New-look 18th wins few fans
The first results are in at Wentworth – and the critics appear to have won the day over the new-look 18th.
The first results are in at Wentworth – and when it comes to the new-look 18th hole the critics appear to have won the day.
Of the 150 players in the opening round of the BMW PGA Championship, only one managed an eagle on the radically-altered par five.
That was Scot Marc Warren and you had to get there early to see it. He was in the very first group.
The idea behind the ditch that curls in front and then left of the raised green was to make the hole more dramatic, but the vast majority of the field decided instead to play safe, even with the tee moved forward.
In addition to the lone eagle, there were only 24 birdies, 21 bogeys and four double bogey sevens. Exactly 100 players made par.
What happens in Sunday’s final round could swing things back towards those who like the change, but they should not expect Lee Westwood to alter his view.
The world number three, who resumed on Friday on one under par and five behind 22-year-old Danny Willett, said: “They’ve got the green elevation wrong – it’s too high – and it needs to be a bit bigger.
“There’s a fine line between making it exciting and making it tough. But the risks are far too great for the rewards you might occasionally get.”
Westwood likes some of the other changes made by Ernie Els and course owner Richard Caring – the total cost was over £6million – but he was a fan of the entire closing stretch and doubts it will provide such good entertainment the way it ios now.
Els himself was one of those who went for the green in two, but his five-wood found the water.
The South African’s bogey six was his only dropped shot of the day and a 69 left him in a tie for 16th spot.
“I haven’t spoken to too many (players), but what I’ve heard has been pretty positive,” he said.
“Obviously some need to say something negative, but I think over all the players like it.
“They understand we are trying to toughen it up, give them a bit more room off the tee and really get the shot-makers to have a good time.”
Willett, a team-mate of Rory McIlroy at the 2007 Walker Cup and chasing his first Tour win, led by one overnight from Australian left-hander Richard Green.
Midlander Steve Webster was alongside Green with two to play and in years gone by would have hoped to finish birdie-birdie at least.
In a perfect illustration of the what the situation has become, however, he bogeyed the long 17th – Padraig Harrington took eight there in his 71 – and parred the last.
McIlroy’s problems came early on, but from five over after a double bogey at the short 10th – Westwood had a five there as well – he did at least hit back for a 74.
Defending champion Paul Casey matched Westwood’s 70, but Ian Poulter, the other world top 10 player in the field, slumped to a 78.
Like Harrington he has not been at the event the last two years because of the state of the greens. He is back, but it might only be until tonight.
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