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BMW PGA Championship

Golf’s ongoing issues pale into insignificance on emotional day at Wentworth

There was drama expected as the first round got underway at the BMW PGA Championship. In the end it was overshadowed by a nation in mourning. George Cooper reports
 

It’s golf’s civil war that has raged since the formation of LIV Golf. The latest battleground? The lush fairways of Wentworth’s West course. The build up to the 2022 BMW PGA Championship was as fiery as could be expected. Every press conference, every interview, every social media post made some sort of reference to the ongoing tensions at the top level of the game.

First Billy Horschel, then Rory McIlroy, then Shane Lowry. One by one they stood in front of all who would listen to air their thoughts. The former even appeared to have words with LIV defector Ian Poulter on the putting green.

Elsewhere, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood practised alongside one another at the end of the range. Strategic? Perhaps. Wade Ormsby sheepishly refused a request to chat. Talor Gooch had no such issues, and from afar Abraham Ancer and Sergio Garcia seemed in high spirits.

Patrick Reed, as he so often does, cut a lonely figure, quietly getting on with his day and no longer in the forbidden LIV gear he had worn for his practice round on Wednesday.

In the end, the biggest storm came in its literal sense – torrential rain putting a downer on early proceedings in Surrey. As for the LIV vs DP World Tour drama, there was no sense of friction once the golf got underway.

The fans, it seemed, couldn’t care less. On the first tee, there was little hostility towards Greg Norman’s defectors besides a handful of sarcastic booing and a bizarre jibe at Reed in which one grandstand dweller said: “Ah look, it’s improve your lie Patrick.”

And while the fanfare was by no means on the scale of McIlroy’s star-studded grouping on day one, the support was unquestionably there for the likes of Poulter, Garcia and Westwood, with all three getting a respectful following and receiving their usual demand for autographs come the end of the round.

When we questioned the paying public, they largely agreed that LIV’s players shouldn’t be at Wentworth, that they’d taken the spots of more deserving players. And yet, they all just wanted to watch some good golf, and see some high profile names on their big day out.

Here’s what several had to say…

“I want to watch the best golfers play golf, I don’t really care who they sign for or what they do.”

“From a fan’s perspective, we’re still going to watch them. It doesn’t matter who they play for, they can still hit the ball and it’s great to stand here and watch that.”

“Ian Poulter’s a household name. I don’t quite agree with LIV golfers being here, they’ve taken somebody else’s spot, but they have, and we’re still here!”

“I’ve not come to watch them, but I’m not going to walk on and not watch them hit a shot.”

“When you’re on your big player bingo card, Sergio Garcia, tick! Ian Poulter, tick!”

“Someone like Poulter has done a lot for golf. People are forgetting that. He’s helped put European golf on the world stage, and this is the number one European championship, so he should be here.”

But not everyone was OK with it…

“We’ve accidentally watched Ian Poulter. We’ve not come out to find him, we’re on our way to watch other players. I don’t want them here.”

“There’s some guy, who’s World No 140 or whatever, who would have loved to have been here. It would have made the world of difference to his career if he came here. It’s unfair.”

Come the end of the day, it was all moot. With the news filtering through of the death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, nothing else seemed to matter.

An eerie silence fell over Wentworth as players and fans alike paid their respects.

The DP World Tour immediately suspended play and announced that no play would take place on Friday, either.

“On behalf of our members and everyone connected with the European Tour group and the BMW PGA Championship, it is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” they wrote. “She truly was an inspiration to people the world over.”

Later, the R&A added. “We are greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Her Majesty today. Following her accession in 1952, Her late Majesty graciously accepted the Patronage of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, as has been the custom of reigning Monarchs since HM King William IV in 1834.

“Although not a golfer, Her late Majesty’s 70-year patronage of the club was a great honour for its members.

“We hold His Majesty The King and all The Royal Family in our thoughts at this time of mourning.”

Suddenly the turmoil troubling golf at the moment feels quite insignificant.

George Cooper

George Cooper

A golf fanatic his entire life, George Cooper is NCG's man for all goings-on at the top level of the game, whether it's the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA or LIV Golf. He also looks after NCG's Twitter and Facebook accounts. George is a member of Woburn, but is not friends with Ian Poulter.

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