On course for tricky times as Els adds bite to Wentworth
Wednesday 24 May 2006
When you are blessed with the size and stature of Ernie Els you can be fairly certain that when you are in earshot the boys are not going to be giving you too much flak. So it was yesterday, as the European Tour arrived at its flagship event and studied the changes the South African has made to Wentworth.
Yes, they were fairly queuing up to slap the world No 6 on the back, even if, in truth, a few really wanted to slap him around the chops. In short, Els has added some teeth to the West Course which runs directly outside his back window on the exclusive Surrey estate. And while he was at it, he added some vampire fangs as well.
Some 310 yards - a normal par four to you and me - and 30 bunkers - a normal trip to hell for you and me - have been added as Els and the course superintendent, Chris Kennedy, have taken a knife, spade and tape measure to Harry Colt's legendary layout. Only one hole - the short 14th - has escaped the bulldozers and among the most obvious differences are the 17th - now an eye-squinting 610 yards - and the sixth, which boasts a new tee taken so far back it is now on the East Course.
Be sure, last year's winning score of 15-under will require something superhuman to emulate.
Els, of course, is one of the few professionals in the field - together with perhaps Luke Donald and Adam Scott - capable of matching Angel Cabrera's 2005 winning total and the cynical on the driving range were whispering that the changes may best suit a certain South African in the BMW Championship which gets under way tomorrow.
One of the great mysteries is how Els, a six-times winner of the World Match Play Championship, which is also held over the West Course, has yet to win the tournament still universally referred to as the PGA. "Funnily enough, this is Ernie's best chance," said one professional. But if the chorus of approval from the media tent was anything to go by, the disgruntled are in a minority.
"The changes have been really well done and everything is good," said Cabrera.
"The alterations are fair," commented Jose Maria Olazabal. "Ernie's done a good job," waxed David Howell. Michael Campbell, the reigning US Open champion, emphasised that Els has succeeded in sculpting the means to one of his ends: to sort out the European drought of seven years without a major victory.
"I know I could be getting some stick from the guys for what's been done, but at the end of the day they will be better equipped for the majors," admitted Els. "Anybody going to the US Open in June will have a much better feel of what they are going into. Miss a shot there and you're either in rough, a bunker or in danger of three-putting. Everyone knows how much I love this place and it was never our intention to change the character of the golf course. That would have been a crime."
Latest in Sport
Bath vs Saracens Premiership Final match preview: What time does it start and where can I watch it?
Hector Bellerin: How saying no to Barcelona paid off for Bellerin - and Arsenal
Paul Scholes column: With Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Fifa corruption live: Sepp Blatter tries to shift attention to Uefa and says he expects more from US investigators
David Gill rejects Fifa vice-president role after Sepp Blatter wins election because of the 'terribly damaging events' under his reign
- 1 Engineer pictured fixing plane's engine with 'duct tape' by concerned EasyJet passenger
- 2 Two-year-old says goodbye to bin man best friend
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'