Golf course designer Tom Fazio’s relationship with the PGA of America goes back 40 years. At least half of that time, he has tinkered with the Quail Hollow Club course that will host the PGA Championship.
So he didn’t see this as the tough sell others might, when he and club president Johnny Harris convinced the PGA on renovating four holes a year out from this major tournament.
“This wasn’t a definite maybe. We were going to make this happen,” Fazio said of the 90-day deadline three construction firms made with a day to spare.
“It was certainly trust on their part. But they didn’t do it blindfolded; they knew our reputation: that it was as important for us as it was for them.”
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Play begins Thursday morning and the PGA of America has already said it plans to award Quail Hollow another major in the future. The renovations were part of a master plan Fazio and the club started executing in the mid-1990s.
Fazio, 72, met with the Observer Wednesday to discuss his work at Quail Hollow. His comments were edited for clarity and brevity:
How will the changes affect the difficulty of the course?
For that level of player, I don’t think it makes it stronger, I don’t think it makes it harder. That was never our goal. Our goal was to create an environment, a setting, that is special and memorable. Where a player comes and says, "Wow, I like this place." They can’t put their finger on why; the holes are just good.
Zach Johnson said, "These may be the best greens you’ll play. I feel like I’m at Augusta National. If I hit a putt on this line, that’s exactly where the ball is going to go.
How do you strike a balance between a course right for the pros and right for members?
The detail of how we make it playable and strong for (elite) players and fun for average players, that’s a philosophy of design. There are no secrets to it. It’s just how you feel the game is played. All holes are basically the same: You have grass on the tee, grass on the fairway, grass on the green. You usually have sand somewhere and water. It’s just a matter of proportions where they are.
Is there more to do at Quail Hollow?
Nothing of major consequence. There is always something that we’re tweaking. Always more to drain, always more to smooth out. Example: If you look at the edges, we have traffic at night (for maintenance). There are trucks and tractors and trailers. So, we have issues like where a curb is for the bed of a road.
Some golfers said No. 1 will be notably more difficult. You agree?
The hole that was there initially was a short par 4 (for pros). If you were to chart (stokes for) that hole, and we’ll do that, my guess is there will be more birdies (previously) because this is a long par 4, as opposed to (the previous) short par 4. It’s a par 5 for the members. ...You’re going to see quite a few bogeys (on No. 1) because that first hole was (previously) a very short hole and now they’ll (be hitting) a longer club.
Phil Mickelson predicted a winning score close to par. Your thoughts?
I would be surprised if it was that high. I would think (the winning score) would be closer to double-digit red numbers. ...I can’t imagine there’s someone this week who will not shoot (well better than par). Now, again, weather has a lot to do with it (with heavy rain in the forecast). Now, Phil could be right. He saw the golf course, he understands the putting. Maybe I’m overly optimistic because these guys are so good.
Do you see Bermuda rough as a significant change?
Bermuda is only a significant change if (the rough) is really high. During the PGA, it’s not really high. I think here there is an intermediate cut that is about an inch and a quarter.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell