McGinley races away by avoiding 'soft' ground

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The Independent Online

Paul McGinley has never made any secret of his love affair with the West Course and here yesterday he did everything but fall to his knees and start kissing Surrey's most famous piece of turf. An opening 65, that gave him the first round lead of the BMW PGA Championship, no doubt helped intensify this affection, although the Dubliner had a point to make amid all that salivating.

"When it's playing hard and like this, this is a real test of golf, a proper test," he declared. "We're not tested enough on course management anymore. A lot of the courses we play are soft and one-dimensional." McGinley did not go so far as to say that the modern golfer is thus soft and one-dimensional. Yet he would not be alone in believing it.

In fact, the demise of the shot-maker is lamented throughout the game. True, there is Tiger Woods, but how many chances does he get to parade these skills? Indeed, how many chances do any of the professionals get, including McGinley, who plotted his way around yesterday by chasing two-irons off the tee up the bone-dry fairways and, on the sixth, purposefully aimed a wedge 20 feet left of the pin? "It is the substantial majority," he confirmed when asked how many of the Tour's venues fall into the "long and one-dimensional" category. "Everyone just thinks 7,500 yards is the future of golf. But firm and fast is what makes courses tough for us.

"That's what brings the luck and element of course management back into it. I'd love for some clever engineer to find a way to dry out a course very quickly. Rather than just buying more real estate and just putting in new tee boxes."

Fortunately, on days like this golf's problems could be put to one side as McGinley reminded how great rounds were once assembled. It is the 41-year-old's dream to make his fourth Ryder Cup appearance in Kentucky in September and he claims it was this mission that persuaded him to resign his vice-captaincy just four months after accepting it. Inevitably, there have been whispers ever since about a fall-out with the captain, Nick Faldo, but McGinley maintains this is not the case.

"I'm simply not ready for an administrative role yet," he said after the bogeyless magnificence that gave him a one-shot advantage over the Swede Robert Karlsson. "I still feel I have lot more to give." He will have to find an awful lot more just to prevail here, never mind make Faldo's team. McGinley has not won for 30 months, is struggling to put four rounds together and the forecast rain could make the ground as soft as he hates it. Saying that, a few of the more fancied competitors made woeful beginnings. Ernie Els shot a three-over 75, Justin Rose a 76, while Vijay Singh pulled out with a rib injury.

Having finished second here in 2005, McGinley and Wentworth could be about to consummate that affair.