The BMW PGA Championship field has been dwindling in quality for the better part of a decade, and that timeline just happens to coincide with one of the primary reasons of the decline: Ernie Els' renovation of host Wentworth Club's West Course.
To be frank, it stinks. The players generally hate it. The greens are perceived to be in lousy shape and have too much bizarre undulation. The bunkering is too deep for the players' enjoyment. The par-5 18th hole is an abomination, with a water hazard guarding a green without enough depth to support players going for it in two unless the green complex is artificially softened.
It's the course that keeps away the likes of Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and other European stalwarts. Even Els himself didn't play this year. How damning is that?
Well, the European Tour and, more importantly, Wentworth owners, Chinese firm Reignwood, have finally gotten the message.
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said Sunday that he hopes to continue coming to the English venue for "a long period of time," but that is predicated on yet another renovation of the West Course.
"There are a number of players that aren't here because they don't want to play this golf course," Pelley said Sunday.
He added, "The golf course is a challenge here. That's something that Wentworth is totally aware of, Reignwood is aware of, our players are aware of."
The renovation, set to begin on Tuesday, aims to roll Els' changes back and restore some of the original Harry S. Colt design in 1926. The Press Association reports the renovation will include a redesign of five greens -- the eighth, 11th, 14th, 15th and 16th -- as well a reduction in the number of bunkers from 88 to 65. Some of the bunkers will be made more shallow. However, the water hazard guarding the par-5 finishing hole is expected to remain.
Pelley also recognizes that the tournament purse isn't fitting of what is officially deemed the Tour's "flagship" event, a status the Canadian-born chief executive conferred on the season-ending DP World Tour Championship last November. He lamented that this week's Dean & DeLuca Invitational on the PGA Tour has a purse of $6.7 million, while the BMW PGA Championship purse is approximately $5.56 million.
The players have told Pelley that a better purse and host course can attract a stronger field starting next year.
"I guess probably that's the thing that surprises me the most is how willing our players have been wanting to help, willing to share their thoughts, being part of the actual vision," Pelley said.
"And many of them have said, 'I'd prefer not to play in the US if you can provide this, this and that.'"
SUPPORT GNN IN OUR MISSION TO CHANGE GOLF MEDIA
For just $10 annually, you'll get:
- An ad-free experience
- Exclusive fantasy golf and betting research
- Special discounts and member benefits
- Entry into member-only giveaways
- A USGA handicap for just $20 per year