Wentworth owner takes blame for 18th-hole backlash

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By Tony Jimenez

VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - Wentworth owner Richard Caring said he would carry the can over the much-criticized changes to the 18th hole and has pledged to right the wrongs in time for the 2011 PGA Championship.

The revamped West Course has been the hot topic among the players, with world number three Lee Westwood leading the complaints about the new moat and elevated putting surface at the par-five last that have made it tough to go for the green in two shots.

"The 18th was a dream I had," Caring told reporters at the European Tour's flagship event on Friday. "I wanted to give the spectators a bit of excitement, a bit of theater.

"We might have gone slightly too far because it's proven to be quite difficult. I think the green could be slightly lower, which is what (designer) Ernie Els wanted to do but I was a bit more theatrical than he was.

"I liked it a little higher. I thought we should tempt the pros to hit the second shot into the green rather than laying up (but) I must say Ernie was right and I was wrong."

Caring said he planned to speak to a select band of players to ensure the alterations that needed to be made to the closing hole would meet with their approval.

"We will talk to the pros who we really want to listen to ... five or six of them," said the millionaire entrepreneur.

"I just had a chat with Lee, who is the third-ranked golfer in the world, and he gave me a few ideas.


"It's Ernie's call at the end of the day but I believe the 18th will have changed and there might be one or two other tweaks."

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.

"We have put a lot of time, effort and passion into it and we won't stop until we get it perfect," said Caring.

"When you take one of the finest and most historic parkland courses and try and bring it into today's age, you need a little bit of a brave heart.

"Overall the work that has gone into it, considering how terrible the winter was, the worst in 49 years in the UK, our staff here have been unbelievable," added Caring.

"I think it's beautiful, the quality is fantastic and I'm not unhappy with it."

Caring said he and Els had plenty of disagreements over the original changes.

"We had a few punch-ups," he joked. "But the 18th you have to put down to me because I wanted the fans to 'ooh and aah' around the last hole.

"Ernie is a terrific guy and he's done fantastic things for us here and we are very proud of it."

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)