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Page last updated at 22:34 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 23:34 UK

Lee Westwood criticises Ernie Els's new-look Wentworth

Ernie Els

Els defends Wentworth changes

Lee Westwood has criticised some of the changes made to Wentworth's West Course ahead of this year's PGA Championship.

The world number three is concerned the par-five 18th has lost its drama as a new stream stops players trying to reach the green in two.

"I was a big fan of the [old] finish. People like that excitement of birdies. That's been taken away," he said.

But South African pro Ernie Els, who oversaw the changes, was quick to defend the new challenges of Wentworth.

Els said: "There will be a bit of controversy here and there with a new design like this but I feel we've done it to the best of our ability and the way we saw it."

The 18th cries out for a green that sits in the opposite direction. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me

Lee Westwood

The course has undergone a £6.5m pound revamp, with Els working in conjunction with the owner of the Surrey course, Richard Caring.

Seventeen of the 18 holes have been significantly altered on the iconic West Course, with the 18th receiving the biggest facelift - a brook now cuts across the fairway in front of a new smaller, more undulating green.

Westwood's playing partner Oliver Wilson was one of the few players to attempt to reach the green in two in the first round, hitting a three-iron approach that had the gallery roaring with delight.

But Wilson could only manage a birdie four and Westwood felt his fellow Englishman deserved better.

"Olly's hit a career shot there and it's not even stayed on the green," said Westwood. "You can tell by how excited the crowd got with that one, how hard that second shot is.

"The hole cries out for a green that sits in the opposite direction. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

"If you're going to spend a lot of money on changes it would be nice to get them right first time round."

Westwood, who carded a one-under 70, cited Augusta National, venue of the Masters, as an example of change for the better.

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"They've softened Augusta over the past few years and the atmosphere has improved," he said.

"Today I pitched it eight feet right of the hole on 16 and it went 30 feet away. People say, 'Well, that happens at Augusta,' but this isn't Augusta.

"It's a fine line between entertaining everybody and making it harder."

England's Ross Fisher, who finished second behind compatriot Paul Casey here last year, was also critical of the new-look closing hole.

"I prefer how it was before," said the big-hitting Fisher, who came through the Wentworth academy, after a four-under 67.

"Whether it's going to create more drama than in previous years, I don't know. You almost feel sorry for the spectators because they want to see us going for the green in two and making threes, not making sixes and sevens.

"It has changed drastically, you used to see people running the ball up to the green.

"If the water gets taken out then I would probably go for the green in two. But if it remains there I would be surprised if I went for it."

My opinion is that you are going to scare the player away a little bit for now until they get more courage

Ernie Els

Ironically Els, who owns a property on the Wentworth estate, was leading going up the 18th but put his second into the water and made a bogey six to card 69.

The seven-time World Match Play champion over the West Course admitted on Tuesday that the 18th was the subject of much debate between his design team and the Wentworth management.

"It's one of those arguments we had - how difficult do you make it when you want to entice the player to go for the green or are you going to scare the player away," said Els.

"My opinion is that you are going to scare the player away a little bit for now until they get more courage the more that they play the golf course."

But the three-time major champion insists he is proud of the new layout, particularly the relaid and resculpted greens and extensive bunkering.

"The organisers, sponsors and the owner Mr Caring wanted a tougher test, a real championship test, and it needed it," said Els.

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see also
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