VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - The bulldozers will arrive at Wentworth next month as organizers begin their bid to restore the BMW PGA Championship venue to its former glory, European Tour supremo Keith Pelley said on Sunday.
The iconic layout on the outskirts of London was originally designed by Harry Colt in 1926 but has undergone a complete facelift from four-times major champion Ernie Els in the last decade.
The changes have not met with unanimous approval and top players such as Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington chose to give the tour’s flagship event a miss this year for a variety of reasons.
“There are a number of players that aren’t here because they don’t want to play this golf course,” Pelley told reporters.
”I‘m confident ...that what (owners) Reignwood have planned will bring this back to the Harry Colt design and the Harry Colt magic that once made this the place where players want to play.
“The bulldozers are starting to come in, I think it’s a week Tuesday, so this is something that is of the highest priority for them,” said tour chief executive Pelley without elaborating on the planned alterations.
Among the sweeping changes made by South African Els, who has a house on the estate, was a revamp of the par-five 18th hole.
Pelley said the intention now was to create “a world-class golf course”.
“Wentworth, as you know, is majestic and has an aura about it that is simply astounding,” he added.
“We have every intention to be at Wentworth for a long period of time,” said the Canadian who took over from George O‘Grady last year.
“I‘m confident our players want to play here, our players have said that to me. Everything that we do we do with a ‘players first’ philosophy.”
Pelley also hinted that the prize fund of five million euros ($5.56 million), lower than the purse of $6.7 million available at the middle-ranking U.S. Tour event being held in Texas this week, was another issue with some of his members.
“On the U.S. Tour they are playing for $6.5 to $7.5 million every week and for our young players that is a great opportunity to make significant dollars,” he said.
“So if we can combine the fact of playing on some great golf courses with increased prize funds, and give our golfers great experiences, I‘m confident our players will want to play here.”
($1 = 0.8998 euros)
Editing by Clare Fallon