Different Strokes: BMW PGA the real test for west at Wentworth

R&A looking to tap into football market, Twitter twaddle, word of mouth and more

Hopefully, the tweaking of the West Course at Wentworth is an end. Firstly, there was the issue with the greens – remember Pádraig Harrington’s reluctance to go anywhere near them when he was the poster boy of the European Tour – and, then, there was the near-unanimous consternation over Ernie Els’s initial overhaul of the course.

Els was given a second bite at the cherry, so to speak. But his latest re-design – the heavy artillery moved in a week after Chris Wood’s win last year and, proving things get done when money is no object, it is ready for play – was done with two men whispering in his ear, one of them Paul McGinley and the other Thomas Bjorn.

Between them, a course that is more in tune with what original designer Harry Colt envisioned should come into play for the old championship, the flagship event of the PGA European Tour, which also kick-starts a new vision with the inaugural Rolex Series commencing with this megabucks tournament.

Unfortunately, there is no Rory McIlroy in the field.


Back injuries are becoming something of a forbidden word in the locker-room this season – what with Tiger Woods undergoing a fourth visit to the surgeon and Dustin Johnson spending time away following his slip down stairs in Augusta – and McIlroy’s medical advice was to give this tournament a miss with an eye down the road on challenging for the US Open next month.

McIlroy has a doctor’s cert to explain away his absence but the other poster boy of the tour is also missing. Masters champion Sergio Garcia has opted instead to play in the Dean and Deluca Invitational at Colonial on the PGA Tour stateside. Nine members of last year’s losing Ryder Cup team, though, are competing: McIlroy, Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello are absent, but Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson, Chris Wood, Justin Rose, Andy Aullivan, Matt Fitzpatrick, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Thomas Pieters are supporting their home tour.

The West Course will, according to McGinley, play “nicely firm” with the new sub-air system in place along with a forecast for hot and dry weather. It’ll be interesting to see what unfolds, with all 18 greens stripped of their turf during the remodelling and reseeded with a new creeping bent aimed at improving the pureness of the putting surfaces.

The greens at the West Course have always been a topic of debate and the Els design team completely reshaped five of them (the eighth, 11th, 14th and 16th) and another five (the third, fourth, fifth, 12th and 15th) were partially rebuilt.

One of the major visual differences to the course is the removal of no fewer than 29 bunkers, whilst those remaining were redesigned and reconstructed.

Across the divide

You’ve got to hand it to the R&A for their efforts to cross the sporting divide and attract football fans to The Open when it’s staged at Royal Birkdale in July.

Earlier this year, European Tour golfer Tommy Fleetwood – an Everton fan – brought the Claret Jug to Goodison Park where he was brought out pitchside with the trophy before a Premier League match with Chelsea  . . . . and, on Sunday, the famous trophy switched sides to be at Liverpool’s final home game of the season where Kenny Dalglish did the honours in showing it off to the fans.

Dalglish, a keen golfer, will be on duty at Birkdale in a couple of months . . . but not as a player. He’ll be guest speaking at corporate hospitality!

Barretstown barbecue at the K Club

Shout-out to Barretstown, the charity for children with serious illness, who are seeking to fill the timesheet for their special outing and barbeque at The K Club this Monday, May 29th.

A limited number of places are available – teams of four (€1,000 morning, €1,250 afternoon) – for the shotgun event which will take place on the Palmer Ryder Cup course. Email fundraising@barretstown.org or phone 045-863128.

Word of mouth

“Having had a reaction to my earlier rib injury, I have been advised to take a conservative approach to my recovery . . . it’s a disappointing decision to have to make, but I have to ensure I make a full recovery. I will now continue the process of preparing my game for the US Open and the rest of the season” – Rory McIlroy on withdrawing from this week’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

“I’m so over that. It is in the past. It’s unfortunate what happened, but it’s time to move on and this puts a lid on it” – Lexi Thompson on putting that four-stroke penalty episode at the ANA Inspiration well and truly behind her after securing victory in the Kingsmill Championship on the LPGA Tour.

By the numbers

7 & 7: Although Rory McIlroy has withdrawn due to injury and Graeme McDowell opted not to include the tournament in his schedule, there are seven Irish players in the field at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth: Shane Lowry, Pádraig Harrington, Paul Dunne, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Damien McGrane and Neil Ó Briain. The prize fund – in US dollars oddly enough – is $7 million, making it the richest ever purse at the championship.

Twitter Twaddle

“Tough to lose in the final but came up against a putting machine. Played great the whole week, especially in the matchplay. #onwards” – Gavin Moynihan, playing on an invite, transformed his season with a runner-up finish to Aaron Rai in the Andalucia Matchplay tournament. The Dubliner jumped 73 places to eighth in the latest Challenge Tour rankings and also earned a spot in the field for this week’s Czech Challenge.

“Well done @BillHo_Golf Good things happen to good people!” – Darren Clarke tips the cap to Billy Horschel following his play-off win over Jason Day in the Byron Nelson.

“Just played 18 holes on the newly redesigned Wentworth well done to all involved its exceptional” – Stephen Gallacher gives the newlook West Course his seal of approval.

Know the Rules

Q: A played B in a match. A drove out of bounds from the wrong teeing ground. B did not recall the stroke. What is the ruling?

A: As A played from the wrong teeing ground and B did not require him to cancel the stroke and play a ball from within the correct teeing ground, A’s ball has been put into play. Therefore, under Rule 27-1 A must drop a ball, under penalty of one stroke, as nearly as possible at the spot from which the original ball was played, ie on the wrong teeing ground. He could not tee the ball because the original ball was not played from the teeing ground of the hole being played (Rule 20-5).

In the Bag

Alvaro Quiros, Rocco Forte Open

Driver – Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic (9 degrees)

3-wood – Callaway GBB Epic (15 degrees)

5-wood – Callaway GBB Epic (18 degrees)

Irons (3-PW) – Callaway Apex MB

Sand Wedge – Callaway Mack Daddy Forged (52 degrees)

Lob Wedge – Callaway Mack daddy Forged (58 degrees)

Putter – Odyssey O-Works 2-Ball