Fairways And Roughs Title

Quick look at the PGA Championship

By PGA Tour News
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THE OVERVIEW CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After spending the previous 14 years as host of the PGA TOUR’s Wells Fargo Championship, the Quail Hollow Club this week hosts its first major, the PGA Championship. Same location. Not exactly the same course. There are three new holes (Nos. 1, 4 and 5). Two other holes (Nos. 9 and 11) were modified. All 18 greens were reconstructed and resurfaced with Bermudagrass. More than 43 acres of sod were installed, with 200,000 pounds of earth moved and re-arranged. This all happened in less than 90 days last summer. Very impressive. So it’s different. Definitely different than in 2010 when the PGA of America announced Quail Hollow as the host venue for this year’s final major. But just how different? “It’s going to play a lot different,” said defending PGA champion Jimmy Walker, who has played 22 rounds at Quail Hollow since making his first Wells Fargo start in 2005. But another Quail Hollow veteran, Rory McIlroy, said the course is essentially 83 percent the same. “Obviously there has been a few changes and there’s a couple holes that look a little different,” said McIlroy, who has two wins and four other top 10s in seven career starts here. “But for the most part, 15 of the 18 holes are pretty much the same.” Phil Mickelson -- who has more experience at Quail Hollow (52 rounds on TOUR) than anybody in the field except perhaps Quail Hollow resident/club member Webb Simpson – said the changes are noticeable but not jarring. “It’s actually made the golf course a little bit tougher, but it’s done it in a very subtle way, rather than overdoing it, overcontouring the greens, overcontouring things.” Tougher seems to be a word everybody can agree on. Last year when it hosted the Wells Fargo, the course played to a par 72 at 7,575 yards. The scorecard this week is just 25 additional yards (to 7,600) but now playing to a par 71. It’s the opening stretch that’s most noticeable. What used to be a gentle, inviting start to the round could very well be an immediate slap in the face. The par-4 first previously played at 418 yards; now it’s a 524 yards, essentially combining the old first and second holes. The old second was a par-3 at 178 yards; now it’s a par-4 at 452 yards. Meanwhile, about 30 yards was added to the third hole and is now at 483 yards. The opening three holes could rival Quail Hollow’s famed three-hole closing stretch (aka the Green Mile) as the most challenging on the course. Add the new No. 4 (a par 3 that was once a par 4) and No. 5 (a par 4 that was once a par 5) and there’s no easing into the round. “Used to be you got through the first five holes here at 1- or 2-under par and that was a decent start,” McIlroy said. “Now you get through the first five holes at even par – and that’s when the golf course starts to open up for you.” How much it will open up remains to be seen. An inch of rain this week has softened the fairways and will make the course play longer without the usual rollout. Plus, the third Bermuda rough will punish wayward shots. Said Walker: “There’s no worse grass to try to hit out of the rough than this stuff, especially when it’s wet.” Jordan Spieth called it “brutal.” “This is going to be,” Spieth added, “one of the most challenging tracks I think that we’ve played.” Three weeks ago, Spieth won The Open Championship with a score of 12 under. In June, Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open at 16 under. Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose reached 9 under at the Masters in April before Garcia won in a playoff. From the sound of things, it doesn’t appear the winning score this week will get close to the other three majors this season. “You put in rough now that is extremely challenging, rough around the greens,” Mickelson said, “and you’ve got a major championship that a score very close to par is going to end up winning.” THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER Jordan Spieth Says he hasn’t been this relaxed going into a major since Chambers Bay in 2015. We all know what happened there. Hideki Matsuyama T-11 at Masters. T-2 at U.S. Open. T-14 at the Open. Hear that sound? It’s Hideki knocking on a major door. Rory McIlroy Given the course changes at Quail Hollow, are we overplaying the whole Rory-has-won-here-twice angle? Perhaps. The Flyover Say hello to the Green Mile, one of golf’s most treacherous three-hole closing stretches. At last year’s Wells Fargo Championship, it played to a cumulative 0.734 strokes over par. The 16th, at 506 yards, is one of three par 4s more than 500 yards this week. The signature 17th, at 223 yards, has a green that’s practically an island. And the 494-yard 18th was merely ranked as the hardest closing hole on the PGA TOUR last season. So, you know, have fun with all that. The Landing Zone Jordan Spieth said that if he were a fan this week, he would hang out at the 14th hole, which is 344 yards, the shortest par-4 on the course (the eight is 346 yards). “You would see guys potentially driving greens and you see short holes yielding really anything,” Spieth said. “You can make a 5 or 6 there pretty easily too. I think short drivable par 4s are the most fun holes for me.” Last year, the 14th played to a stroke average of 4.002 with just two eagles. Here’s where all tee shots landed last year. Weather Check Quail Hollow has already had an inch of rain this week, and the forecast doesn’t provide any comfort once the tournament starts. “It's softened the golf course certainly more than we would want, and I think more than everybody would want,” said the PGA of America’s chief championships officer, Kerry Haigh. “But golf is an outdoor sport and it is what it is.” For the latest weather news Charlotte, North Carolina, check out PGATOUR.COM’s Weather Hub. Sound Check “Do I have to be the youngest? No, I don’t feel that kind of pressure. Would it be really cool? Absolutely.” Odds and Ends 1. LAST TWO CHAMPS. Defending PGA champ Jimmy Walker and 2015 winner Jason Day say they are on the upswing after going through some struggles (both on and off the course) this season. Walker, who earlier this year was diagnosed with Lyme disease, said about his form: “It’s trending. It feels pretty.” Said Day, whose mother underwent successful lung cancer surgery in the spring: “I feel like I’m starting to turn the corner.” 2. SPEAKING OF DAY. If he indeed turns the corner this week, he’ll do so without much practice time at Quail Hollow. He didn’t register at the course until Wednesday morning after flying to Charlotte the night before. Day has played the Wells Fargo Championship twice, but the last time was five years ago. He said he’s not worried; last year at Baltusrol, he played just one practice round and finished second behind Walker. “You know, there’s been tournaments where I’ve walked up and haven’t even played a practice round and I’ve played well,” he said. 3. WHAT DID I JUST EAT? Jordan Spieth went to a Charlotte restaurant called the Cowfish. It’s a sushi burger bar. “I had no idea how to feel going in with the menu, just burgers and sushi,” Spieth said. “I needed like a 20-minute break afterward to try to figure out what I just ate. But it was good.” 4. IT’S BEEN SEVEN YEARS. At Whistling Straits in 2010, Dustin Johnson had a one-shot lead with one hole to play but was penalized two strokes for grounding his club in a bunker off the 18th fairway. The T-5 finish remains his best in seven PGA starts. “I don’t think it owes me one,” Johnson said when asked about the controversial ruling. “It was my fault. I grounded a club in what they still say is a bunker.”

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