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Els ready for Wentworth reaction

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Iain Carter | 16:09 UK time, Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Ernie Els confessed to a nervous flight over from the United States and it had nothing to do with the ash cloud that threatened his punctuality for this week's BMW PGA Championship.

Els's design company is responsible for the wholesale changes that have been made to the West Course for this year's running of the European Tour's flagship event and he knows reaction from his fellow players will be mixed.

The South African has twin worries. One is how the golfers will regard the radical design changes he has made, with 17 of the 18 holes significantly altered. The other is the condition of the revamped layout, particularly in the wake of such a cold winter.

Els admitted that as recently as a fortnight ago it was "touch and go" regarding the conditioning of the course. Thankfully those fears have been allayed.

We might not be able to maintain a football pitch in England's national stadium, but Wentworth is living proof that there is plenty of know-how around when it comes to preparing the country's most recognisable golf course.

This week there is little evidence of the scale of the work so recently completed; it looks as though this layout has been in place for years.

But, of course, it hasn't and the test that the Tour's leading players will face this week is considerably stiffer, particularly as it has been reduced to a par 71 with the 12th now playing as a long par four.

Most debate will surround the famous 18th which has been changed massively, with a water hazard now residing immediately in front of a small green that has bunkers waiting at the back.

This was the change that prompted most argument between Els's team of designers and the Wentworth owner Richard Caring who demanded a more dramatic closing hole than the previous par five that often yielded an easy birdie.

Certainly the hole now has a far greater sense of theatre. But we must reserve judgement on how gripping will be the production because there is a danger that too few players will be prepared to take on the challenge of going for the green in two.

"I think you are going to see a lot of players this year lay up," Els admitted. "I think they will try and find their feet around the golf course so I see players being a little more conservative.

"I think some of the younger players, if they can get the ball far enough down the fairway, maybe with a five or six iron in their hands will go for the green."

Els acknowledges that the risk element will deter many of the others. "The green really does look small from the fairway, I must admit. I think you will get 75% of the players laying up unfortunately."

went595.jpgThe remodelled 18th hole at Wentworth with the new stream in front of the green

It is clear the seven-time World Match Play champion on the West Course made this point to the Wentworth management when they considered the changes to the closing hole.

"That's one of those arguments we had - how difficult do you make it when you want to entice the player to go for the green or are you going to scare the player away," Els added.

"My opinion is that you are going to scare the player away a little bit for now until they get more courage the more that they play the golf course."

Already Rory McIlroy has indicated that he will be inclined to have a go if it is possible. The 21-year-old has the sort of game that looks destined to prosper at the new Wentworth.

It is now much more a 'through the air' challenge and his high ball flight will suit the task of landing the ball on new greens that will inevitably provide firmer landing surfaces because of their infancy.

There is no doubt that Wentworth needed to change and the European Tour required a genuinely modern test for the integrity of their top event. The old layout was outdated in this age of modern club technology, but it is also a shame that the traditional skills of being able to run a ball into a target have been largely lost.

It will be interesting to see how many players are critical of the changes this week. Some may keep their thoughts away from the public arena for fear of detracting from the European Tour's biggest week.

They are more likely to let Els know their thoughts and the South African is ready for whatever feedback flies his way, whether it is good or bad.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Cant wait to see the new course on T.V but it should be spectacular, hope Els will get the praise i believe he will undoubtedly deserve

  • Comment number 2.

    Point of order, the photograph above describing the 'New first hole on the West course' is in fact the 18th on the East course.

    The much changed West course is fantastic and I can't wait to see the pro's play it

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm not convinced about the changes and will watch closely how the players cope. Ernie clearly has his own concerns from the comments I have read.
    Let's consider the 18th. It wasn't a great hole to finish and it clearly needed "stiffening up". Have they gone to far? Ernie seems to be saying they have.
    I think the changes seem to promotes the modern game and the modern golfer. Don't get wrong seeing Rory or Tiger hitting a towering 5 iron 240yds into a par 5 is great. But so is one of our more... senior players shaping a long iron right to left into a green to reach a back left pin.
    Courses can be harder and more dramatic without just adding length and water.

  • Comment number 4.

    "...but Wentworth is living proof that there is plenty of know-how around when it comes to preparing the country's most recognisable golf course."
    Isn't the country's most recognisable golf course The Old Course @ St. Andrews?
    Just watched Els @ The Texas Open. The man is playing very well. Was nice enough to sign my cap too!

