Fairways And Roughs Title

Say hello to the elephant humps at No. 4

By PGA Tour News
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The volunteer had just arrived for his shift at the new par-3 fourth hole at Quail Hollow. Standing along the front rail of the grandstands, he was surveying the green, waiting for the next three players to arrive in Thursday’s first round of the PGA Championship. He wondered what he had missed. At that point, not much. Of the first 66 players with morning tee times who had completed that hole, none had made a birdie. On the flip side, there had been 22 bogeys. The temperature was rising and the fans sitting behind him were getting restless. “I heard a comment about the green,” the volunteer said, nodding to the undulations that contributed to the lack of fireworks. “They said they didn’t realize North Carolina had elephants until they saw the two that were buried here.” Consider it gallow’s humor. The 184-yard hole, which had not existed until last summer when renovations to Quail Hollow included the creation of three new holes, didn’t exactly receive rave reviews in its debut on the big stage. Grayson Murray: “Definitely not like the other 17.” Tony Finau: “A little dicey … not my favorite green.” Brooks Koepka: “A little too shallow … and too undulating.” Gary Woodland: “That pin today was brutal.” Englishman Paul Casey said simply, “Not a fan.” Murray, whose 3-under 68 leaves him tied for third behind leaders Thorbjorn Olesen and Kevin Kisner, was in the first group to play the fourth hole. He bogeyed it, as did playing partners Peter Uihlein and Rich Berberian Jr. Murray noted that Uihlein’s 7-iron hit two feet left, pin-high … and rolled down the back of the green. “That’s a little absurd, maybe,” Murray said. Patrick Reed said he hit a full 7-iron. “I launched it to the moon and I pushed it from where my line was right at the flag,” Reed said. “Landed three yards short of the hole and still went over the green.” David Lingmerth was the 70th player to complete the hole Thursday – and the first one to make a birdie, rolling in a putt from 16 feet, 7 inches. Ultimately, he would be the only player in the morning wave to make a birdie, with 24 bogeys and one double bogey made by those first 78 players. The hole was more accommodating in the afternoon, with Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau, Graham DeLaet, Danny Lee and Byeong Hun An making birdies. An had the longest putt, at 34 feet, 5 inches. Fowler had the closest, just outside 6 feet. Joost Luiten found the best way to solve the green – by not having to putt on it. His 6-iron took one bounce, hit the flagstick and dropped in for a hole-in-one. It’s the 40th ace at the PGA Championship since 1970. But even Luiten, the guy with the most success on No. 4, understands the concerns. He also sees room for improvement. “I think if (the ball) missed the flag, I would’ve been over the green,” Luiten said. “I think that’s what they mean. There’s almost no way you can stop that ball on that green, especially not on the right side. As soon as it goes past the pin, it just rolls off. It’s a tough pin. It’s a small target and I just got lucky that it bounced in the hole. Sometimes you need a bit of luck in this game. “I think the green is a bit too severe. If they flatten out that green a little bit, it’s a bit more fair. It’s a better par 3 that way.” Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Earlier this week, Frank Nobilo previewed the hole on the Golf Channel. His succinct assessment? “I don’t think this will be the players’ favorite hole.” Given all the grumbling, the fourth hole – created last year when course designer Tom Fazio took land that previously had been the par-5 fifth hole – surprisingly was not the most difficult Thursday. Playing to a stroke average of 3.288, it ranked seventh overall. Even the two par-3s on the back nine were more difficult. Of course, both are significantly longer, the 13th more than 20 yards, the 17th more than 40 yards. So what is the issue with the new fourth hole? The focus is on those elephant humps, which some suggest take up too much space on the green and are too severe, making for small targets. There are few flat areas to stick a pin; Thursday’s location was so close to the bunker on the right side that “from the tee box, it looks like it’s in the bunker,” Finau said. “Visually, it’s hard to hit at that hole.” Players are forced to carry the three bunkers guarding the front of the green, but with the back of the green sloping down, shots struck in the middle were rolling into either the fringe, the first cut or even the thick second rough. With a firm putting surface, players were having trouble holding the green with their mid-irons. “When the greens are firm, it’s going to be hard to hit the green at all,” said Jim Herman. “I was able to hit it today. I had to really press the issue hitting an 8-iron. It’s probably a 7-iron club to get it all the way back there. But if anything’s landing near it, it was just going to go over. It’s just going to be a challenge all week.” Said Koepka, who bogeyed the hole after finding the right-hand bunker: “I think if they had the green a little bit flatter, it would have been a little bit better.” So would any player come to the fourth hole’s defense on Thursday? How about one of the Quail Hollow members, say, the guy with a U.S. Open win on his resume? Sorry. Webb Simpson even acknowledged the hole’s shortcomings. “I think they knew once they put it in that maybe it was a little too undulating, to be honest,” Simpson said after signing for a 5-over 76 that he called “disappointing.” Added Simpson: “It’s a beautiful hole. They did a good job with the trees and bunkering. But yeah, I think if they soften it a little bit, it will be a good thing.” Who knows, maybe that work will begin soon. But it won’t happen this week. So are there any potential changes for the next three rounds? The pin will move around, but only to a limited number of spots it can go. Perhaps a change in the tees will provide some relief. “Our group was kind of feeling like if you move the tee up 20 yards, instead of being a soft 6 or full 7, if it's a 9-iron you probably can stop it close,” Reed said. “I'm sure they are going to mess around with that tee a little bit too,” Murray added. “Maybe we'll hit a wedge in one day. If we have a wedge in our hand, it's fine.” Whatever the set-up is for the rest of the week, players know there’s nothing they can do about it. Koepka, for one, will not lose sleep about No. 4. “I don't really care that much, to be honest with you,” he said. “Everyone's got to play it. So it doesn't really bother me.” Give Herman the last word. “No reason to get supercritical about it. You’ve got to hit the shots. We’ve got wedges. We can get up and down.”

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