+ yards.

His ARG play, which was so good at Brookline, remains very strong with an ARG Player Quality of 110. He might not yet have the same affection for Wentworth as he does for The Country Club but Fitzpatrick still boasts three top-12 finishes.

The par 3 2nd hole on Wentworth's West Course. Photo: Kevin Murray

Shane Lowry

The 2019 Open champion had two top-3 finishes in America this season, including the Masters. A poor driving week at the BMW Championship cost him a place in the TOUR Championship.

In the last 20 rounds when playing from the fairway, his Average Shot Quality from 180+ yards is an astonishing 124. This is ranked as the most important part of his game.

His worst finish in the last five BMW PGA Championships at Wentworth is T17 last year. In his last 20 rounds over the West Course he has finished under par on 16 occasions.

Billy Horschel

The defending champion finished the season 21st in the FedEx Cup rankings, the highlight being a win at the Memorial Tournament in June.

His ARG Player Quality is currently at 114 and has been on a strong upward trend since December last year. His iron play was particularly impressive in winning the 2021 title at Wentworth – in his second-round 65 he recorded an Average Shot Quality of 132 for APP. His numbers were equally as impressive in the TOUR Championship a fortnight ago.

Getting the putter hot is vital for the American and he has considerable potential to improve at longer range. Over his last 20 rounds (not including majors) he has made 19% of putts at 15-20 feet.

Defending champion Billy Horschel. Photo: BMW

Tommy Fleetwood

The Englishman, who has not played much this year, has still performed well in the big events – T14 at the Masters, T5 at the PGA Championship, T4 at the Scottish Open and T4 at the Open Championship. His Overall Player Quality is at 107.

APP play from 140-180 yards is one of Fleetwood’s keys to low scoring and his Average Shot Quality over the last 20 rounds is 106 and trending up. 

In the last two years at Wentworth he has finished T12 and T13.

The popular Tommy Fleetwood. Photo: BMW

Thomas Pieters

The prodigiously talented Belgian won in Abu Dhabi in January and has recorded four other top-10s on the DP World Tour this season.

Putting is what makes the difference for him between a good week and an average one. In his last 20 rounds (not including majors) Pieters has holed 50% of his putts from 10 feet and 69% from 9 feet. But he has only holed seven out of 76 from 20 feet or further.

He is trending up in all four APP distance categories. The most important for him is 180+ yards, in which he has an Average Shot Quality of 107. He hits 79% of greens from 180-200 yards.

The par-5 18th is sure to be the scene of drama. Photo by Kevin Murray

Ewen Ferguson

The Scot, who is playing his second full season on the DP World Tour, is the form player in Europe right now, having recorded a win and a second place in his last three events. He also won in Qatar earlier this year.

His confident play is reflected in an Overall Player Quality of 104. He is particularly strong Off The Tee (109) and in Approach (108). 

Putting is the most important driver of his scoring and in his last 20 rounds, the 27-year-old former Walker Cup player has made 14 of 35 putts from 12-15 feet (40%) and 11 of 22 from 8-10 feet (50%).  

Adrian Meronk

The first Polish player to compete and win on the European Tour has recorded six top-10s this season, including a maiden win at the Irish Open.

His OTT game is strong (108 Player Quality), as is his putting (104 Player Quality). His Average Shot Quality for putts of 15-20 feet over the last 20 rounds is 121.

Meronk’s APP play is still some way below his best, however, and has been trending downwards since its high point in December and January. 

Eddie Pepperell

Although the popular Englishman sits just inside the top-300 in the OWGR, which is probably a reflection of how many cuts he misses (nine this year), there are signs that he is coming into form.

His APP play has been very strong of late, which has a big impact on his scoring. His Average Shot Quality at 180+ yards is 111 for his last 20 rounds, including a 127 in his third round in the recent Czech Masters. In that time, he has hit the green from 200-220 yards 86% of the time when playing from the fairway. 

His best finish in the BMW PGA Championship is a 6th in 2020.

Find out more about Shot Quality and Player Quality