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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Big guns greet Wentworth changes
Angel Cabrera
Cabrera beat McGinley by two shots last year to leap up the rankings
Defending champion Angel Cabrera has lavished praise on the changes made by Ernie Els to the Wentworth venue for this week's PGA Championship.

Els, who has won six World Match Play titles at the Surrey estate he calls home, has stretched its West Course to meet the demands of the modern game.

"I think the changes have been really well done - everything is good," Argentine Cabrera said on Tuesday.

"He just lengthened it a little bit, he did not touch the original design."

The powerful 36-year-old said Els had retained the character of the course laid out by the legendary Harry Colt in the 1920s.

Every hole is tougher now, without question

Jose Maria Olazabal
Cabrera achieved the most significant victory of his career when he landed the European Tour's flagship event last year and with the course now set up for big-hitters he has every chance a repeat triumph.

"With these changes, it favours the long hitters," he said. "Especially if the course is wet and soft."

But former winner Jose Maria Olazabal, not renowned for his length off the tee, was also happy with Els' handiwork.

"It's wet but I have to say the changes are fair," said the 40-year-old Spaniard, who is returning from a five-week break.

"The golf course is longer. It demands a higher level of accuracy now than before.

The West Course's 18th green
Wentworth resident Els has added yards to the West Course lay-out
"We are hitting more drivers off the tee. There are a lot of well-placed bunkers and on some of the holes we're hitting longer irons too," added Olazabal, who won the event in 1994.

And Order of Merit leader David Howell added his voice to the chorus of approval for Els and course manager Chris Kennedy, who have altered 17 of the 18 holes.

"I think Ernie has done a good job," said the 30-year-old Englishman.

"I saw the majority of the course yesterday and it seems more difficult - longer, tougher, better."

Howell, ranked 17th in the world, missed last week's Irish Open with a bad back, the same injury that led him to take a month off after the Masters.

"My back's better, but not perfect," said Howell. "It's vastly improved to two weeks ago.

"To come through the week healthy would be great but once you are out there you want to do as well as you can.

"I am as competitive as anybody and will be disappointed if I don't win. However, I'm not in a position to have those expectations having not played that much and not being fully fit."

As well as Cabrera, Els, Howell and Olazabal, the field boasts world number three Retief Goosen, number nine Adam Scott and number 10 Luke Donald.

He is keeping his options open - he has not tried the knee yet, but is going to leave it until late Wednesday or even early Thursday

Andrew Chandler
Paul McGinley's manager
Els, now sixth in the world, plays with Irish Open winner Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez, while three-time winner Colin Montgomerie is with Padraig Harrington and former Open champion Ben Curtis.

Cabrera and Howell tee off with US Open champion Michael Campbell, Goosen and Scott with Paul Casey, Donald with Lee Westwood and Australian Nick O'Hern and Darren Clarke partners Olazabal and Henrik Stenson.

Paul McGinley, meanwhile, has not ruled himself out of the 2.9m event despite undergoing surgery last week.

The Irishman, a two-time runner-up at Wentworth last season, had a piece of floating bone removed from his knee on Thursday after withdrawing from the first round of the Irish Open.

It was initially stated he would not return to action until next week's Wales Open at the earliest.

But McGinley's manager Andrew Chandler said: "He is keeping his options open for this week.

"He has not tried the knee yet, but is going to leave it until late Wednesday or even early Thursday."

McGinley, who holed the winning putt at the 2002 Ryder Cup, has been paired with Nick Dougherty and Niclas Fasth, two players challenging him for a place in the 2006 team.

  • Live TV coverage of the PGA Championship will be on BBC Two and BBC One from 25-28 May.

    TV and radio golf coverage
    14 Apr 06 |  Golf

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