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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: Idyllic Wentworth is a battleground for golf’s civil war

Wentworth always does well for crowds, but record numbers are expected this weekend.

You can almost feel the frustration emanating from the offices tucked behind the castellated Wentworth ‘clubhouse’ from here. The BMW PGA Championship looks like being a fraught kind of environment this week.

The DP World Tour had this one targeted as their final emergence from the travails of Covid, which battered them badly.

They’d sold out the weekend for the first time ever. All the people they really wanted who’d sometimes snubbed Wentworth in the past  – Rory, Rahmbo, Fitzy, Viktor and the rest – are coming home from America to support their native tour.

A new, pared down schedule focusing on quality rather than the quantity of `Covid Specials’ that developed (in necessity) during the pandemic is being finalised.

Keith Pelley was surely about the trumpet the strategic alliance with the PGA Tour as the route to the DP World Tour’s future prosperity.

The story is the still the civil war

They’ll probably still try to frame that narrative. But really the story is golf’s civil war raging in the idyllic and leafy Surrey backdrop.

Just at a time the tour’s flagship seemed to be sailing with all engines ablaze, it’s back to listing a little.

There are 15 LIVers playing among the loyalists – some of them shameless interlopers who’ve never sniffed at Europe before. It’s not going to be pretty, one imagines.

It will be fascinating to see the reception for the LIVers not only from their peers – it’s not unanimously hostile, but largely so – but also from the home crowds.

It’s going to be excruciating for Pelley and the Tour if one of them – Lee Westwood, for example, showed signs of good form in Boston at the weekend – actually wins the thing.

My friend Ewan Murray revealed last week that the Tour is pressing on with an attempt to ban the LIVers in future. A full hearing of the case – July’s decision to allow them to play was a temporary stay – is due in the spring.

Pay up Sergio, unless it was bs all along

As we noted last week, the PGA Tour’s ban looks pretty solid in the long-term.

How much precedent, if any, can be applied from the American court is anyone’s guess. The DP World Tour’s regulations need tightening, although it’s now way after the fact.

Certainly it seems any kind of rapprochement this week seems impossible. Perhaps it was best illustrated by Sergio Garcia’s defiant position.

It’s interesting that Sergio has opted to play this time, having snubbed Wentworth religiously over the years.

The variance of excuses for that were considerable, from not liking the poa annua greens to the threat of a huge tax bill from the UK authorities.

If that was anything other than BS, I hope HMRC are waiting at the gates for him. He’s surely well able to pay up now.

The best Scottish challenge for a while

Even if they’re at each others’ throats, Wentworth is still one of the very best events of the year. What the Dunhill Links might be like if anyone showed up to watch.

September is a much better time to play it than the ‘traditional’ date in May. The course should be running hard after a bone-dry summer, and the heather will be out in full array.

It brings back fond memories of the old World Matchplay of our youth – well, mine, at least. If only the finish of the West Course was still the way we remember it rather than the dreadful scarring that’s been endured to the 17th and 18th holes.

It’s always a cliche for us Scots scribes that our countrymen should do well at Wentworth.

Sandy, Sam and especially Monty (three times a winner) established that, although it’s been 18 years now since Scott Drummond shocked the game with his victory – the only one of his career.

This year we’ve surely got our best chance in a while. Ewen Ferguson is flying, Bob MacIntyre is finding his form again,  Richie Ramsay is naggingly consistent, and Stevie Gallacher nearly always plays well here.

Add in Grant Forrest, Connor Syme, David Law (T14 last year), Marc Warren (top five a couple of times. It just always FEELS like the kind of place that should suit our guys.

Our gratitude to Herb

They say you never meet a poor plumber – well, in income terms at least – and Herb Kohler, who died at the weekend, was always a plumber first and foremost.

He built a massive golf and leisure empire on the back of the enormous success of his original business. The town of Kohler, Wisconsin, with Whistling Straits and the rest of the golfing complex there, are a clue to how well he did in that sphere.

For us in this area, he’s most known as the man who bought the Old Course Hotel in 2004 and extended it to the palace it is now.

I recall when the deal went through Herb came for an interview at the Dunhill Links media tent.

He was far less concerned about buying a prominent building in the world of golf than the urgent need to haul out the hotel’s entire waterworks and bring it up to his personal standards.

If you’ve ever stayed there, you’ll know how successful he was at that.

Saving Hamilton Hall

Hamilton Hall is a crucial part of the Old Course’s fabric.

But the real gratitude we have for Herb in these parts is that he also bought and restored Hamilton Hall. Primarily, keeping it out of the clutches of Donald Trump.

It’s just a building, yes, and it isn’t even part of the Old Course, really. But it’s a crucial part of the OC’s fabric.

The red sandstone edifice (I will steadfastly not use the i word) frames the 18th green in a million Swilcan Bridge photographs, professional and amateur.

The gorgeous old building was falling to bits when Herb bought it, and now it looks brand new again, and unadorned as it should be.

Do you think for a minute Trump would have done it like that?