Ernie - PGA bigger than TPC
Ernie Els feels that the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth has now eclipsed The Players Championship in terms of prestige.
Last Updated: 25/05/11 4:19pm
Ernie Els feels that the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth has now eclipsed The Players Championship as the most prestigious tournament outside of the majors.
The Players has long been dubbed the game's 'unofficial fifth major' but Els believes the European Tour's flagship event has now usurped that position.
The South African was the brains behind a major revamp of the Wentworth lay-out ahead of last year's tournament and, with a few further tweaks having been made ahead of the 2011 renewal, now firmly believes the Surrey track is on a par with any major venue in the game.
"This (tournament) is definitely taking the place of the TPC," Els told Reuters.
"At least at the 18th hole there is a bailout area now whereas at the (island green) 17th at Sawgrass there is no bailout and you can lose the tournament there.
"I also feel we've got a stronger field here and a classic golf course," added Els, making reference to the fact that seven of the world's top nine players will be in the field at Wentworth this week.
"I want to make this feel like the Augusta of the European Tour and we can do that. We've got the trees, a great lay-out and we just want to keep making it better and not go backwards.
"It's beautiful and I think this is the best I've seen the course in many a year.
"It's a championship course and it can stand with any major now. The greens are in great shape and are running nicely.
"The course and the bunkers have been manicured really well - we've made some changes from last year again and it's a helluva test but I think it's a fair test."
Els was on the receiving end of a good deal of stick from a number of his peers last year as players got their first taste of the raft of changes in competitive conditions.
The overhaul of 18 proved a particular bone of contention with the introduction of a moat and an elevated green drawing stinging criticism from many.
But further work has taken place on the closing par-five and the 41-year-old is confident they now have the balance right not just at that hole, but across the entire course.
"The green is almost twice as big now," he continued. "It's gone from some 380 square metres to 586, that's a huge change.
"There is also a big bailout area to the right where the bunkers are. As a player I understand when you can go for something and when you can't and last year it was a green you couldn't go for (in two).
"I think more than 50 per cent of the guys, if they are in position this year, they will go for the green.
"We'll see what the comments are in the papers. Last year I was always a little uneasy but this time I'm feeling very confident.
"If there's criticism this year I will take it very lightly because I think the course is right where we want it now."