By Tony Jimenez
LONDON (Reuters) - Double major winner Martin Kaymer has hit back at suggestions that this week's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth has lost some of its razzle-dazzle, calling it a first-class event with "a massive history".
"There are better courses in England, that's for sure, but it's the home of the European Tour and it's a great event and we should see it for what it is," Kaymer said. "It's big prize money, a lot of world ranking points, with a massive history."
The PGA Championship was first held in 1955, and the list of winners represents a roll-call of Europe's finest players - Rory McIlroy, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Tony Jacklin, Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam.
The European Tour has always tagged it 'the flagship event', but Keith Pelley, who took over from George O'Grady as chief executive last year, believes that is no longer the case.
Many players dislike the course changes overseen by four-times major winner Ernie Els in recent years. And the prize fund of five million euros ($5.59 million) is smaller than the middle-ranking U.S. Tour event being held in Texas this week.
European Tour heavyweights McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington will all be absent for a variety of reasons when the tournament gets underway on Thursday.
World number three McIlroy has an extra busy schedule this year with the Olympics looming in August. His focus this month was on the Irish Open, which is backed by his own foundation, and where he recorded a three-shot victory on Sunday.
"A lot of people only focus on the negatives ... instead of focusing on who is there and seeing the (Wentworth) event for what it is," said Kaymer, who won the U.S. PGA Championship in 2010 and U.S. Open in 2014.
"Danny Willett is English and the U.S. Masters champion, so hopefully people talk more about that than the guys who are not here."
Looking ahead to September's Ryder Cup match in Minnesota, Kaymer is keen to improve his chances of getting in Europe's 12-man team, especially as he is down in 18th spot at the moment.
"These weeks are massive for the Ryder Cup," said the 31-year-old German. "I am quite far away and these weeks are big ones to get some points on the board."
(Editing by Larry King)