The BMW PGA Championship begins at Wentworth tomorrow. The first big British golf tournament of the year sees Europe's leading players, including Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Paul Casey, battling out for a €750,000 first prize. But to get their hands on the cash and the trophy, they will first need to negotiate the dramatically revamped par-5 18th.
South African Ernie Els, a three-time major winner and repeat champion on the Wentworth course where he owns a house, was the man charged with redesigning the iconic Surrey layout. He spoke to Esquire to explain the changes he’s made to the 18th hole.
“One of our goals throughout the renovation and modernization of the West Course was to give each and every hole its own strategic value. The finishing hole is getting a lot of the attention because we’ve created the potential for a bit of extra drama.
"Players were worried that we had taken an eagle out of the equation, but that’s not the case. This green will hold a properly flighted shot from 220-240 yards out, which for most pros is where a decent drive leaves you in the fairway. It’s still a fair hole but with the water in front of the green we’ve ‘turned up the wick’ on the risk-reward aspect.”
We were lucky enough to play the new-look West Course last week and can confirm that the 538-yard hole provides an epic climax to the round. With the stands in place around the new island green, the second shot is played towards a huge ampitheatre. Some leading pros have already told us they will lay up with their second shot and rely on hitting an accurate enough approach to secure a birdie. We were just happy to keep the ball out of the drink. For more on the BMW PGA Championship, click here.
[caption id="attachment_20032" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The newly revamped 18th hole will require players to find a small, raised green (situated below the white block you can see top and centre) from 230 yards out. An eight-metre wide stream, greenside bunkers and tightly mowed run-off areas put a high premium on accuracy"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_20031" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="The old par-5 finishing hole on the West Course at Wentworth. A sure-fire birdie opportunity with no water guarding the green."][/caption]