Els hurt and disappointed by criticism from players

By Tony Jimenez

VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - Ernie Els said he was hurt and disappointed by the weight of criticism over his re-design of Wentworth's West Course.

World number three Lee Westwood has led the player backlash at the PGA Championship, complaining about the devilishly difficult 18th hole and the bunkers all round the tree-lined, par-71 layout.

"Today I felt very disappointed by everything that's been said and kind of hurt a little bit," Els told reporters after a second-round 70 gave him a three-under total of 139 at the European Tour's flagship event.

"But you've got to be man enough to take it on the chin. I am in the firing line, I knew the 18th was going to be a problem, number eight was going to be a problem and also some of the greens.

"It's a tough decision sometimes. You've got to keep the owner (Richard Caring) happy, the players happy and as a designer you have a philosophy that you want to follow. With all of these factors it can be a little tricky at times."

South African Els, who has a house on the Wentworth estate, said he would have accepted it more if the players had confronted him with their complaints.

"I would love for people to come to me personally rather than go to the newspapers and tell their side of the story," said the world number seven.

BORDERLINE GREENS

"On the whole the changes have been good. We know a couple of the greens are borderline, I agree with that. There are some things I'm not even happy with," added Els.

"But when you have an owner who invests a lot of money into making changes and really wants the golf course better, as a tougher challenge... and you take a lot of other factors into consideration, you've probably got an impossible task."

Els came unstuck at the 18th on Thursday when his approach found the new moat protecting the front of the green.

He made amends 24 hours later by hitting the putting surface in two and making a birdie four after shaving the hole with his 12-foot eagle attempt.

"Today it was a totally different yardage and a little downwind," he said. "I hit a seven-iron 194 yards to the front of the green -- that was probably my shot of the day."

According to media reports, around 6.5 million pounds ($9.34 million) was spent on redeveloping the iconic West Course to the extent that few of the 18 holes stayed untouched.

"This golf course doesn't have to shy away from any golf course in the world, and I'm talking about the toughest golf courses in the world," said Els.

"Most of it is going according to plan and we will take the necessary steps to rectify the other ones.

"Hopefully things haven't got too out of control. We'll address it and we'll have a great championship golf course going into the future," said the triple major winner.

(Editing by Alison WIldey)