VIRGINIA WATER, England -- Great news from Wentworth Gaffe Club -- no one said anything stupid or inappropriate during the second round of the BMW PGA Championship.
But it was a bad news day for some stellar names from Europe’s victorious 2012 Ryder Cup team. American captain Tom Watson will be hoping the cream of European golf plays this badly at next year’s biennial battle at Gleneagles. There were missed cuts for World No. 2 Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell (both 5 over par), Luke Donald (6 over) and Ian Poulter (8 over).
There were two notable exceptions. Francesco Molinari leads at six under par and Lee Westwood is just three shots behind. Westwood was in chipper mood Friday.
“My short game is dynamite, isn’t it? Westwood said. “Walking off the back of the 12th, Ernie [Els] called me either a short game wizard or short game magician. Either way it was very complimentary. That’s really nice coming from him.”
Not even an icy 25 mph wind and temperature gauges failing to hit 50 degrees amid torrential rain could dampen his sunny disposition.
“I’ve got three layers on and I’m still cold,” he said. “I had to take one layer off because I couldn’t swing for the first three holes. I had a couple of second thoughts out there, like when I was stood on the third tee at two over par for the two holes, thinking: ‘Why did I move to Florida?’ ”
Ah, the famous sarcastic Westwood wit.
“We all know this is worse than normal,” he said. “But when snow is forecast in Leeds, and it’s nearly June, I think the move is slightly vindicated.”
Westwood had the body language of one who fancies his chances over the weekend when proper British summertime weather is forecast to return. For someone who has a reputation as one of the game’s finest from tee to green but with a short game that frequently lets him down, his form has been turned upside down since moving to Florida over the winter. He only hit one green in regulation on the front nine Friday -- and that was the par-5 fourth.
“The long game’s not quite there, but it’s not desperate,” he said. “I normally hit it better than that. Getting a name for a good short game would be fantastic.”
Westwood proved his short-game prowess at the 18th. After hissing his approach into water, he then got up and down from the drop zone to save par.
“I’m practicing in the right conditions [in Florida], and Ernie said he could see a massive difference,” he said. “I played some brilliant chips out there, and that is what he was referring to.”
Poulter has spiraled from winning the Ryder Cup almost single-handedly to not being able to hit a cow’s backside with a banjo. But the permanently positive Poulter refused to beat himself up over his lack of form that has seen him miss the cut at the Masters and Tthe Players Championship and lose both his matches at last week’s Volvo World Match Play in Bulgaria.
“Don’t you worry about me,” he said sheltering from the storm after signing for his second 76 and an eight over par total. “I’ll be fine.”
Poulter spoke about taking the positives out of a poor two days of golf. “What a wonderful weekend I’ve got in store,” he said. “I’m going to the Champions League Final at Wembley on Saturday then there’s a good chance I’ll be in Monaco for the Grand Prix on Sunday.”
So what’s up with Poulter’s game? “No idea,” he said. “The fire’s not there right now. I’ve got to throw some wood in the oven and see what happens. See if we can ignite it again. Playing like that is no fun. But there’s no need to panic. Playing like that really pisses you off. I need to get a grip. The funny thing is I can’t work any harder. So do you say, right, sod it all? No, just keep going full steam ahead and play through it.”
Much the same could be said about Donald and McIlroy. What went wrong for Donald? “It was a bit of everything,” he said. “When I missed fairways, I missed the green and I wasn’t getting up and down. Not one part of my game is firing. I made five birdies today so don’t think I’m a million miles away. I’m not too worried. It’s never nice to miss the cut, especially here at Wentworth, a place I’ve played well.”
Donald has won the last two championships here.
“I’ll be back,” he said. “Failure is a much bigger motivator for me than success.”
McIlroy wore mittens all day and had his woolly hat pulled so far down over his head he looked dressed more for the ski lifts of Aspen than the tee boxes of Wentworth.
“Definitely looking forward to getting back into some golf where I’m not playing in four layers,” he said. “It’s the same for everyone out there, and that’s not really an excuse. For 12 holes or 13 holes yesterday, I played really well and it’s just when the weather started to turn a little bit, I didn’t hang in there and play so well, but looking forward to the next few weeks, some really big tournaments coming up.”
McIlroy is playing in the Memorial next week in Ohio and then at the U.S. Open at Merion in June.
Sergio Garcia is tied 20th at one under par. Garcia, who said he has tried to apologize to Tiger Woods for making a racially insensitive joke, said Woods hasn’t returned his call. “We’ve talked to his manager,” he said. “We’ll try a couple more times. If not, I’ll definitely see him at the U.S. Open and talk to him face-to-face.”