Els is architect of own downfall as relaid 18th sinks like a stone

Ernie Els dumped his ball into water down the last here yesterday and could not fail to recognise the irony. All the talk at the BMW PGA Championship continues to focus on the South African's radical redesign of the West Course and, in particular, the adding of that controversial brook on the par-five 18th. Never could a golfer so accurately be described as being the architect of his own downfall.

Certainly there was little sympathy for Els's plight as he saw an early tie for the first-round lead go plop, eventually lying four behind the pacesetter Danny Willett. The sense was Els had been as foolhardy to go for the green in two as he had been to put a tiny, raised green in behind the new water feature. The wise play, declared Lee Westwood and Ross Fisher, was to lay up. But both of the big-hitting Englishmen also acknowledged that what may be wise is not exciting. Indeed, anything but.

"In a way I feel sorry for the viewing public," said Fisher, who stole a two-shot advantage over his playing partner Els by taking the uncharacteristic safe, three-wood, eight-iron, wedge route. "I'm sure they want to see us going for the green in two and making threes or making sixes and sevens. But today's the way I'm going to play it all week. Obviously the designer [Els] has gone for it and hit it in the water, whereas I've played smart and made four. So you can make of it what you want."

It will be interesting what Els makes of those comments when the pair tee it up again this afternoon, although Fisher – the local lad who spent his formative years here – was not the only critic. After his 70, Westwood whistled a similar lament. "I was a big fan of the old finish," said the world No 3. "There's a fine line in keeping a hole exciting and making it tough. I would go for the green in two if I was one off the lead on Sunday and there was five shots back to third. Otherwise I just don't see the point. They tried to make it a risk-reward hole. But the risk is far too great for the reward you might not get anyway."

The scoreboard backed up Westwood. Of the first 100 players in the clubhouse, only one had hit the eagle jackpot. That brave soul was Marc Warren, who interestingly enough was in the first group out and at six-over did not have much to lose when he floated in a four iron to 15 feet. Thereafter the overwhelming majority in contention held back. The exception, of course, was Els. Did he feel obliged to give it the big heave-ho? "It was on," he replied. "I had been hitting the ball so good and it was a perfect little five-wood. I just dragged it. I didn't make a good swing."

Plainly, in the pervading opinion, the swing would have to be rather better than "good". In the build-up Els insisted that once the pros became used to the hole they would garner the confidence to go for it. Westwood doubts that. As far as he is concerned the 18th is in need of another overhaul. "It is retrievable," he said when asked what he would do to bring the reward in balance with the risk. "The green's not great. It's too elevated and needs to be bigger. But if you're going to spend a lot of money on golf course changes it would be nice to get it right first time."

If that makes painful reading for Els and the Wentworth owner Richard Caring – the tycoon who Els actually had to persuade out of digging a huge lake on the 18th – then the comments of Chris Wood will be excruciating. Like Westwood, Wood is in the same management company as Els and like Westwood, Wood was not allowing the association to cloud his assessment. "Wentworth has lost it's English feel," said Wood, after a 70. "They've turned it into an American course. And they've turned the 18th into a 90-yard par three."

Elsewhere, away from all the yada yada, there was the European Tour's flagship tournament going on and in Willett there is an ambitious midshipman ready to storm the decks. The 22-year-old is an interesting character. He is a contemporary of Rory McIlroy's from their amateur days and the 2007 Walker Cup and has been quietly making his name on the circuit while his mate has been blazing his in headlights. Yesterday, while the gloom covered McIlroy with a 74, the glare caught the vicar's son from Sheffield. Nine birdies put him one ahead of the Australian Richard Green. For the record Willett laid up. This was no day to hit and pray.

Leading first-round scores from Wentworth

European Tour BMW PGA Championship, Wentworth GC, Surrey: First round (GB & Irl unless stated, par 71):

65 D Willett

66 R Green (Aus)

67 S Webster, R Ramsay, R Fisher, S S P Chowrasia (Ind)

68 S Kjeldsen (Den), T Aiken (SA), J Kingston (SA), G Maybin, N Colsaerts (Bel), D Lee (NZ), L Donald, F Hed (Swe)

69 N Cheetham, D McGrane, C Shave, M Siem (Ger), S Strange (Aus), L Wen-Tang (Taiwan), R Gonzalez (Arg), R Rock, S Gallacher, A Noren (Swe), E Els (SA), J Donaldson

70 C Wood, C Schwartzel (SA), G McDowell, R Davies, D Lynn, P Lawrie, P Hanson (Swe), A Wall, G Boyd, R Finch, P Casey, M Brier (Aut), L Wen-chong (China), L Westwood

71 R Derksen (Neth), A Hansen (Den), O Wilson, M Manassero (It), P Hedblom (Swe), J Edfors (Swe), H Otto (SA), P Waring, D Howell, N Dougherty, P Broadhurst, J Morrison, D Drysdale, P Lawrie, J Lucquin (Fr), G Bourdy (Fr), P McGinley, P Harrington, M Watson (US)

72 F Molinari (It), S Hansen (Den), R Echenique (Arg), O Fisher, S Lowry, N Fasth (Swe), A Canizares (Sp), E Molinari (It), C Cevaer (Fr), P Price, M Lafeber (Ned), A Dodt (Aus), A Quiros (Sp), S Khan, R Jacquelin (Fr), B Lane, R McGowan

73 K Ferrie, S Dyson, G Storm, P Larrazabal (Sp), J Lima (Por), O Henningsson (Swe), R Cabrera Bello (Sp), P Martin (Sp), G Havret (Fr), M Fraser (Aus), H Stenson (Swe), C Nilsson (Swe), C Montgomerie, S Drummond, L Oosthuizen (SA), M Jimenez (Sp), M Foster

74 J Huldahl (Den), G Orr, N Seung-yul (S Kor), M Erlandsson (Swe), P Whiteford, S Benson, J Lara (Sp), R McIlroy, J Rose, D Dixon, C Nirat (Thail), S Little, T Levet (Fr)

News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Dennis Rodman has confirmed he is not going to the Middle East to 'talk to with the leaders of Isis' as claimed in a recent satirical report
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam