Like many casual golf fans, I know the PGA Championship will be hosted in Charlotte at Quail Hollow Club Aug. 7-13.
But there’s much I don’t know about what will be the first golf major championship ever played in Charlotte, and so I learned a ton at “The Making of a Major” Tuesday night.
This Charlotte Observer event was moderated by myself and Global Golf Post writer Ron Green Jr., previously a longtime staff writer at the Observer and still a regular contributor to the newspaper and its golf.carolinas.com website and newsletter.
The featured guests on the panel were businessman Johnny Harris, the Quail Hollow Club president who brought this major to Charlotte; Jason Mengel, who moved to Charlotte to direct the tournament for the PGA; and Johnson Wagner, the professional golfer and Charlotte resident who is a three-time PGA Tour winner.
“This is it,” Harris said about the tournament to an audience of several hundred at the McGlohon Theater in uptown Charlotte. “This is the big leagues.”
Here are six things I learned Tuesday night:
COURSE CHANGES: There are a lot of them, and they were most accurately summed up in a brief statement by Wagner when asked what the “new” Quail Hollow is like.
“It’s harder,” said Wagner, who is also a member at Quail Hollow.
The course will also have a more open feel, as close to 1,000 trees were removed as part of the remodeling (this will also allow for some additional spectator areas). Wagner commented in particular about how much more difficult the front nine will be, saying golfers better be “fully awake” when they start their first round or face the consequences.
WHAT SCORE WILL WIN? When I asked Harris to make a guess as to what final score might win the tournament, he first issued a caveat about how the weather will affect everything. “But I’d say somewhere in the 8-under par to 12-under range,” he said.
By contrast, the past seven times the Wells Fargo Championship has been played at Quail Hollow, the winning golfer has averaged 13.7 strokes under par.
HOW WILL I GET THERE? The tournament will be more crowded. An average Wells Fargo tournament day drew about 30,000 fans, while the PGA Championship will draw in the 40,000-50,000 range. No one will park at the course except for players and their caddies – not even Harris.
“I wouldn’t be caught dead parking there,” Harris said, laughing, “partly because of all the people I would hear it from if I did.”
Fans have several transportation choices that are outlined on the tickets they buy.
TICKET SALES: Speaking of tickets, the four days of tournament golf (Aug. 10-13) have long been sold out. Wednesday’s practice rounds sold out this week, leaving only the Monday and Tuesday practice rounds still available.
PLAYOFF: What if two or more players are tied at the end of 72 holes on Aug. 13th? The PGA Championship playoff is a three-hole aggregate score, which means the golfers tied for first place would head back to Quail Hollow’s well-known “Green Mile” and play it all again – holes No. 16, 17 and 18.
THE FUTURE: The Wells Fargo Championship returns to Charlotte for the first weekend in May in 2018 and then again in 2019. Beyond that, the tournament’s future is uncertain. Harris left open the possibility of future big events – like the 2021 Presidents Cup, already scheduled for Quail Hollow – but said that whether the tournament continues in its current form after 2019 is “uncertain.”