Other Sports

What golfer Rory McIlroy likes best about changes at Quail Hollow Club

Rory McIlroy, right, is embraced by Toto Gana following Tuesday’s practice round at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
Rory McIlroy, right, is embraced by Toto Gana following Tuesday’s practice round at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Given his track record at Quail Hollow Club, Rory McIlroy liked the south Charlotte course just fine the way it was.

McIlroy is the only two-time winner of the Wells Fargo Championship and would have had a third blue jacket, but he lost to Ricky Fowler in a playoff in 2012.

But McIlroy got a chance to play Quail Hollow last summer after the course underwent several significant changes -- most affecting the first five holes -- and the Irishman doesn't see his success changing when Quail hosts the PGA Championship in August.

“I like the changes. I obviously liked the golf course the way it was before. My record around there's pretty good,” McIlroy said Tuesday following a practice round at the Masters.

“I fancy my chances around there,” he added. “It's always been a modern player's golf course. If you can drive it a long way there's an advantage there.”

McIlroy, 27, is one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour. Players have always needed length on Quail Hollow's three-hole, closing stretch, known as the Green Mile.

But now they'll need to be on point with their drivers from the opening hole, as No. 1 was lengthened from a fairly short par-4 to a dog-leg right. Instead of hitting a 3-wood and a wedge on the first hole, McIlroy said he'll be using a driving and mid-iron.

In addition to the changes to No. 1, the par-3 second was eliminated and replaced by the former third hole. The par-5 fifth gave way to two new holes -- a par-3 and a par-4 -- while 30 yards was added to the par-4 11th.

“The changes are good. It definitely makes the start of the golf course more challenging,” McIlroy said. “You won't really see guys getting off to the hot starts that they used to. Especially those first six holes, you'd see guys 3- or 4-under par. I don't think that's going to happen now. Then the rest of the golf course is pretty much the same.”

PGA Tour veteran Brandt Snedeker hasn't played the Wells Fargo Championship since 2010. So he's taking the changes to Quail Hollow in stride.

“It works out better for me since I don't have any real knowledge of the golf course the last (seven) years. Everybody's going to be starting from scratch,” Snedeker said. “Knowing the way they do things there, I'm sure it'll be a pretty special place when we get there.”

Snedeker, 36, who grew up in Nashville and played at Vanderbilt, might not know the course as well as some of his peers. But he knows what Charlotte's going to feel like in August.

“Growing up in Nashville, I kind of understand that time of year's going to be hot, humid, (with) thunderstorms in the afternoon,” he said.

The steamy conditions and a few longer holes will challenge the world’s best players.

And while McIlroy, No. 2 in the world behind Dustin Johnson, liked Quail Hollow’s old layout, he's looking forward to coming to Charlotte with more at stake.

“I think people will really enjoy it this year,” McIlroy said. “It's a great venue for a tournament and it'll be a great venue for a major, as well.”

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson