VIRGINIA WATER, England — British Open champion Henrik Stenson shot a bogey-free, 4-under 68 to lie two strokes off the lead held by Swedish compatriot Johan Carlsson after the first round of the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday (Friday, Manila time).
All four of Stenson's birdies came on the back nine as Wentworth rolled out its new greens for the signature event on the European Tour. They appeared to meet with widespread approval, especially from Carlsson, whose hot run came on the front nine where he reached the turn in 30 shots, thanks to five birdies.
"The greens are so good. I love this golf course right now," said Carlsson, who had eight birdies in total in his 66. "I think it has become so much better."
Ernie Els was behind the latest changes to the West Course following criticism of his original redesign in 2010. The renovation program started eight days after Chris Wood's victory last year, with all 18 greens stripped of their old turf and reseeded.
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 absolutely as pure as you can find," Els said. "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."
Els appeared to have chipped in for an eagle on the par-5 12th hole, but instantly realized he had not replaced his ball in the right place after checking to see if it was plugged. The four-time major winner was assessed a two-shot penalty and shot a 1-under 71 to lie five shots off the lead.
Carlsson holds a one-shot lead over Francesco Molinari, Scott Jamieson and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.