It has become the story of the Wells Fargo Championship before the tournament has even begun.
How will the sub-par conditions of at least four greens at the otherwise pristine Quail Hollow Club affect the tournament, which begins Thursday?
The greens on the eighth and 10th holes were resodded two weeks ago in hopes of generating suitable grass cover. And it appears that might have also been necessary on Nos. 9, 12, 13 and 16, where several unsightly brown patches have pocked the putting surfaces.
“(The greens) are not as good as they usually are,” said Rory McIlroy, who won the tournament in 2010. “We come to Quail Hollow and they’re probably the best greens on Tour, usually. It’s unfortunate they’re not quite up to the standard that they usually are. But it’s no big deal.”
McIlroy’s attitude seems to be fairly typical of most players, but not all. Ian Poulter, who withdrew from the tournament Tuesday, had hinted on his Twitter account last week that he wouldn’t play due to the shaky conditions.
That Poulter was tweeting his concerns last week indicates the word about potential greens problems had already spread among the players.
“This is nothing that we didn’t know about,” said tournament executive director Kym Hougham. “Mother Nature wasn’t kind to us, but we’ve done everything we could do about it.”
There is more to be done. All of Quail Hollow’s greens will be replaced this summer with hardier Bermuda grass, as the club prepares to host the 2017 PGA Championship.
The appearances of the resodded Nos. 8 and 10 don’t seem to be different than the course’s other, healthy greens. They will be softer and play slower. But the patchy surfaces of Nos. 9, 12, 13 and 16 could cause problems.
“You can’t lie about it, the greens are shaky,” said defending champion Rickie Fowler, who practiced on the front nine on Tuesday before playing all 18 in Wednesday’s pro-am. “Some guys might not go into it with the right attitude. And they’re automatically going to be out of the tournament. I think it would be similar to be playing in tough conditions (in Europe). I’m going into it trying to have some fun, make some putts and win a golf tournament.”
Phil Mickelson, who has been critical of Quail Hollow’s greens in the past, isn’t now.
“I think we should cut the tournament some slack,” he said. “It’s not that big a deal. After they go to the new greens next year I think they’ll be fabulous.”
Bill Haas, a Charlotte native who has played Quail Hollow for much of his life (his dad Jay is a member), takes the practical approach.
“As soft as it is, guys will still be making birdies,” he said. “The best player will still win on Sunday. Once somebody shoots 5-under the first day, they’ll say ‘Well, the greens must not be too bad.’
“There will be some complaining going on but that’s what we do. If we have something to blame it on, we’ll blame it on it.”
Jonathan Jones contributed.
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