Change of opinion?

After further re-modelling, will Wentworth's 18th go down well in 2011?

By Dave Tindall.   Last Updated: 24/05/11 2:05pm

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When Ernie Els and his design team carried out a £6.5m revamp of Wentworth's iconic West course ahead of last year's BMW PGA Championship, most of the changes were welcomed.

But the facelift given to the 18th made many recoil.

The addition of a stream cutting across the fairway in front of a new smaller, more undulating green made going for the par five in two a big gamble and many were put off, choosing to lay up instead so turning the hole into a boring three-shotter.

So much for the idea of increased excitement - the intention of owner Richard Caring, whose vision for the 18th had overriden Els' original plans for it.

"I'd be very surprised if there's any controversy surrounding the 18th this time."
Stephen Gibson - Director of Golf at Wentworth Quotes of the week

"I feel very sorry for the viewing public, because they want to see us go for the green in two," said England's Ross Fisher. "It must be a little disappointing. Personally, I really liked it as it was before."

Current world number one Lee Westwood was particularly outspoken.

"I was a big fan of the (old) finish. People like that excitement of birdies. That's been taken away. If you're going to spend a lot of money on changes it would be nice to get them right first time round," said a scathing Westwood.

However, Westwood did offer some constructive criticism, adding that it wouldn't take much to increase the reward element at the 18th to make it into the hole Els intended.

"The green just needs to be a bit bigger and the same height as the water instead of being raised so you have got a chance of holding your second shot," said the Englishman.

Changes

So have the powers that be listened? And, more importantly, have they implemented the changes that Westwood and others suggested.

"Yes, we've lowered the green and extended it by 25% at the back," said Wentworth's Director of Golf Stephen Gibson.

"Last year the general feeling was that all the changes Ernie made were well received apart from 18th which was regarded as being too tough.

"That said a third of the field did go for it in two and the first player to take it on actually made eagle.

"I've played it a number of times and been able to stop the ball on the green with my second second shot so these guys shouldn't have a problem."

Several players got to see the new 18th before the course was closed at the start of May - and Gibson said they were impressed.

"Ollie Wilson loved it, thought it was superb and Graeme Storm said it was a lot better too.

"Steve Webster was also very positive about the changes.

"I'd be very surprised if there's any controversy surrounding the 18th this time."

And the early signs are good.

Colleague Harry Emanuel stood by the 18th in Tuesday's practice round and saw Jose Maria Olazabal - hardly the longest hitter - knock his second to six feet.

Meanwhile, Chris Wood - another critic of the hole last year - said players were impressed by the changes and that many more would be going for it in two.

Would it be too much to ask for this year's winner to seal victory by holing a putt on 18 for eagle?

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