World Number Two Vijay Singh and World Number Three Ernie Els head the field at Wentworth Club
A field of exceptional quality - headed by World Number Two Vijay Singh and World Number Three Ernie Els and befitting the gala occasion - assembles in the heart of Surrey this week for the 50th Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth Club.
It all began at the picturesque Pannal Golf Club in Harrogate, Yorkshire, in 1955 when the late Ken Bousfield won the first PGA Championship, and reaches a tumultuous climax over the next few days with the Golden Anniversary of the Championship.
Times have changed considerably since Bousfield won the event, when it was restricted to professionals from Great Britain and Ireland.
In 1969, Bernard Gallacher, the former Club Professional at Wentworth Club, who went on to successfully Captain the European Ryder Cup Team, won the first 'Open' PGA Championship at Ashburnham in Wales.
After a two year hiatus, the Championship was revived at Wentworth Club in 1972 at the prompting of John Jacobs OBE, the founding father of The European Tour.
In 1984, Wentworth Club became the home of the Volvo PGA Championship until the present day - and the field gathering this week to contest the 50th edition of the Volvo PGA Championship reflects the strength in depth of The European Tour. A total of 19 players from the top 20 on the current Volvo Order of Merit are participating for a record prize fund of €3,750,000 with €625,000 available for the winner on Sunday evening.
Nine Major Championship winners will tee up over the famed West Course, namely Ben Curtis, Nick Faldo, Retief Goosen, Paul Lawrie, Sandy Lyle, José Maria Olazábal, Ian Woosnam, Els and Singh.
Spain's Ignacio Garrido defends the title he captured after a sudden-death play-off with South Africa's Trevor Immelman last year, while the field also features no fewer than eight other past Volvo PGA Champions in Faldo, Anders Hansen, Tony Johnstone, Colin Montgomerie, Olazábal, Andrew Oldcorn, Costantino Rocca and Woosnam.
Els and Singh winners of the Volvo Order of Merit and the US PGA Tour Money List respectively in 2003, and the two most dynamic in-form players in the world so far this year, are in the line-up along with Australian Adam Scott, winner of The Players Championship on the US PGA Tour.
Both Els, the World Number Three, and Singh, ranked second behind World Number One, Tiger Woods, have made remarkably fast starts to 2004, picking up where they left off at the end of 2003, and they will join an elite field at Wentworth Club seeking a special place in history as the 50th winner of the PGA Championship.
Last season Els won the Harry Vardon Trophy as European Number One with €2,975,374 (Ł2,074,458) while Singh topped the Money List in the United States with $7,573,907.
Els has competed in the Volvo PGA Championship on eight occasions, finishing runner-up three times and fourth twice. Singh, from ten appearances, has finished tied eighth in 1989 and seventh in 2001.
Curtis's second appearance over the West Course - he reached the semi-finals of the HSBC World Match Play Championship last October - further augments a field of outstanding quality for the 50th edition of the Volvo PGA Championship.
Courtesy of www.europeantour.com