Over the past 10 years, nobody, except maybe the major championships, has done it better than the Quail Hollow Club and the Wells Fargo Championship.
Quality of the course, conditioning, strength of field, winners, everything down to the locker-room donuts has been perfect or near it. The event has lived on the PGA Tours A-list, its praises sung loud and long by the players and officials.
As it tees off again Thursday, things are not as rosy. Its not for lack of trying. Things just fell wrong.
The greens, so smooth and velvety in the past, are on their last legs. A couple of them are bad. The club has battled their decline for weeks now but nature won. The greens just gave up, is the way club president Johnny Harris put it. They will be rebuilt shortly after the tournament.
Rory McIlroy, a former winner here and a runner-up to Rickie Fowler in a playoff last year, said, theyre not as good as they usually are. We come to Quail Hollow and theyre, for me, probably the best greens on Tour usually but its no big deal. Everyone has to putt on them and the best player at the end of the week is still going to win.
News of the problems on the greens has circulated on the Tour for awhile now and probably has contributed to the absence of some of the top players.
Scheduling around the Wells Fargo Championship, going back to the Masters, held three weeks ago, and continuing into the Players Championship, a cut below major status, next week is another, more damaging factor.
Only one of the top 10 players in the World Golf Rankings is playing here, only six of the top 20, 12 of the top 30. Its the weakest field, by far, ever to play the Wells Fargo.
Kym Hougham, executive director of the tournament, attributes some of the absences to a wrinkle in the scheduling, a little to the greens and some to what he called the maturing of the tournament, a natural evolution with players adjusting their schedules for various reasons.
For example, he said, after awhile players learn which courses they can play well and which they cant, and they tend to steer away from the ones that dont suit their games.
He said this years field is not a harbinger of things to come.
Not at all, he said. Next year, well have our new greens and theyll be back.
How much does quality of field affect a tournament? From a spectators standpoint, probably only minimally, depending upon who is playing. Except for the majors, golf tournaments are as much social events as competitions, a chance to wear your coolest-looking clothes, walk around with a beverage in your hand, see and be seen and maybe get some autographs.
The Wells Fargo is minus the top draw, Tiger Woods, but it still has star power, especially in the likes of Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson.
And there is this its sold out.
Ron Green Sr. is a retired Observer sports columnist
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