  • Comment number 5.

    The photo is not the 1st on the West course - it is the 18th on the East course.

  • Comment number 6.

    The picture attached to this article is allegedly the new 1st at Wentworth. It's not - it's the 18th on the East course. How could this mistake have been made? This hole is behind the clubhouse, the car park is in the wrong place, it's just all wrong.
    Come on get this sorted out.

  • Comment number 7.

    What is wrong with you all, so the picture is wrong!!

    Surely this should be about the fact that Wentworth is now of the standard to attract some of the best in the world and I for one will be looking forward to seeing the likes of McIlroy going for the 18th in 2.

    From the pictures I have seen the course looks great so hopefully we can all look forward to 4 days of great golf!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    Never mind the players, when can we play this new course on a wii?

  • Comment number 9.

    Thanks to all of you eagle-eyed golf fans who spotted that we had the wrong picture of Wentworth on this blog. It's now been changed to show the revamped 18th. Apologies. Will this be a word Ernie Els is forced to use this week? Time will tell.

  • Comment number 10.

    Lorire Lorimer The country I was referring to in this case was England - the one that can't maintain a football pitch at its national stadium.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think it's a fantastic closing hole. OK, so the chances for eagles and birdies will be reduced throughout the full four days, but this is exactly the sort of 72nd hole you want if you need birdie or eagle to win or force a play-off. Proper drama.

    Once again, much ado about nothing.

  • Comment number 12.

    Although the changes to the course have been expertly done, I'm afraid I don't really agree with them. You see, the Wentworth commitee are only keepers of the course and should have just been in control of the conditioning of the course, it was a Harry Colt classic, and now it's gone, the challenges, even for Pro's, were as perfect as could be. It looks like all the risk and reward has gone. It would have been great for a brand new course, but not to Deface "The Burma Road". Would it be ok for the owners of the Mona Lise to get rid of the smirk and put a nice Tiger Woods smile on her, no, they are only the keepers. I suspect long standing members of Wentworth will not be to happt what has happened. I hope I am wrong and we have a great PGA Championship but not at the expense of the members enjoyment. Happy Golfing to everyone.

  • Comment number 13.

    RE: 10. At 09:18am on 19 May 2010, Iain Carter wrote:
    The country I was referring to in this case was England - the one that can't maintain a football pitch at its national stadium.
    Whilst I agree with you that Wentworth is "England's" most recognisable golf course, England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland are only parts of the country of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. England is not actually a separate country, so I still believe the country's most recognisable golf course The Old Course @ St. Andrews! I know I'm being picky, but I had an American lecture me on this once and I'm just venting.
    Keep up the good blogs though.
    Cheers

  • Comment number 14.

    I play the West course reguarly and the changes have made a big difference, If you catch the fairway bunkers off the tee then you are severly punished as you should be. It is now rare that you can get to the greens if you catch one of them. As for the 18th as pictured above I personally dont like the changes, I play off three and it is nearly always a 3 shot hole even though you only have around 210yards in for your second shot, the green is now such a small target it is not worth the risk. Looking forward to see what the Pros make of it!!!

  • Comment number 15.

    As technology gone to far? it seems to me its costing millions of pounds all over the world changing great traditional courses for what, to accommodate the Professional Tour & television. All thats needed to toughen up the rough & stop giving clean & place when a peck of mud is on the ball. To make the West Course into target golf is criminal, over the years ive been lucky enough to play many of the great courses none better than Woodhall Spa, thank god they dont play Pro tour events there anymore.

  • Comment number 16.

    Some of Ernie's changes appear for the better. I've always thought the water should become more of a factor on the 8th. However, his changes to the 18th may make it a better hole for pros, but they will make the hole horrible for most golfers higher 4 handicap, who represent 90% of the use of the course.

  • Comment number 17.

    "If you are the owner of a golf course does that give you the right to make the change you want?"

    Um, yes.

  • Comment number 18.

    The course looked great today went and had a look at the Pro-AM good to see Gary Evans hitting it well, especially when he was allowed to go from the Amateur tee position! The bunkers in the fairway now do look very serious get up against those faces and it will be just play it back into the fairway. Probably because of the weather you can see the difference between the new and old grass but some things also just look like they have always been there. Looking forward to the serious play over the next few days, the greens looked really nice as well don't think there can be any more complaints.

  • Comment number 19.

    Have played it three times in last month after being a member for a long time. Course is absolutely transformed. Bunkers around the greens are extremely deep and the greens are an order of magnitude better.

    This is not a course for a high handicapper. They will be destroyed by its difficulty even before the greens have been speeded up for the pros and the rough thickened. Scoring in the most recent club comps has been 5-6 strokes worse than before and that is for less than 12 handicappers!

    However the quality of members wedge play is improving by the week as we all try to figure out how to play from much more difficult places very close to the greens. I can now see why the pros used to murder the course before.

  • Comment number 20.

    Ernie, I think the changes are great, the bunkers are now a real hazard which they should be and the last hole will provide incredible drama!

    Re 18th: They have the option to move the tee forward 20-30 yards so the second shot would be played with a 5-6 iron for most which suits the new green size. This will really add spice if there is only 1 shot in it coming down the last. Despite this even with the back tee there is a bail out area to the right of the green for a 3 wood which means the 3rd shot wouldn't have to negotiate the burn!! I can see this hole providing drama up there with the 18th at Carnoustie or 17th at Sawgrass.

    Re Target Golf: How many Pro's played punches and bump and run approaches on the old lay out??.................none. So what does it matter if you have to fly it in a little more often?

    Re Preservation: Ernie hasn't added new holes or remapped the course. It's still the same layout with a modern twist, even the water hazards are tasteful and as natural as they possibly could be.

    Well done Ernie I think you should be proud of the work you have done and if anyone gives you too much hassle.............well your 6ft 3" and 15st, I wouldn't worry about it!

  • Comment number 21.

    13. Sorry, not quite right.
    The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and unitary state consisting of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. So it is right to say England is a country.
    Scotland have retained their own laws ever since the joining of the Kingdom and if you are incorporating a company you do so in England and Wales or Scotland or Northern Ireland. These aren't recent devolution changes. Anyway back to the golf and I too wait to see if the changes are a success.

  • Comment number 22.

    Bruce:if they move the 18th tee forwards, won't they all be hitting 3-wood off the tee so they don't reach the stream? How many took on the 18th in 2 today?

  • Comment number 23.

    22.

    Flooch, Your right the big hitters like Casey will hit 3 wood but it's 335 yards to the stream so no real danger with the driver. Around 30 went for the two shot carry and the very first group produced an Eagle (Marc Warren). A number found the stream including Ernie...........I wonder if he felt pressure to take it on!!??

    Some of the Pro's suggested the green was too high and too small but it's not meant to be easy!!! It only rewards the very best second shot. I also love the new run off section at 17 and the 8th is a beautiful looking but now very dangerous hole.

  • Comment number 24.

    I like the way the owner said they will get it perfect ! Errrr it was perfectly perfect the way it was, just maybe the greens needed relaying. HELLO !!
    This is The West course at Wentworth, it just looks like a Dave Thomas and Peter Alliss course now, Belfry, Bowood, Donnington Grove, great courses nothing wrong with these, there just not heathland courses and nor is the West Course anymore. It was a Harry Colt course, and how lucky you were. They've now only got one decent course at Wentworth, The East, for God sake don't let him touch that. Get Martin Hawtree in there to put it back the way it was, he is the only great designer around today who knows how to really get it right. Good luck members of Wentworth, I hope your owner get's it right soon.

  • Comment number 25.

    Having first played Wentworth I am sad to see it going the way of other formulaic courses, with a final hole par five with water all around, tempting the player but frankly oh-so-boring as a layout. I first played Wentworth in 1976 and we paid £8 green fee for the day, playing both West and East courses in either four ball or single medal play, the latter on the west course. We used, as a car load of 36 players, go to all the great courses in the time.

    It isn't just the changes I decry, but the fact that golf, to play the great courses, is now beyond the reach of the average golfer.

  • Comment number 26.

    I think some comments of the changes at Wentworth have been out of proportion. Ernie Els deserves praise for helping in bringing about those changes.
    Casey was supposed to have said, fans would like to see eagles being made and that for the first time ever he had to lay up on the 18th.Comments as these only add fuel to those who think ‘most professional golfers are spoilt and only live in their own world’.
    Well come on and show us some proper shot making that real golf fans would like to see, not a 'drive and putt' show as it would appear to be common on televised US men's golf these days. One of the reasons the so-called big boys struggled yesterday was that they could not 'get-up and down' when it really mattered.
    Peter Allis and Ken Brown were right last night when they advocated at least a two-year bedding period to see what happens when referring to the changes.

 

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