WENTWORTH, England The weather siren almost screamed during the second round of the BMW PGA Championship, not for rain, but as a warning for the thunder and lightning that was about to explode around Ian Poulter's head. What does he find the most challenging about Wentworth's West Course? "The tees, the fairways, the rough, the greens, and those 20-foot deep bunkers," he ranted. "I don't like this golf course, period. End of story."
The peacock's feathers were ruffled after finishing with a double-bogey on the way to a three-over-par 74 to be level par for the championship. Still, Poulter is only six shots off the lead shared by Luke Donald, Alvaro Quiros and 18-year-old Matteo Manassero. Quiros birdied the last three holes for a 67, the increasingly impressive Manassero signed for a 70, while Donald reverted to "plodder" mode to shoot a one-over-par 72 after an "invincible" 64 on Thursday.
Donald agreed with Poulter that the course was difficult, but he had no sympathy for his Ryder Cup teammate.
"Certainly if you had to play this course every week, it would grind on you," Donald said. "As long as you come in here knowing it's going to be tough, then you shouldn't have any grumbles.."
But it was too late to press the mute button on Poulter. His volume was on a Spinal Tap 11.
"We are trying to land it on a dining room table from 230 yards out. It's a little unfair," Poulter said of the 18th green. "I don't have a problem with tough courses, but I've walked off the golf course and I'm headless, absolutely fuming."
The headless peacock continued, "I've just hit double-bogey. I've hit what I thought was a perfect third shot, maybe caught out a tiny bit by the wind and pitches by the green and finishes in the hazard. Marvelous."
Poulter has never been a fan of the course. This is only the third cut he has made in 10 appearances. He didn't even play in 2008 and 2009 because he hated the greens. He doesn't like the meat, either, after the course's $10 million re-design by Ernie Els last year. Don't expect to see Poulter jetting into London next May.
"I don't know what I'm going to do in a year's time," Poulter said. "I loved this course as a kid, but I don't seem to get the best out of it. It's not fun. You had a chance to finish eagle, eagle on this course. You can't do that anymore. That's the re-design. They got what they wanted."
It was a day of calamity and catastrophe at Wentworth. Many players wore blue to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Seve Ballesteros' fifth and final European PGA Championship victory. Most of them were also channeling the spirit of Seve, but just Seve's wild shots, not his miraculous recoveries.
There was a nine for Justin Rose on 17 (trees, duffed chip, thinned chip), an 11 for Seung-yul Noh at 18 (drive into fence, three balls in the water), and enough sixes and sevens to ensure the players were all at, well, sixes and sevens. Poor Jamie Harris, a locally qualified club pro, finished his two rounds in the big time at 25 over par. At least he finished: there was the inevitable WD from John Daly, who walked off the course at 15 citing a hip injury. Judging by his 1970s-style spotted disco pants, it may well have been a "not very hip" injury. It may also have had something to do with being 11 over par for the round.
Poulter was the self-appointed spokesman for the disaffected and disillusioned, but he wasn't the only player huffing and puffing. Paul Casey is no fan of the new design, either. So much so that last year he advocated a plan to ensure the careful stewardship of the world's classic courses.
"Maybe we should introduce a scheme like we have with historic buildings in this country," Casey said last year. "Ernie has a beautiful house by the 16th with the thatched roof and old plaster work. Now, he owns it, but that doesn't give him the right to paint it pink and put a tin roof on it."
Casey's mood hadn't lightened by the time he had crawled off the course at one over par.
"I used to really enjoy playing this course," he said. "Now it's a grind. I think Richard Caring [the club's owner] was perhaps wanting par to win. Well, he might get that. But does that make it entertaining?"
The four major winners didn't think so. Charl Schwartzel (12 over par), Louis Oosthuizen (8 over par) and Graeme McDowell (five over par) missed the cut. Martin Kaymer (three over par) will start at the back of the field on Saturday. Rory McIlroy also limped in on the cut mark at four over par.
Els had sharp words for Poulter in a vigorous defense of his home course.
"I can understand people saying things in the heat of the moment," Els said. "A guy comes off the 18th when he's just made double and he's going to be hot. Wentworth is now a fair test. This could be England's Augusta because the course has never looked better. Make no mistake, in two weeks at Congressional, if you are marginally off, you will pay the price. This is by no means the U.S. Open but it is a great warm-up. The tour could have set it up a bit easier and I think they will over the weekend."
Els backed up his words with a three-under-par 68, one of the best rounds of the day, to be one over par for the championship and seven shots off the lead. Lee Westwood kept his tongue and game out of trouble to shoot 69 for a one-under-par total. He still has a chance to catch Donald to retain his No. 1 status.\n