Reuters - Thu, 20 May 18:19:00 2010
Padraig Harrington carded an ugly triple-bogey eight at the 17th hole and Ian Poulter cut a dejected figure as Wentworth's new-look West Course bared its teeth on Thursday.
After radical changes were made to the iconic parkland course by South African Ernie Els, the talk among the pros has been about how difficult it would be on the opening day of the PGA Championship, the European Tour's flagship event.
Hellish is the answer as Harrington found out on the 17th tee when he drove way right into the bushes.
"It's a tough tee shot for me, I didn't fancy going back there again," the triple Major winner said after finishing with a level-par 71.
Harrington said the monster, par-five 17th was never his favourite in its former guise.
It may have slipped even further in his estimations after a chip out nestled in another bush from where a one-stroke penalty drop was the only option.
A child, no more than five, was so transfixed he stood with hands behind his back peering over the ball as marshals and caddie Ronan Flood ushered the gallery away before Harrington blasted a low shot back into more golf-friendly territory.
Sulking is not in the bubbly Irishman's nature though as he carried on his merry way. Then, just hours after his round, he gave a putting masterclass to some awestruck fans with learning difficulties.
"With a bit of practice I could go far," the father-of-two chirped.
Elsewhere, world number six Poulter looked less than happy at the 15th as he walked ahead of his group staring at the turf.
Things got no better for the Briton as he slumped to a seven-over 78.
"My stats are my stats. Stats don't lie, do they?" said the stony-faced Englishman, referring to his six missed cuts in eight PGA Championship outings before taking a break from the tournament in 2008 and 2009.
"If you don't play well on this golf course it's going to punish you."
Several players scored in the 80s on Thursday, Swede Mikael Lundberg suffering the most as he ballooned to an 85 after an 11-over 46 on the front nine.