The BMW P.G.A. The championship kicks off Thursday at the Wentworth Club in England, a site that grew out of a grand estate once owned by the Duke of Wellington's family and steeped in golfing history. The tournament that became the Ryder Cup was played there in 1926.
Many legends including Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo have tested themselves on the West Course.
In the village of Virginia Water, about an hour southwest of London, Wentworth was originally the home of the famous Duke's brother-in-law. The West Course, which was completed in 1926, was designed by Harry Colt and the European Tour headquarters are still there.
In 1926, the tree-lined course hosted an event between a group of American players who were in the country for the Open Championship and a team from Great Britain. Conceived by Samuel Ryder, a businessman and golf enthusiast, the game was played in Wentworth and was then called the Ryder Cup.
It was considered a friendly match and was not officially counted as a match. The first official Ryder Cup, now held every two years between the United States and Europe, was played in Worcester, Massachusetts the following year.
Wentworth held the Ryder Cup in 1953, but so will many golf enthusiasts. is always remembered for hosting the World Match Play Championship, which was held from 1964 to 2007.
Every October match, shown live on the BBC and often played in challenging fall conditions, each match was played over 36 holes, a test of both stamina and skill. Although it was later expanded to 16 players, it started out as an eight-man knockout event, with Palmer the first champion, beating Neil Coles of England in the final.
Ernie Els, who won the event seven times and later helped redesign the West Course, loved Wentworth long before he saw it himself.
"History speaks for itself, especially the World Match Play", Els said in an interview. “All the great players played there. We grew up in South Africa and read all about Gary and Jack and Arnold winning there. Then look at Greg, Seve, Faldo, [Sandy] Lyle and Woosie [Ian Woosnam] in the eighties. It was an iconic tournament and venue.
"I loved the look of the golf course and the sound of the shots echoing there in the woods," said Els. & # 39; What a noise. So when I started playing there in the early nineties, it was a huge kick.
In 1984 Wentworth began hosting the P.G.A. Championship, the flagship event of the European Tour. With the first tee just outside the clubhouse, the West Course opens with a tight par 4 to a testing little green, and for the players there is no interruption as they make their way through the Wentworth estate.
] "I think it's a great golf course," Jon Rahm from Spain told Sky Sports last year. "That's why I like to come back to Europe to play on these traditional golf courses, where they are not long. Ideally they are not too complicated on paper, but it can become difficult for a player very quickly."
It's quite a test, but it's the last two holes, with back-to-back par 5s, that allow players to take shots. In the 1983 Match Play, Ballesteros fell in 18th place for an eagle from 50 yards to level his match with Palmer and then beat him in a playoff. As Palmer told reporters, “I should be angry. But I've done that to so many other people in the past, I guess I can't complain.
In 2007 Els supervised the extensive rebunkering, and the course was extended by 310 meters. He later improved drainage by adding a system to control the moisture in the greens regardless of the weather.
"When I started playing there in the early 1990s, it was still the original golf course," Els said. “Clearly a beautiful golf course, a beautiful tree-lined layout. But the course is clay based and the greens and fairways are said to hold a lot of water so that caused problems. Irrigation and drainage did not exist.
"There was a lot that needed to be changed, improved and updated, and we went in and basically did everything." he said. “The club's owners wanted to present it as one of the world's best domestic golf courses and a world-class venue for championship golf. And we did.
Els described the West Course as "a real, all-round golf test".
"The bunkers are deep and the trees play a role. , so you have to drive it well, "he said.
" You have to hit your irons well. You have to be in shape, and you have to do it four rounds, so it is in favor of the high caliber player. "