I attended the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth for the first time in 2016. It was not quite as exciting as a Masters or an Open, but I had grown up watching the likes of Faldo, Seve and Woosie playing the famed West Course in the former World Matchplay Championships and I was looking forward to the newer strokeplay experience.
Sadly it was well below par – or over par depending on which way you look at it. The greens were very poor, bunkers too deep and unrecognisable from previous years. The new shapes of the greens only served to emphasize that all the changes made seemed to have tricked up the layout just a little too much.
After a return visit last month I am delighted to share that many of those disappointments have been rectified and the golf course is once again worthy of such a great championship.
I have been fortunate to work with former U.S. Amateur champion and European Tour winner Peter Uihlein since August 2016 and as his game has started to come around, I thought I would detail some of the areas which we go into at tournaments like this. I got into London on the Sunday before and planned to stay through the first round on the Thursday; this is quite normal for coaches whose main area is preparation and checking.
We have made some fairly major changes to Peter’s prelude to hit and his takeaway, softening out the move back into his heels and ensuring that he has a little more loft (more open) with the club as it moves away. The week gave me the chance to observe how well these changes had maintained since his last Dubai visit before the tournaments in China and I thought he was doing a good job.
His driving, which had deserted him a little for some time, is becoming a strength with the only hardship being a move towards a left to right fade shot which doesn’t really suit Wentworth. I made one or two suggestions based on points already covered but I think it is always best to keep the technical detail low during tournament weeks.
We played a seven hole loop on Monday and a full 18-hole practice round Tuesday. Strategies from the tee were discussed as well as how to access some more difficult flags. The sub-air system on the new greens had worked well and they were fast and true – some extra time getting used to the improved surfaces was also evident.
Peter’s caddy Ben Hayes has done a great job since he took the bag. Ben and I discuss what we would like to see as well and hopefully we are forming a strong team together.
All of the equipment manufacturers were at Wentworth in force and the one adjustment that Peter and Liam from Titleist were working on was a two iron that Peter could hit a little further than his current model.
The current club goes around 240-245 yards in the air and we were looking for an extra 10 yards. Peter is not carrying a three wood at present given that there is generally trouble at around 280-300 on tour courses. Peter felt the two iron was leaving him a little far back and although it would be preferable to have the three wood back in the bag, a player’s confidence and decisions are very important. A black graphite (extremely stiff) shaft made it to the range and although it covered the distance, it had a tendency to leak to the right so we made a couple of lie angle changes before deciding to stick to the original weapon.
On the Wednesday, a very busy day with a big pro-am, we spent some time on the range. I gave Peter some short iron and wedge challenges – controlling starting direction and trajectory but again avoiding too much technique talk. We also did a little session on the putting green where I was able to liaise with Paul Vizanko from Scotty Cameron’s Tour Department. Paul has known Peter for 15 years and helped me understand many of his underlying tendencies. This is another great part of getting to these events, learning from the true experts in our industry.
Peter eventually finished in a tie for 30th but had the fortune to play with Alex Noren as he blitzed his way through the field with a final round of 10-under 62. He took a lot from Alex’s determined and warrior-like attitude and I hope that as Peter continues to improve and gain confidence, he can put in similar performances.
Justin Parsons is the Director of Instruction at The Butch Harmon School of Golf at The Els Club, Dubai. Among his pupils is celebrated Dubai-based Indian amateur No.1 Rayhan Thomas.