VIRGINIA WATER, England – Adult content warning: Ernie Els is pissed. And no, he hasn't been drinking. This was pissed, American style. If his post round post-mortem went out on TV, the bleeper operator would be suffering from an acute repetitive strain injury.
The Big Easy became the Big Displeasy as he exploded in a fit of expletives aimed at the European Tour's championship committee and Wentworth's greens staff after his two-under-par 70 left him at five under and in the chasing pack at the BMW PGA Championship.
"I've asked them to put water on the bloody greens and then I spoke to JP (chief rules official, John Paramor) coming up the 15th and he said we did water it last night. I said you have to triple that. You have a damn 30 mph easterly breeze blowing so put [expletive] water on the greens." Els said. "I spoke to Chris Kennedy (head greenkeeper) and I spoke to the Tour. Really, I am pissed off. Conditions are tough and it has been blowing all night and this morning. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out."
Els' fury appeared justified. There were nine scores in the 80s, seven 79s, and only Donald, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter broke 70 — and then only by a single shot.
For Els, this is personal. He is understandably sensitive and protective of Wentworth's West course. It's his baby. He controversially re-designed it before the 2010 championship with a budget of £15 million. Many players criticized his American-influenced design changes of the classic Harry Colt layout. There were still some gripes this year, but after further tweaks after last year's championship, most agree it is a tough but fair test.
But not now. Not in this heat with a gusting gale. Els was livid.
"So now we have another situation and the guys aren't going to be very happy," he said. "I have been asking both [the Tour and the greens staff] to play ball with me for a while now and I can't keep taking this. At some point they have to start listening. I am with the guys on this as I hit a shot on 18, a 4-iron that pitched pin high and goes through to the back bunker. So if they put water on the damn green you at least have a chance to hold the [expletive] green. Just play ball with me."
"I would love to talk to them, but they don't bloody listen," he said. "I cannot control the wind, and it seems like I can't control the bloody greens staff either. All they've said to me is 'Yes, yes, yes, you just concentrate on playing.' That's the reply I get all the time. I said to JP 'Man, whatever water you put on, triple it. The 15th green is holding, the 16th green is not holding, the 17th green is not holding and the 18th green is not holding. So they are all bloody inconsistent. It's not my bloody job to do this, and surely it's their job to do this."
Oh, by the way, there is a tournament going on. Luke Donald is the ominous name writ large at the top of the leaderboard. The World No. 2, soon surely to return to No. 1, emerged from the carnage to lead at 11 under par. He holds a two-shot advantage over fellow Englishman Justin Rose.
"There were some borderline holes out there," Rose said. Els, at last, has an ally. "It was the type of golf that you're just going to have to play in a couple of weeks' time at the U.S. Open that you don't typically expect here at Wentworth."
So it's the All England Club of Donald and Rose in the final group on Sunday. What a spectacle that promises to be as the record attendance figures are set to get close to 100,000 for the championship.
"Never seen many crowds like this, 10-deep in places, even at an Open Championship," Donald said. "They are usually following Tiger."
Donald agreed with Rose that Wentworth was playing like a U.S. Open course.
"Physically and mentally, it was tough out there," Donald said. "It had a little bit of a U.S. Open feel. If they don't water the greens a decent amount tonight, they could get very tricky and almost, not unplayable, but very tough to make putts."
But, as you would expect, Donald was relishing the challenge of what could turn out to be a full dress rehearsal for the Olympic Club next month.
"The tougher, the better," he said. "The good players that are patient and can deal with it are always going to rise to the top when it's tough conditions. And obviously a few weeks before the U.S. Open, it's good prep."
Meanwhile, for second round leader James Morrison, the doors slammed shut in his face. It took just four holes for the Englishman to throw away his four-shot lead. He had two eights in his front nine and fell off the main stage with a nine-over-par 81. Not so much “Light My Fire,” more “This Is The End.”