European Perspective


The BMW PGA Championship unfolds this week on the European Tour. But this is not your grandfathers’ West Course at Wentworth. After making some tweaks four years ago, Ernie Els has once again re-worked his home course in-time for the European Tour’s flagship event. All the green complexes have been reconstructed, and adjustments have been made to certain holes, most notably the 18th, which now has a stream running in front of the green.

Under the eye of Chairman Richard Caring, Els has added a new chapter in this club’s storied history. There will be those that scorn and those that praise what has happened, and you will be able to make your own mind up when you see it on Golf Channel this week.

Why have these changes been made you ask? Well, for many years the surfaces of the greens have been inconsistent with the standards preferred by the world’s best players. Padraig Harrington has stayed away for example, and it appears Caring and Els wanted to “sex it up a bit” for want of a different term. Now with the changes made, Paddy is back and the club and the European Tour hope to attract the biggest names in the game to Wentworth each May. It’s a wonderful place to be, within easy reach of London and many of the players can stay in palatial surroundings by renting a home in the Virginia Water area. It’s a good sell for the top American players, especially as the family and friends have plenty to do with London just a 40 minute drive or train-ride away.

As for the other tournament Wentworth is famous for holding, the Volvo World Match Play, it appears the event is not going to take place in 2010. It’s a great shame, because this was one of my personal favorite tournaments, especially when it was held at Wentworth in the autumn. For me, it just wasn’t the same in Spain last year, but hopefully it will return in 2011 with better planning from all parties involved.
Suzann Pettersen must be wondering what she needs to do to win. In Thailand this year she led by five shots going into the final round, shot 70 and was beaten. Then at the Kraft Nabisco, she carded a final round 69 but failed to chip in on 18 and was beaten. Last week in Mobile, the Norwegian makes bogey on the second extra hole and is struck out of the playoff. Three runner-up finishes in six events and a third in Singapore.

In 2007 Suzann showed immense potential, ruling the women’s game for a period, winning five times, three of which came in the space of four events. Since then, Pettersen has grown into a player that many see as a non-closer and she has been plagued by injuries. Last year she had a foot problem in the fall, then a hip issue at the beginning of this year forced her to withdraw from a tournament in Australia. That same hip injury is now re-occuring and could be a reason why she seemed to be swinging awkwardly on her through-swing in Mobile on Sunday.

Pettersen is a much needed character on the LPGA. One hopes she can find her winning ways again very soon to add some much needed zest to the women’s game. She has been seeking advice on her physical preparation from a leading biomechanical specialist, they were due to meet in April but the ash-cloud in Europe prevented the meeting.

The winner of this week’s Sybase Match Play Championship will play six matches in four days, not good news for someone with a hurting body. Pettersen plays the crafty veteran Juli Inkster in Round 1 on Thursday.

The name of Azahara Munoz caused some headaches among our broadcast team in Mobile last week. Should it be pronounced in Spanish Spanish or American Spanish, we picked the latter, easier for us commentators but perhaps not to Atha’s liking. She tells me it’s pronounced A‘th”ara Mun-yo’th”, so that is what I’m going with.

Regardless, her golf was first-class and she is going to capture the fans’ attention in the United States. Her amateur record is terrific and many of her titles have come in match play, including the 2009 Women’s British. In 2008 she had a narrow loss to Amanda Blumenhurst in the U.S. Women’s Amateur final. With the LPGA returning to match play this week and Azahara qualifying through her performance in Alabama last week, look for the 22-year-old Andalucian to turn a few heads. She faces last week’s champion Se Ri Pak in Round 1.