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On the Road with Ernie: BMW Championship

With the European Tour's BMW Championship contested on his home course at Wentworth, Ernie had a busy week on and off the golf course. Read all about it in this edition of On the Road with Ernie...

I played a lot better here than tied-19th might suggest, but that’s what happens when you struggle on the greens. That was the story of my week, basically. I hit a lot of quality golf shots and set-up a ton of chances, but I didn’t convert the putts. It was frustrating, but on another level it was a successful week. We’re really happy with the changes we made to the West Course and it was good to hear the other players being so positive also. If the weather had been a bit better I think the course would have really shown its teeth. But still, shooting 17-under par was a great performance from David Howell. He’s become a class act and this week he showed that.

My week started in pretty glamorous fashion, with a night at the Laureus Sports Awards in Barcelona. I took Liezl with me and we had a great night. No awards for me – I guess 2005 just wasn’t that kind of year for yours truly! But I presented Roger Federer with his award for World Sportsman of the Year, an accolade which he thoroughly deserved. Like I said, it was good to be part of such a special evening.

Golf Course Design News

Wednesday is usually the day I do my press conference for the media and this week was no different, only this time we had a big announcement to make in connection with my Golf Course Design business. We’ve agreed a huge deal to design a number of golf courses on the Cape Verde Islands, which in recent years has developed into something of a booming European holiday destination.

The Cape Verdean authorities are committed to making the country a top golf tourism hot-spot, if you like. It’s very much a long-term project and we’re excited to be a part of those plans, in collaboration with PGA Golf Management. My head of design Greg Letsche has already made a preliminary site visit and he came back with glowing reports about the potential of this place. Initially, we’re talking about two resorts, one on Sal Island called Murdeira Beach and another on Sao Vicente called Baia das Gatas. There will be 36 holes on each site. I’ll be able to tell you more about this project once I’ve made my first site visit, probably towards the latter part of this year.

Soggy to Start

Anyway, back to the golf. When play started on Thursday it was nice to see a break in the rain. I’m no expert on English weather, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much rain in the two weeks leading up to this event. It just never seemed to stop. I must say, though, the guys got the golf course into incredible shape…despite the weather conspiring against them. Chris and his team can’t have spent much time in their beds on Wednesday night, that’s for sure. It was an amazing effort on their part.

Apart from the soggy conditions under foot, it was a good day for golf. Anything under 70 was a decent score, though. The way the course was before, I think we’d have seen a 64, but at the end of the day 67 was leading. I was reasonably satisfied with my game and 69 was probably a fair reflection of how I’d played. I missed a few shots and finished in a couple of my new bunkers – no one to blame but myself on both counts there, then! But on the whole, not a bad start.

Friday was a difficult day. Conditions were blustery, cool and very wet. It felt more like autumn; the kind of day we used to get during the World Matchplay when it was played in October. I dropped a couple of shots early in my round, and then played solidly giving myself a lot of chances. It just wasn’t happening for me on the greens, though. I hit 16 greens in regulation and ended up shooting 74, which says it all basically. It was strange, because I felt like I hit a lot of good putts.

The conditions didn’t help, unfortunately. There was nothing Chris Kennedy could do about it – the Poa Annua grass on the putting surfaces here doesn’t much like wet weather and let’s face it, we had plenty of that. You can’t fight Mother Nature! If we’d had a dry couple of weeks leading up to this tournament it would have been a completely different story. But hey, you can’t complain. It’s the same for everyone. David Howell shot 65 on Friday afternoon and Miguel Angel Jimenez shot 65 on Saturday, when conditions were exactly the same. And he had only 20 putts! So it could be done, but today sadly not by me. That poor second round put a big dent in my chances.

Weekend Play

I needed to do something special in the third round.

It didn’t happen, though. It was another tough day for golf…with even more rain, if you could believe it. So, another tough day for being a greenkeeper, then! I made a sloppy start for the second day running, but I battled hard out there. I didn’t hit it as good as the previous day, but I scrambled well and scored five shots better; a 69.

It would have been nice to be a bit closer to the leaders going into the final round…and if I’d putted on Friday like I did today I might have been. But you know, it is was it is. The damage was done. I just had to go out there on Sunday and shoot the best round I could.

I was definitely playing well enough to do something decent on Sunday. I mean, I lost count of the number of times I was putting for birdie from inside 12-15 feet on the front nine. But I could do no better than level par going out. I couldn’t get any momentum going at all. I was heading for a solid top-10 finish, but I guess I just pushed a bit too hard on the 17th and went for a big shot round the corner. I didn’t get the hook I needed and ended up taking seven. 72 was the best I could do on the day.

So, not for the first time this year I felt like I played well enough to contend here. But you know, in golf there is such a fine line between finishing where I did this week and being in contention down the stretch. I’m really close. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and stay patient. The wins will come.

Coming up this week…

This is a nice fortnight for me, because two of my favourite tournaments of the year sit back-to-back in the schedule; the BMW last week and this week the Memorial Tournament in Ohio at Jack’s course Muirfield Village. I look forward to this one every year and it was great to get that first win in 2004 – one of my best performance of that entire season. I feel good every time I come back and, despite an up-and-down week at Wentworth, I really like my chances here.

The golf course is just one of those layouts that suits my eye. You probably know how it is yourself – there are some golf courses you prefer to others and they’re the ones you tend to play well on. This golf course is like that for me.

As I said earlier in this report, for the most part I swung the club well in the BMW and played well from tee to green. I just didn’t make enough putts. Let’s see if I can get some good vibes going on the fairways and greens of Muirfield Village. It’d be a great week to get back to my winning ways.

I’ll write again next week and tell you how things went.

Bye for now!

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