Ernie Els has hit out at players who criticised his redesign of Wentworth’s West Course this week, saying they had “put the knife” into him.
Wentworth owner Richard Caring, who spent 6.5 million pounds ($9.34 million) on the changes, had been “kicked in the teeth” by the players, Els told Reuters in an exclusive interview .
“If they had criticisms they could’ve handled it differently. That’s the sad part of the whole week, a lot of the guys I’ve known for a very long time came out and basically put the knife in and I don’t really appreciate that,” Els said on Sunday.
The redesign left few of the 18 holes untouched and several players at the PGA Championship complained in the media about the changes, especially the new moat and elevated green at the 18th.
“There is going to be criticism with any new design but I really wasn’t expecting the backlash I got,” Els said. “I don’t think anybody deserved it.
“If the people who made all those comments, especially the players, look back at what they said and what they achieved this week, it was all negative,” said Els after finishing well down the field following a closing 72 for 287, three over par.
“The tour doesn’t need it, the club doesn’t need it, the owner who has put all this money in doesn’t need it, I don’t need it.”
Caring acknowledged mistakes had been made with the redesign of the famous West Course and told reporters on Friday that he would take the blame.
“It’s unfortunate he had to come out (and say that),” said Els. “He is the guy who spent 6.5 million pounds on the changes.
“Who on earth is going to spend that money to enhance a golf course on television and make the sponsor happy, make the players happy and then the players kick him in the teeth because they don’t like a couple of holes?
“For all this money we are playing for (a $5.63-million prize fund) we could be playing down the road…not come in here like a bunch of spoiled golfers,” said the world number seven.
“This guy is enhancing the flagship event, the whole tour, and players come in and criticise that. That’s amazing — how must he feel?”
Els said he could not understand why some players had not spoken to him directly.
“Some players who made critical comments came to me, some players haven’t come to me — and I don’t understand that.”
The 40-year-old South African added: “Obviously the 18th didn’t quite come out the way we wanted…but we didn’t need a bunch of know-all people to criticise everything — that is the disappointing part.
“These greens were only laid in November and December and we are now holding the biggest tournament on tour on these greens. I think it’s a hell of a feat by the whole team.”
Els said he would make some changes for the 2011 PGA Championship, particularly the eighth and 18th holes.
“Definitely 18. I can show you the plans I drew for it at the get-go,” said Els. “I’d also like to make changes on eight, I don’t like the heather on the mounds there.
“I’d even like to change the eighth green because that’s another one I wanted lower.
“But for the rest I think it’s unbelievable. The green superintendent Chris Kennedy has really got these bunkers almost the way we want them,” added the triple major winner.
(Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)