If Ernie Els had the opportunity to go back in time and do things differently, he’d probably pass on Wentworth owner Richard Caring’s offer to redesign the famed West Course, site of the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship.
Two years after Els made wholesale changes to the Parkland layout, he’s spent more time recently defending his work (and redoing his own redesign) than enjoying the fruits of his labor.
Up until this week, however, Els had been diplomatic in his responses to the criticism. But that all changed on Saturday following a 2-under 70 that left Els fuming with course conditions at Wentworth that looked more U.S. Open than regular season European Tour event.
“I’m fed up with it … It’s not my bloody job doing it. It’s their job. They have been around a long time, I’m really disappointed with it,” Els said after a third round 70 that was one of the lowest scores of the day.
Only three players in the field broke 70 on the day, as the greens, which resembled the concrete in the Wentworth parking lot, made it nearly impossible to post a decent score.
But Els wasn’t done with his criticism of the course conditions.
“I spoke to the Tour. Really, I am pissed off. Conditions are tough and it has been blowing all night last night and this morning,” Els said after the round. “I’ve asked them to put water on the bloody greens and then I spoke to JP [John Paramor — the European Tour's chief referee] coming up the 15th and he said we did water it last night. I said you have to triple that. You have a damn 30mph easterly breeze blowing so put [expletive] water on the greens. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.”
If you want an idea of how bad it was out there, 36-hole leader James Morrison posted 9-over 81 just a day after he blistered the course to the tune of 8-under 64. So, yeah, it was playing like a major championship track.
While I understand Els’ frustration with the course conditions — especially given the gusty winds that dried the greens out — Justin Rose and Luke Donald managed to make up ground on the field with rounds of 3-under 69, so the cream obviously rose to the top. That’s what you want at a tournament that’s supposed to be the European Tour’s flagship event.
Regardless, the crews at Wentworth need to be ready for these things. As we saw at Shinnecock during the 2004 U.S. Open, watering between groups is an option. Because the last thing you want is the course to turn into a complete joke like it did on Saturday.