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Danny Willett leads PGA Championship at new Wentworth

PGA Championship, Wentworth: first round leaderboard:
-6 D Willett (Eng) -5 R Green (Aus) -4 R Fisher (Eng), R Ramsay (Sco), SSP Chowrasia (Ind), S Webster (Eng) Selected others: -3 L Donald (Eng) -2 E Els (Ire) -1 L Westwood (Eng), P Casey (Eng) level P Harrington (Ire) +2 C Montgomerie (Sco) +3 R McIlroy (NI)

Lee Westwood

Changes at Wentworth prove hard to handle

Former English Amateur champion Danny Willett secured a one-shot lead after the first round of the PGA Championship at the newly renovated Wentworth.

The 22-year-old shot a six-under 65 to head Australian Richard Green, with England's Ross Fisher and Steve Webster and Scot Richie Ramsay at four under.

Luke Donald was three under with Lee Westwood and Paul Casey one under.

Ernie Els, who designed the changes, found water at the last to close two under and Ian Poulter slipped to a 78.

It was ironic that Els of all people should have fallen foul of the par-five 18th, the most dramatically altered hole on the course, which is dominated by a deep brook that guards the front of a small, undulating green.

Ernie Els

Els defends Wentworth changes

"It was a perfect little five-wood and I dragged it," said a fuming Els, who oversaw the revamp in conjunction with Wentworth owner Richard Caring. "I didn't make a very good swing."

Despite his error, the 40-year-old South African was pleased with how the course performed in its first high-profile showing.

"I thought it played very fair," he said. "Probably better than I thought. The greens came out wonderfully. It gave people the opportunity to make birdies if you played properly and that's what we had in mind."

Westwood had four birdies on his front nine but was another to suffer a double bogey at the par-three 10th before swapping a birdie and a birdie to come home in 38.

The world number three was critical of the 18th, saying the redesign had removed some of the excitement for watching fans with less players likely to go for the green in two, but insisted he was happy enough with his round.

"Every time you're under par here you're not too disappointed," said Westwood. "I made a couple of errors but it's a decent start. It's certainly a lot stiffer test than it used to be."

Willett, who played in the same 2007 Walker Cup team as world number nine Rory McIlroy, fired nine birdies and three bogeys on his debut at the European Tour's flagship event outside the Open.

Danny Willett
Willett carded nine birdies in his opening round

But while the 21-year-old McIlroy won his first title in America earlier this month, Willett, the world number 128, has yet to register a top-three finish.

"Rory took a year and a bit to get his first win," said Willett, who turned professional in 2008.

"Obviously I have been out here a bit longer now but I need to just concentrate on what I am doing and press on and try to get into the world top 100 and top 50.

"I would be lying if I said I'm always trying to win every week I come out. I have changed my mental attitude a bit. It would be good to win but it doesn't have to come this season."

McIlroy dropped to five over when he double bogeyed the 10th, before birdies at the 16th and 17th helped him to finish with a 74.

Westwood, Casey and Poulter are all seeking to gain ground on world number one Tiger Woods this week, but Poulter had eight bogeys in his opening round.

The Accenture World Match Play champion had treatment for a stiff neck in the build-up to the event but refused to blame injury for his wayward display.

"I didn't play very well," he admitted. "You can see that from my scorecard. If you are not going to play well on this golf course it is going to punish you - it is a punishment today."

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Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington was yet another big name to have problems, taking a triple-bogey eight at the 17th.

Harrington had been three under but drove into the trees, chipped into a bush, took a penalty drop, hacked back out to the fairway and took another four to complete the hole, finishing with a round of 71.

Left-hander Green was one of the few players to find the putting surface in two shots at the 18th.

The 39-year-old had an eagle chance from 15 feet but had to settle for a birdie which took him to five under and solitary possession of second place.

"I hit one of the greatest shots of my life in there," he enthused. "I don't think you will see too many shots that close all week.

"The course asks some different questions of your game - you have got to map your way around a bit differently.

"It is a much tougher challenge, but playability wise I can't complain. This sort of challenge is definitely to my liking and 95% of the guys would probably answer the same. Around here your good shots get rewarded."

India's SSP Chowrasia was also four under, while Northern Ireland's Gareth Maybin and England's Richard Bland were in the group on three under.



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see also
Westwood criticises new Wentworth
20 May 10 |  Golf
English trio eye Woods's ranking
19 May 10 |  Golf
Westwood up to third in rankings
17 May 10 |  Golf
Poulter to make Wentworth return
26 Apr 10 |  Golf
McIlroy happy with US Tour move
19 May 10 |  Golf
Harrington will miss Wales Open
18 May 10 |  Golf
Rose relaxed over Ryder Cup place
18 May 10 |  Golf
Goosen withdraws from Wentworth
18 May 10 |  Golf
Golf on the BBC
01 Jul 11 |  Golf


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