By Tony Jimenez
VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) – Chris Wood was the toast of the 2016 BMW PGA Championship after waving the shortest club in the bag like a magic wand but fast forward 12 months and he cannot buy a putt for love nor money.
After spending long hours on the practice green with coach Phil Kenyon last week to ensure his game was in tip-top shape for his Wentworth title defense, the 6-foot-6-inch Englishman was at a loss to explain his putting woes on Saturday.
“I played lovely here on Thursday and couldn’t buy a putt, I played average yesterday and couldn’t buy a putt and then played average again today and couldn’t buy a putt,” Wood told Reuters after a third-round 73 left him way down the field.
“It’s been a frustrating week because I’ve been no good on the greens. I holed quite a few putts here last year but I just can’t see the lines this week.”
Wood made his Ryder Cup debut in Minnesota in September largely on the back of the biggest victory of his career in the European Tour’s flagship event.
The Wentworth greens, however, have undergone radical changes in the last 12 months and the re-laid surfaces do not seem to be suiting the tall Englishman.
“I wish they had left them how they were,” said Wood after posting a three-over-par tally of 219. “I’m a great putter and I’m having a bad week.
“The irony is that I spent so much time on the putting green at my home club last week. I drove up to see Phil in Liverpool but I’ve struggled this week and I don’t really know what to put it down to.
“I spent probably 10 to 15 hours working on my putting. I felt really good and I’m not sure what’s going wrong,” said Wood with a sigh.
“I always feel like I fancy it around here and, even with two mediocre days of ball-striking, if I putt anywhere near my average I’m probably in the top 15 or 20. It shows how much this course suits me.”
Wood also finished fourth here in 2015 and was tied for sixth back in 2010.
The 29-year-old, who has three tour victories to his name, said the extra demands placed on his time as a result of being defending champion could be the reason for his below-par efforts this week.
It is standard practice for players to eat immediately after a round before they go out again on the range to hone their swings. That, though, was the furthest thought on Wood’s mind.
“I think I need to rest up so I can get back out a bit fresher tomorrow,” he said. “That will be better than grinding on the range.
“I’m not really in the right frame of mind to spend hours doing that. That’s probably the worst thing for me so I’ll probably go swimming with my three-month-old baby.
“I’ve just got a little bit tired. It’s been quite a busy week for me and I don’t feel I’ve had much time to chill out, rest and recover,” added Wood.
“I’m happy to do all those things because it means I’m defending champion. It’s just a question of managing my time.”
(Editing by Ken Ferris)