VIRGINIA WATER, England – Johan Carlsson shot a 6-under 66 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event at Wentworth Club’s revamped West Course.
The 30-year-old Swede had eight birdies and two bogeys.
“Obviously, this week is a big week and I’ve always had that goal in mind that this is going to be a tournament to get it around no matter what,” Carlsson said. “Play with what you have and that’s what I did. I didn’t try to hit any super fancy shots. I just played with what I had and I think that was the key to success.”
Italy’s Francesco Molinari, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scotland’s Scott Jamieson were a stroke back. British Open champion Henrik Stenson was at 68 along with Shane Lowry, Thomas Pieters, Bradley Dredge, Graeme Storm, Alex Noren, Ross Fisher, Branden Grace and Nino Bertasio.
Ernie Els made his lastest course changes following criticism of his 2010 redesign. The renovation started eight days after Chris Wood’s victory last year, with all 18 greens stripped and reseeded.
“The greens are absolutely as pure as you can find,” said Els, a seven-time World Match Play winner on the Harry Colt-designed “Burma Road” layout. “We listened to some of the players’ comments through the years since we started first changing, and I think I feel we’ve got it right this time.”
The greens on Nos. 8, 11, 14 and 16 were completely rebuilt and another five were partially rebuilt. All the bunkers were redesigned.
“The greens are so good. I love this golf course right now,” said Carlsson, the former San Diego State player who is winless on the European Tour. “I think it has become so much better.”
Els appeared to have chipped in for an eagle on the par-5 12th hole, but instantly realized he had replaced his ball in wrong spot after checking to see if it was plugged. The four-time major winner took a two-shot penalty and his 71 left him five strokes back.
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