Move over Ernie. Els, Big Easy as he is known, cannot defend the HSBC World Match Play at Wentworth this week and so his South African compatriot, Retief Goosen, takes over favouritism.

With good credentials. Goosen has arrived on the back of a big win in the German Masters and he is the leader on the book. He's best on the cards now, perhaps, but never as big a cert as Ernie always used to be.

Goosen, arguably the most talented hitter and misser - major championship one week, emphatic avoider of cuts the next - in the game, confesses to a vulnerability over the West Course.

"This is not a course that I've done particularly well on," he says.

And he can say that again. Sam Torrance beat him 4&3 in the first round of this great event four years ago.

Goosen, however, is a strident striker of the ball. Great swing, great length, great possibility. But can he putt? For now, he says, he can.

He won in America in August, in Asia and Europe this month and announced a deep satisfaction with his short game.

"I'm putting really well," he said and that is a signal statement to the rest of the Wentworth field. On paper, he's already into round two.

But try telling that to Ken Ferrie, his opponent this morning. Ferrie is a Geordie of, initially, robust promise. And robust was the appropriate word.

He lived his life according to his appetites and they being fairly voracious, exceptional golf was something of a rarity. Then he got the message. A message, anyway.

Ferrie dieted, practised, found himself an attitude, won a tournament and persuaded himself that he could achieve exceptional things in the game. The European Open at the K Club was definitely not small fry.

Goosen promises not to underestimate him. And he has a pretty sound explanation of his reasons for supporting the World Match Play.

He sees the Americans who do not as an insular lot who don't want to take the trouble to cross the Atlantic. "They are obviously playing for a lot of money over there. That's probably the main reason for them not travelling.

"But, yeah, we (himself and Els) carry the flag for the European and the PGA Tour around the rest of the world.

"We're basically supporting their Tour as well as the European Tour and it seems to work out better for our schedule, Ernie and me, living over here."

Flying to the States and flying back is not a monumental problem.

It was an admirable situation that the US wanted his and Els's company, and the Far East and Australia and South Africa.

"We'll keep on supporting those events," he said.

And let the World Match Play be praised. All of which was by way of excusing the absence of the world's top players: Goosen is the only one at Wentworth from the world's top 12.

But he agreed with US Open winner Michael Campbell that the Match Play should be designated as a major championship.

"Yeah, definitely," he said of the proposition. "Looking at who is playing here and who is not playing here, people are wondering why we don't have the leading players here.

"I don't know why they don't want to come but hopefully, in the future, they'll start changing their minds a bit."

From the whys and wherevernots, the questions were directed at that everlasting enthusiast, Paul McGinley. He wouldn't get in the tournament by previous criteria but he's in now and he's buzzing.

"There's great history in this tournament," he said. "And I'm delighted to be part of it. Chasing history is a very big thing."

McGinley, famous holer of big Ryder Cup putts, faces Thomas Bjorn this morning and his enthusiasm for the chase is one of the more obvious blasts on the cards.

McGinley wants to win this week and alongside that ambition is his profound desire to pick up some Ryder Cup points.

David Howell has a similar drive. He hasn't been well of late but he believes that he's fitter and stronger than ever now and while the Match Play is an incentive as it is, it is also a ticket into the next Ryder Cup team.

A homely Wiltshire lad, Howell has always appeared to distance himself from the desperate mental side of the game that drives so many others.

"I haven't adopted a mind coach yet," he said. "I have always believed that my own mind is one of my strengths. I have never doubted myself and I won't be employing a mind coach in the near future." His determination will be tested against Jos> Maria Olazabal this morning.

No preview of any serious event would be complete without the profound thoughts of Colin Montgomerie.

"I look forward to the end of the season," said the wise one apropos his drive to find an acceptable world ranking. He definitely does not want to be chasing catch-up Ryder Cup points.

And on the controversial subject of all those great players who can't be bothered, for whatever reason, to be at Wentworth this week, Monty left us with this warming thought: "Tell you what, I'll always be here. This is wonderful. I love this tournament. I just love being here. I can't speak for anybody else."