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Sorensen: Plenty of action at start of 'Green Mile' on 16th hole of Quail Hollow

By Tom Sorensen
tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com
Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.

The 16th hole is not the most famous hole at the Wells Fargo Championship. It’s a respectable hole, 487 yards, a par-4, solidly middle class. Except that nothing at Quail Hollow is middle class. So No. 16 is solidly upper-middle class.

On Saturday, the hole acquired a reputation. This is now the hole that young children are told to stay away from. Scott Gardiner and Phil Mickelson, the afternoon’s final twosome, made sure of it.

Gardiner, the underdog from Down Under, teed off first. His 307-yard tee shot made a severe left turn, went over a 6-foot fence, landed behind a concession stand and rolled under a Heineken beer cart. Like I said, the hole is upper middle class.

A woman cooked hot dogs about 5 feet from Gardiner’s ball. Give this woman a raise for refusing to allow golf to distract her. While Gardiner looked to see if he could play the ball, the woman continued to cook.

Marshals, meanwhile, moved the fans on the ropes next to the fairway left and right, creating an opening for Gardiner. For several minutes, Gardiner looked as if he was going to hit. And, then, finally, he accepted reality.

Three times he dropped the ball and three times it landed on the cart path and three times the ball took off as if propelled.

Finally, Gardiner dropped the ball on the pine needles. The distance from the hole was the same but there was no Heineken or hot dogs.

Gardiner said to rules official Tony Wallin: “I won’t need anyone calling in on this.”

In other words, hundreds of potential tattletales were watching Gardiner on their television sets, looking for a reason to call Quail Hollow on their rotary telephones, and accuse the Australian of cheating.

Mickelson, meanwhile, hit a pretty tee shot, 303 yards, to the left side of the fairway. His second shot, however, took a hard right turn. Sitting on the right side of the green was a woman who told spectators nearby she was in her 70s.

The ball bounced off the top of the woman’s head, opening a cut. The collision was so loud one fan said he thought the ball hit a metal chair.

The marshal at 16 still had blood on the underside of his forearm 10 minutes later.

Mickelson rushed to the woman and said, “I’m so sorry.”

Mickelson handed the woman a glove and, as she accepted it, held her hand.

“She was pretty cool about it but, boy, it didn’t look good,” Mickelson said later. “I felt terrible about that.”

I asked Mickelson when he last hit a spectator.

“Oh, yesterday,” he said. “I don’t know. It happens a lot.”

After hitting the woman the ball rolled down a hill. Somebody lowered the rope behind which spectators gather the way somebody would for a boxer entering a ring. Mickelson stepped over the rope, walked down the hill and, on his next shot, left his chip shot short.

Mickelson bogeyed the hole, as did Gardiner. Mickelson is tied for the lead at 8 under. Gardiner is six shots back.

Before Mickelson left his chip shot short, the woman was helped into a golf cart that would take her to the CMC facility set up near the clubhouse.

Fans gave her a nice, courteous and passionate ovation.

The cart didn’t move immediately, however. The hill on which it parked is steep. Perhaps the driver didn’t know which way to go, or was wary the cart would roll.

The one true path was obvious to those of us there. Make the 16th hole even more memorable. Take a short cut and drive across the green.

It wasn’t as if tire tracks were going to make it worse.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119
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