VIRGINIA WATER, England — Call Ernie Els “The Big Uneasy.”
The South African qualified for a nickname change after seeing red in the third round of the €4.5 million BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
Els has never been as angry as he was when he finished his third round of the BMW PGA Championship. The South African launched into an angry, expletive-filled tirade against the Wentworth greens staff and the European Tour for the state of the Wentworth greens.
Els’ blood finally boiled over when he hit a 4-iron into the par-5 18th green and watched as the ball bounced into the back bunker. He failed to get up and down for birdie, and was hot when he came off the golf course.
“Really, I am pissed off,” Els said. “Conditions are tough and it has been blowing all night and this morning. I’ve asked them to put water on the bloody greens and then I spoke to JP (chief referee John Paramor) coming up the 15th and he said we did water it (the course) last night. I said ‘you have to triple that’. You have a damn 30 mph easterly breeze blowing so put (expletive) water on the greens.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. So now we have another situation and the guys aren’t going to be very happy.”
Els has fielded complaints from Europe’s elite over the last two years for radical changes he made to the Wentworth West course before the 2010 BMW PGA Championship. He softened the course for last year’s championship and again this year. The three-time major winner was looking for an easy time this year, but will feel the players’ wrath yet again.
With strong winds and hot temperatures drying out the greens, the Wentworth West Course turned into a U.S. Open style test in the third round.
“I am with the guys on this as I hit a shot on 18, a 4-iron, that pitched pin high and goes through to the back bunker. So if they put water on the damn green you at least have a chance to hold the (expletive) green.
“I just want them to play ball with me. I would love to talk to them but they don’t bloody listen. I cannot control the wind, and it seems like I can’t control the bloody green staff either and that is just unfortunate.
“The Tour has known about the forecast for about a week so these conditions are no surprise. I have been talking to the Tour and the greens staff since I landed here on Monday and said just to please keep the moisture in the golf course.
“‘Yes, yes, yes, you just concentrate on playing’ is the reply I get all the time.
“I spoke to them last night and I spoke to them again this morning, but it is like talking to this wall behind me. I am fed up with this. It is a difficult but fair golf course but just set it up properly and we will have a championship.
“I said to JP (Paramor), ‘Man, whatever water you put on, triple it.’ The 15th green is holding, the 16th green is not holding, the 17th green is not holding and the 18th green is not holding. So they are all bloody inconsistent.”
Els returned a 2-under 70, but felt sorry for playing partner Bernd Weinberger.
“I played with a really young guy today (Wiesberger). He didn’t really know the course and played wrong shots and got himself into trouble. Guys like myself have played in these conditions and know what to expect and how to control your ball. So you are going to have to grind out a score. You have to play certain shots now and you just can’t go and bash a driver down the course. But then I shoot 70 and he shoots 83.”
Wentworth owner Richard Caring originally spent €15 million on the 2010 redesign, and has spent millions more on alterations. Most of it has been spent on the controversial 18th hole, which now includes a water hazard.
“How much money have we spent on that green?” Els asked. “Mr. Caring has put in so much money and effort into this redesign so why is the 12th green dead? So somebody is not doing their job.”
The BMW PGA Championship is the European’s Tour’s flagship event. Yet the golf course was like a red flag to a raging Els bull.
Needless to say, Ernie’s reaction is not what Wentworth, the European Tour and sponsors BMW were hoping for.