Nervy Els ready to face the music over Wentworth changes

By Tony Jimenez

VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - Ernie Els is a little jittery as he awaits the reaction of the world's top players to the recent changes he has made to the iconic West Course at Wentworth, the South African said on Tuesday.

Few of the 18 holes remain untouched, with the most eye-catching alterations on the par-four eighth and par-five 18th, and Els is waiting to see how the 150-strong field at this week's PGA Championship respond to the new-look layout.

"I'm one of them myself when I play a new course, you feel things could have been done differently. But this is the way we saw it, this is the way we did it and hopefully the players will appreciate that.

"Hey, I'm in the hot seat. I'm the guy they can all fire at, they can throw their arrows at me ... but at the end of the day you want to test the players."

Els is one of five men in the world's top 10 competing this week and he said he and the Wentworth owners wanted to ensure the course was representative of the importance of the PGA Championship, rated second only to the British Open in terms of European-based tournaments.

"This always used to be a tough course but then it became a little easier because of the new (golf-club) technology," he said.


"Now I think the teeth is definitely back on the course. It's probably tougher than ever.

"This is a major championship kind of a tournament, this is our fifth major over here in Europe and it needs to have a bit of teeth and it needs to have a little bit of stature as well.

"I definitely think we have brought that back. Players will have a little bit of a shock (but) they will find a way to score around here.

One of the most spectacular changes at Wentworth has come at the par-five 18th where water now protects the green from players who regularly used to reach the putting surface in two.

World number seven Els said he and owner Richard Caring had plenty of disagreements over the plethora of changes and the 18th hole was an argument the golfer partially lost.

"Well, he pays the bill," said the 40-year-old South African. "We agreed to disagree on a lot.

"I lost a couple (of arguments) but not too many. Mr Caring got very involved.

"I saw the 18th a little bit different. I won the argument from him wanting a big lake in front of the green and we (eventually) had a burn.

"But he won the argument with a (lower and smaller) green ... so it was a bit of give and take."

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)