PLAY­ERS IN THE DARK

Golfers un­sure how Quail Hol­low course will play af­ter its re­cent makeover

New Straits Times - - Sport - CHAR­LOTTE

PLAY­ERS have come to know Quail Hol­low dur­ing its years of host­ing the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Cham­pi­onship, but given its re­cent makeover play­ers were not ex­actly sure how it will play at this week’s PGA Cham­pi­onship.

“Who knows?” Wil­liam McGirt told Reuters when asked for a prob­a­ble win­ning score af­ter walk­ing off the ninth green. “It could be six-un­der or it could be 18-un­der. No one knows.”

Three re­fash­ioned holes on the front side add teeth to that nine, rough has grown in to pun­ish er­rant drives and a change of grass on the greens has raised the speeds to hazardous lev­els.

Un­der the re­laxed pol­icy of the PGA of Amer­ica, play­ers were able to prac­tice while wear­ing shorts, adding a ca­sual air about Mon­day’s prepa­ra­tions.

But the 156-player field were se­ri­ously tak­ing stock ahead of the year’s last ma­jor start­ing tomorrow.

“The big­gest change we’ve seen is the change in the greens,” double ma­jor win­ner Zach John­son told Reuters.

“Go­ing from the bent to the ber­muda is a sub­stan­tial change and re­quires you to be re­ally, re­ally care­ful on your ap­proach shots with the run-up and the re­lease.”

James Hahn put on a short­game clinic at the ninth, pitch­ing from short of the green to two feet past the cup to ap­plause from the fans ring­ing the putting sur­face.

De­spite hit­ting such a sweet shot, he dropped an­other ball and took dead aim again, this time flip­ping the ball up to within one foot on its way to the cup earn­ing a louder cheer.

But Hahn said the greens could be un­fair when hit­ting from far­ther out in the fair­way, not­ing that he and prac­tice part­ner Vi­jay Singh both hit ap­proaches that landed six feet from a cup with dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent results.

“Mine stopped and Vi­jay’s ran off about 30 feet,” said Hahn. “I think that some good shots will not be re­warded.”

John­son agreed, but added: “I have one word to say and that’s – ‘golf ’. It’s a four-let­ter word.”

McGirt said the rough could be a de­cid­ing fac­tor, es­pe­cially if it rains all week as has been fore­cast.

“This rough is the great equaliser be­cause you’re go­ing to get some balls that you can barely ad­vance and some balls that will fly for­ever,” he said.

“We’ve never played this golf course with ac­tual rough ... there hasn’t been a ton of it.”

McGirt said it can get fiendish when wet.

“It’s gonna get squishy. It’s al­ready get­ting nasty on a cou­ple of holes out there, re­ally nasty. I had one on five. I hit a seven-iron as hard as I could and it went about 80 yards.”

De­spite that, McGirt ex­pects some siz­zling scores.

“The golf course is pretty re­cep­tive right now, so I’d ex­pect fairly low scores.”

AFP PIC

Zach John­son (left) and Jimmy Walker at Quail Hol­low on Mon­day prior to the PGA Cham­pi­onship.

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