It was less like the West Course and more like West Side Story here yesterday as it all kicked off over the corruption, or otherwise, of a loved one. For the second year running, the BMW PGA Championship was overshadowed by a rumpus as Ian Poulter risked the wrath of Ernie Els when slating the redesigned layout.
It wasn't supposed to happen this time around. The faults of last year were supposedly rectified, so all the attention would fall on the golf. Some hope. On the day when the Korean Seung-yul Noh hit 11 shots up the last and approximately 80 per cent of the 150-strong field reached the halfway point over par, the tensions boiled over.
After a 74 that left him on level par, six behind the lead of Luke Donald, Matteo Manassero and Alvaro Quiros, Poulter called the course "unfair" and said the fun had disappeared because of the £6.5m revamp. That was overseen by Els and he felt obliged to issue a statement. "This course is by no means unfair," said the South African. "It is a true test of the game."
Els blamed Poulter's outburst on the fact he had double-bogeyed the last a few minutes before facing the media. Indeed, Poulter admitted he was "absolutely headless, absolutely fuming". He was asked if he liked the 18th. "I don't like this golf course, period. End of story," he replied. Except the 35-year-old, who missed the European Tour's flagship event in 2008 and 2009 because of his dislike of the old greens, was only getting started.
"You don't need to do a lot wrong on this newly-designed Wentworth to struggle," he said. As an example he cited his experience on the last, the par five hole which caused most debate last year and was tweaked extensively. "I've hit what I thought was a perfect third shot, maybe caught out a tiny bit by the wind and pitches by the green and finishes in the hazard. Marvellous," he said.
Poulter remembers being in the crowd as a child and hearing the roars. "I've loved this course from when I was a kid. You could be five shots back and had a chance, but you can't finish eagle-eagle now," he said. "It's not fun golf. You're watching, you tell me. Is it fun? That's the redesign. They got what they wanted."
Poulter said he does not know if he will return next year, but defended his frank assessment. "I'll speak freely – many others may not," he said.
Paul Casey also spoke freely. "I used to really enjoy playing this golf course and now it's a grind," said the 2009 champion, who played with Poulter and is on one-over. "I think Richard Caring [the owner] was perhaps wanting something like level par to win. Well he might get that, but does that make it entertaining?"
Well, in an X-rated sense it might. Noh's 11 on the 18th involved him visiting the water three times, Justin Rose's nine on the 17th saw him in a bush and then hit a tree and the least said about the 87 carded by Kent's Jamie Harris for a 25-over total the kinder. Everywhere you looked were blue numbers, as well as blue air around the bewildered competitors. But up front, Donald kept his head.
His round of 72 suffered by comparison with his opening 64 but, as the world No 2 intimated, you cannot expect to play like God every day. Quiros drew level with a best of the day 67, the big-hitting Spaniard birdieing the last three holes, while Manassero, the remarkable 18-year-old, birdied the last for a 70. The Italian looked like he was having fun.Reuse content