Open Champion Ernie Els is relishing his appearance in this year’s BMW PGA Championship and the chance to bring the Claret Jug ‘home’ to his beloved Wentworth Club.
The big South African, who captured his fourth career Major at Royal Lytham and St Annes last summer, has for many years owned a house on the Wentworth Estate and won an incredible seven World Match Play Championships on the West Course between 1994 and 2007.
Such is Els’s affinity with Wentworth that when the club took the decision to modernise Harry Colt’s original West Course layout there was really only one man for the job. The 43 year old’s subtle yet impactful changes to the West represent a respectful renovation of Colt’s masterpiece, and the work Els oversaw has only strengthened the bond he has with Wentworth.
“Everybody knows about my connections to Wentworth so I am really looking forward to taking the Claret Jug back there for the BMW PGA Championship” said Els. “I always love going back to Wentworth and seeing so many old friends and spending time catching up with the people there.
“As a family, we cherish our time at the house. I also had a fair bit of success in the World Match Play and if you add all of that to the re-design work that we’ve done there in recent years it means the West Course has a very special place in my heart.
“The one thing I still haven’t managed to do is win a BMW PGA Championship there and obviously I would get a lot of satisfaction from being able to put that trophy next to the Claret Jug on the Sunday night of the tournament.”
Wentworth Club Chairman, Richard Caring, said: “Ernie is a great friend and an extremely popular member of Wentworth Club, so of course we were all delighted to see him win his fourth Major Championship last summer. We’re very excited to welcome him back to Wentworth as Open Champion.
“For me personally it was a privilege to have Ernie on board for the renovation and modernisation of the West Course and I believe he’s done a fantastic job, which becomes ever more apparent as the changes grow-in and the new greens continue to mature. We have another incredibly strong field for this year’s BMW PGA Championship and I’m sure there is much drama and high emotion on the cards. This flagship event has become a real feast for all golf fans.”
A superb package of fun, celebrity-spotting and world class golf will take place over a six-day period, from May 21-26, representing outstanding value for practice day, celebrity pro-am day and the four rounds of the event.
Advance tickets are selling fast on www.europeantour.com/tickets while reserved grandstand seating at the 18th green and limited on-site parking are already sold out. A limited number of additional grandstand seats for Saturday and Sunday are now on sale on a first come, first served basis. Children aged 16 and under will be admitted free of charge if accompanied by an adult ticket holder.
This year sees the introduction of a new Park and Ride system to help facilitate the flow of traffic. The system will operate from two locations – one near Sunningdale, carrying traffic from the west (M3 and M4) and one at the Review Ground, Windsor Great Park, which is east of the tournament venue close to the M25.
Both parks will operate free shuttle bus service to Wentworth Club every five minutes with the journey time taking around ten minutes and allowing easy access to a new Welcome Pavilion through to the Tented Village.
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)