It was back to normal at Wentworth yesterday, whines and moans about the West Course’s bumpy greens while the golf’s biggest superstar tumbled out of the tournament before the weekend.
Francesco Molinari still leads the BMW PGA Championship on ten-under, two ahead of Thongdai Jaidee and Emiliano Grillo, but the recurring sounds on the West Course were grumbles about the greens and Rory McIlroy’s spectacular collapse rather than cheers and applause.
It was an interesting introduction for the European Tour’s dapper new chief executive Keith Pelley, visiting the tour for the first time since accepting the job. The Canadian couldn’t help but be impressed by the scale of the championship but got a taste of how cranky his membership can be while Rory missing the cut is terrible news for the box office after three days of record crowds.
McIlroy shot a calamity-prone 78 to miss by four, this ever more likely when he had to go back to the tee at the 11th after blocking a drive out of bounds when already two-over for the day. Although no doubt trying hard thereafter, there was no gas in the tank and the prospect of a weekend off had to be appealing after this recent stretch of relentless activity.
It’s Rory’s third missed cut here in the last four years – the exception, of course, being last year’s dramatic come-from-behind win but only the third time in 45 tournaments he’s been home for the weekend.
“I’m not angry,” he said. “A little disappointed I’m not going to be here for the weekend, but if there was one to miss, coming off the back of three good weeks in the StatesI’m probably in need of a rest.
“Any time you’re defending a title, you want to come back and give it a valiant effort but this week wasn’t really that. Now I just dust myself off and get ready for next week at the Irish Open.”
Nothing really sparked on a dour day, and the complaints about the West Course greens, unbearably bumpy as the old and moist poa anna grass has returned, grew to fever pitch with two distinguished local men leading the way.
Luke Donald and Justin Rose are rarely the first in the queue to gripe, so what they say, especially about the biggest annual event in their homeland, carries a whole lot of weight.
“I liked it when they redid the greens because I did pretty well on them,” said Donald (-4), who won two years in succession after all 18 were relaid after the 2009 event, but the former World No 1 quickly got more serious.
“They’ve got worse by the year since. It’s sad because the rest of the course is pristine, but if there was one championship that the greens should be absolutely perfect then this is it, our biggest event, our flagship event.”
Rose (-1) went even further, advocating that the SubAir system – successfully employed on the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles which had very similar problems should be installed.
“You don’t trust your read on these greens and it becomes a mental thing,” he said.
“It is disappointing in the sense that the whole reason they changed the greens here was that if anyone had a six-foot putt on the last green on Sunday to win they would feel confident about holing it. You now can’t say for sure that will happen.
“Every championship course should really have SubAir now, especially one that gets 300 rounds a day on it, because it enables you to control the environment by sucking the moisture out of the greens.”
Despite the widespread moans, some found a way to get the ball through the bobbles and into the hole. Molinari sails on regardless in the lead, overcoming losing his first day advantage in the first three holes yesterday to play five-under golf thereafter, birdies at the final two holes completing his 69.
His way around the greens issue was to put a bigger mallet in the bag this week, and it seems to be working.
“It’s all the same spec, just a bigger mallet looking face,” he explained. “I was struggling with my aim on the greens and the line is bigger on the putter, so it makes it easier for me to line up correctly,” he said.
“I’ve played well here the last few years, and there’s a bit of Italian karma here with Rocca winning before and Matteo winning a few years ago.”