Designed for strife
Rob Lee reflects on playing the 18th at Wentworth with Darren Clarke ahead of the PGA Championship.
Last Updated: 24/05/11 6:56pm
Ian Poulter has never lacked bravery or heart and those qualities pulled him through in Sunday's all-English World Match Play final.
Faced by arch rival Luke Donald, who replaced him as Accenture Match Play champion in February, Poulter needed every bit of his tenacity to win 2&1.
Both players appeared a little tired during the final and neither produced their best golf as a result, but that was hardly surprising after a tough few days around the hilly Finca Cortesin course.
In the end it was Poulter who edged out his Ryder Cup team-mate to prove he still possesses that handy knack of doing the right thing at the right time.
As every golfer knows, though, match play success doesn't guarantee stroke-play results and Poulter must be hoping this victory is a springboard for a good run of tournaments.
The 35-year-old finished last year in tremendous style but has so far failed to hit the same heights this year - a fact that wasn't lost on him after he received the trophy.
Donald was typically magnanimous in defeat but will get another shot at becoming World No 1 this week at the PGA Championship, providing he can eclipse Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, which is no small task.
Westwood was in sparkling form in Spain, shooting 19-under through 45 holes, and if he continues to putt in the same way as he did last week then he must have a fantastic chance of winning at Wentworth.
Another man who looks in terrific form is Nicolas Colsaerts, who took eventual champion Poulter all the way to a play-off.
I must admit I'm impressed with how the Belgian has turned things around. For a long time his career looked as though it was stuck in quicksand but he's starting to maximise his talent and it appears as though good times lie in store for him.
Colsaerts is part of an incredibly strong field at Wentworth this week that features each of the four major winners and the entire European Ryder Cup team, save Padraig Harrington.
All eyes will be trained on these guys as they tackle the revamped 18th hole which now sports a lower green and an extended putting surface - tweaks made to Ernie Els' redesign of last year.
Everyone likes a dramatic final hole and I think Wentworth felt that the old 18th was too benign - it was too easy to slide the ball from left to right off the tee and then funnel the ball into the green with your second.
The new stream in front of the green means that players now have a choice of hitting the green in two or laying up.
I played the hole earlier this week and took the second option after failing to hit my drive far enough. Although it was windy I hit a really good eight iron to eight feet - but missed the putt and lost the hole to Darren Clarke and Ewen Murray as a result, which was very annoying!
Darren hit two magnificent shots in to the green - a driver as well as he can, followed by a three-wood right into the wind that finished 20 feet behind the hole. He showed that nothing less than the perfect shot is going to do if the players are hitting their second shot into the wind this week.
Even when you can't reach in two you've got to be thinking about what you are doing because this isn't a giveaway hole anymore. It should make for fascinating viewing.
The same has to be said for the climax to last week's Crowne Plaza Invitational.
David Toms was incredible over the opening two days, shooting back-to-back 62s around Colonial but struggled to a 74 on a windier third day as Charlie Wi carded a four-under 66, to spark a seven-shot swing that elevated him to a shot of the lead!
Toms, who lost the Players Championship in a play-off only a week earlier, must have feared the worst but he responded well to shoot 67, which was a tremendous effort. He could easily have slid the other way but he played some excellent stuff to win on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2006.
The highlight was undoubtedly holing his third shot - a wedge - at the par-five 11th, a feat that was rather reminiscent of the eagle that helped propel D.A. Points to victory at Pebble Beach in February.
It was a huge moment because Wi was greenside in two and even though the Korean got up-and-down from a bunker it must have had a psychological effect.
Zach Johnson put up a really good defence of the title that he won in 2010, closing with a round of five-under on a course that suited guys who rely more on accuracy than length. On those terms Toms is a match for anyone when he's on his game.
It was a better week for Robert Karlsson too; he's keen on making a lot of FedExCup points this years so joint fifth represents a move in the right direction and a lot of the courses in America week-in, week-out should suit him because he hits it miles and high too.
ROB'S SKY BET TIPS
I fancy Westwood (8/1 with Sky Bet) strongly at Wentworth this week; he's playing well and he likes the course. The forecasters say it is going to be breezy this week, which means the best ball-strikers should have a distinct advantage. His old stablemate Darren Clarke - who won just two weeks ago at the Iberdrola Open - is also playing well if our round is anything to go by. He's a tempting 80/1.
Meanwhile, Jason Day defends in this week's Byron Nelson Championship at TPC Four Seasons - another course where you need to hit pretty straight and be clever.