Clarke: Windy Wentworth will be tough

Darren Clarken is hoping to cash in on his rich vein of form, but concedes Wentworth could be tough this week.

Darren Clarke is hoping to cash in on his current rich vein of form, but concedes that an upgraded and windy Wentworth won’t make life easy at this week’s BMW PGA Championship.

The West course at the elite Surrey golf institution underwent a £6.5million make-over ahead of last year’s Championship, not all of which went down well with the field.

Indeed Ernie Els, who had played a part in the changes, admitted to being hurt by some of the comments, partly because the most criticized of the them,, the setting of the 18th green, wasn’t his idea at all.

Owner Richard Caring over-ruled his original plan for the hole and called instead for the addition of a stream cutting across the fairway in front of a new smaller, raised green in the hope that it would increase the excitement around the closing hole.

But the changes made gunning to land the ball on the green in two styrokes on this par five hole so risky, most played it as a boring, safety-first, three-stroke and one or two putts hole.

The hole has had another face lift ahead of this year’s event and this time Wentworth’s director of golf, Stephen Gibson, says he would be “surprised if there is any controversy surrounding the 18th this time.”

Clarke acknowledged that the changes were for the better, but feels it is the weather this year that could give the course its sharpest teeth as strong winds are being predicted by the weather experts.

“They’ve changed the greens at eight where it was very, very severe and at 18 because I don’t think enough guys went for it in two so I believe they’ve enlarged both of them a little bit,” he told Sky Sports News.

“But I believe in the light of the forecast we’ve been given so far, we can expect it to be windy all week so with Wentworth playing firm, fast and with the new challenge, we can expect it to be very tough.”

Long regarded as the flagship event of the European Tour, Clarke hailed the stellar field for the tournament, noting that all four current major champions were in it

Indeed, the seasoned Ulsterman – who got back into the winner’s circle in Mallorca a couple of weeks ago – feels he us seeing a golden period for the European Tour.

“I think if you look at the field here, the field is probably stronger than it was at TPC (Sawgrass),” he said.

“It just shows how far the European Tour has come, it’s a great time for it right now.

Clarke also had some words of advice for American commentators who had questioned the validity of the world rankings system which currently sees five Europeans in the top six places, including places one, two and three.

“There’s always an easy answer and one that was given to me a few years ago was, play better!” he declared.

“Just play better and get more points, that’s what the Europeans have been doing, but I’m sure it’s going to swing around at some stage. The Americans have a fantastic tour over there as well.

But right now we have the majority of the best players in the world which is brilliant.”