PGA Cup vice-captain Michael Watson expects Bowood Golf and Country Club to provide an exacting test when it stages the final of a national PGA tournament for the first time later this month, writes Adrian Milledge.
The Wiltshire venue, which recently became the PGA Official Golf Course for the South West of England, is hosting the English PGA Championship.
The tournament was restored to the PGA’s schedule 12 months ago after an eight-year hiatus and the final will see the 144-strong field vying for a slice of the £30,195 prize fund.
That includes Watson who speaks from experience when he says the winner will have earned the £5,000 first prize.
“It’s a good driver’s golf course but the rough’s up this year – they’re obviously getting it prepared for the tournament,” said Watson, head PGA pro at Wessex Golf Centre.
“I’ve played in a couple of regional winter series events there and the rough is never up at that time of year and you can take a few short cuts. But that won’t be possible in the tournament.
“There’s still plenty of room to hit off the tee but it’s a new style golf course and long. It’s 7,300 yards in length off the championship tees but the weather will help and it won’t play as long as it can do.
“If you’re a good driver of the golf ball you can set yourself up nicely.”
The course is located within 100 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown parkland and Watson, having finished no lower than second in his last three visits there, clearly has an affinity with it.
“There’s a premium on driving,” he explained. “If you’re confident off the tee you can make some of the dog-legs slightly shorter.
“The fairways are wide enough so there are opportunities to be more aggressive and it just fits my eye. It’s a golf course I’ve always liked since I first started playing there.”
As well as being staged at a familiar venue, the tournament will give Watson a chance for a mini PGA Cup catch-up.
“Two members of the team – Rob Coles and Matt Cort – are playing and so is Cameron Clark the captain,” he added.
“I’ve been in touch with Cameron a lot and have seen Matt a few times. But I haven’t seen Colesey a lot this year and it will be good to see how the two of them are playing.”
Cort will be defending the title he won at Saunton when he completed the three rounds of the West course in 14-under-par to finish three shots clear of James Freeman.
Freeman will be aiming to improve on last year as will Andy Raitt who finished four shots adrift of Cort.
The English PGA Championship will be contested from July 23-25 and up-to-date scores will be accessible via this link: