WENTWORTH, U.K — A distance of 100 feet, a waiting line five-deep, humidity rising, a camera trained above stomach height to hide the belly from the iPhone’s glare, sweat glistening across the brow and, ultimately, complete failure.
It is Friday at Wentworth. Rory McIlroy has already been out for two hours, the crowd flocking as he attacks the West Course with gusto and a confidence of a player hitting form ahead of The Open. Alongside him are Lee Westwood and Alex Noren.
Back near the entrance of this famous course lies the 100-feet putting challenge. Trees some five inches tall dwarf the narrow path leading to the hole barely visible in the mid-morning haze. A crowd now forms. I step up, take a swing, and it goes about 20-feet straight into an unassuming piece of foliage. The next attempt fares little better. The thin veil of moisture on the forehead now developing into a full on flop-sweat, the sort you get on the tube at rush-hour, head positioned under a stranger’s armpit. The putter goes back, the ball flies forward eager to find its home. It falls short — again. Golf career on hold, the promise of a signed glove awaiting the next hero as they climb into the gladiatorial arena of the 100-feet putting course, housed in the middle of huts selling all manner of apparel.
Here’s my attempt at the 100ft putt challenge at Wentworth on Friday at the BMW PGA Championship…
Having calmed down, breathed, taken in a gloriously branded bottle of water contained in something resembling an up-market after-shave bottle — Wentworth is not one for mere tap water — it is time for the course walk. The nuance of the Wentworth course means walking to the sixth or seventh tee takes the better part of 30-45 minutes. It’s a short stroll to the 17th, to walk with the McIlroy-Westwood-Noren triumvirate.
We walk past a small cornered off area of grass. This is Wentworth, folks, a place where they take such good care of their greens’ surface they grow grass, within a cornered-off-area of grass as patrons munch pasties nearby unaware of this important 20 feet by 20 feet area of this vast estate.
Amongst the grass at Wentworth… there is a place to grow…grass.
As you approach the 17th, you are met by hoards travelling the other way, getting ahead of those teeing off to get an optimum spot by the green. The privilege of media accreditation means you can go inside the ropes. You get as close as possible to these titans of the sport. Westwood finds the rough, Noren has to alter his swing to manipulate his usual left-to-right approach to the counter opposite. McIlroy all the while waits.
The 17th at Wentworth as Rory McIlroy tees off… the man can draw a crowd.
While the pros are on the green, the rest watch on. If inside the ropes, you crouch, so as to not block the views of those behind you. The slippery grass creates a treacherous surface to those completely ill-equipped, like me My budget boots give way. My weathered trousers are now covered in Wentworth’s damp grass. That small patch of the golf course will, for at least one day, have my sizeable impact flattening the immaculate topiary of the rough.
Great fun following Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Alex Noren down the 18th. Word of advice: if you’re lucky enough to be inside the ropes and crouch to let those behind you see, make sure you have secure footing on the soaked grass. These trousers are not going to dry any time soon…
The “Championship Village” is full. Fans take in all manner of alcoholic beverages while dodging or peering into the numerous BMW’s dotted around. Martin Kaymer is signing photo after photo in the Hugo Boss tent.
Double vision with Martin Kaymer…
And there are still two more days to go.