A look at the changes made to Quail Hollow for the 2017 PGA Championship

A look at the changes made to Quail Hollow for the 2017 PGA Championship

A professional golf tournament has not been played at Quail Hollow since James Hahn beat out Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson in the 2016 Wells Fargo Invitational in May. That’s because this year’s Wells Fargo Invitational was bumped to Eagle Point because of the upcoming PGA Championship at Quail.

Since that tournament, though, the golf course itself has undergone some serious renovations in front of hosting its first major championship. Let’s take a look at some of those with the year’s final major just two weeks away.

These changes to the course took place in a very condensed amount of time. As Hahn was finishing off his second PGA Tour win on the back nine of the course, the front nine was already undergoing treatment.

Few places in Charlotte are reimagined more frequently — and more privately — than the exclusive club on Gleneagles Road. This past May 8 (2016), as soon as the last group teed off on the final day of the Wells Fargo Championship, construction crews descended on the course and began a 12-week renovation process that would have taken five or six months on most other courses. But Superintendent Keith Wood didn’t have that kind of time. The club’s president, Johnny Harris, wanted to have the course open to members by the fall.

That led to one of the most remarkable renovations of a golf course in the country, involving three new holes, overhauled fairways, reshaped greens, and the addition of areas for grandstands and spectators — all in three months. “I don’t think I’ll ever come up with any project like this again in my career,” says Wood, a 20-year veteran in the industry.

Here are three other changes to the Quail Hollow track.

1. New Bermuda: A type of grass called Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass has been installed on the greens at Quail Hollow. It will be as pure as the driven snow, and it should erase all memories of that nightmare 2013 event at the course in which the bentgrass greens were as splotchy as any PGA Tour event in recent memory.

2. Thousands of trees removed: We will see a sparser Quail Hollow than when we last saw it in 2016. Many of these trees were removed to allow more sunlight to hit the greens, but some were removed to re-shape the golf course, according to the Charlotte Observer.

3. Four-ish new holes: The first and second holes were meshed into a single hole, a 540-yard par 4. The fifth hole was changed from a par 5 to a par 4. A new second hole was built, a par 3. The 11th was given extra bunkering. This is an oddity, for sure, but not much has changed in terms of the actual landscaping of the track.

Golfers will see a totally different front nine (and greens) than they have seen in past years at this course. Jimmy Walker thinks it could lead to higher scores because of thickened rough and a faster track.

Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer, said he was a bit dubious about reformatting the course some 16 months before this year’s major, but Quail Hollow nailed it.

“They lay out all these plans on the table, and thank God we were sitting down; 16 months before the 99th PGA Championship (they) want to totally rebuild three holes and change the green on No. 11,” Haigh told reporters. “I’m not sure anywhere else we could have had that faith to make such significant changes to what is already a fantastic golf course.”

This may not make a material difference in who wins the golf tournament. Quail Hollow has produced some big boy winners in the past including McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Fowler, and given what we’ve seen in the last few years at major championships, that’s not likely to change in two weeks at the 99th PGA Championship.

SOURCE: CBS SPORTS

Jordan Spieth grabs Open lead; Matt Kuchar two shots back

Jordan Spieth grabs Open lead; Matt Kuchar two shots back

SOUTHPORT, England — The flight of Jordan Spieth’s 3-wood from the light rough looked about as ugly as the weather at The Open. The outcome was about as bright as his chances of getting his name on another major championship trophy.

Spieth seized control Friday at Royal Birkdale with a shot that he hit a little off the neck of his 3-wood. It was low and hot, and ran fast along the rain-soaked turf until it skirted by a pot bunker and rambled onto the green to set up an 18-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th.

“I mishit the shot, which is probably why it looked so gross,” Spieth said. “I hit it low off the heel, which is easy to do when you’re trying to carve a cut. And it just … one hop, scooted around the group of bunkers there, and then it was obviously fortunate to get all the way to the green.”

Even in gusts that topped 30 mph and occasional downpours so strong that play was briefly stopped, Spieth managed a 1-under 69 to build a two-shot lead over Matt Kuchar going into the weekend.

Spieth was at 6-under 134. It was the 12th time he has been atop the leaderboard at a major, including the fourth rounds of the Masters and U.S. Open that he won in 2015. Spieth is the sole leader at a major for the first time since the third round of the Masters last year, when he was runner-up to Danny Willett.

“Anytime you’re in the last group on a weekend in a major … you get nervous. And I’ll be feeling it this weekend a bit,” Spieth said. “But I enjoy it. As long as I approach it positively and recognize that this is what you want to feel because you’re in the position you want to be in, then the easier it is to hit solid shots and to create solid rounds.”

Kuchar played in the morning in steadily strong wind, but without rain, and pieced together a solid round until a few mistakes at the end for a 71. He was at 4-under 136, and it would have been a good bet that he would be leading with the nasty weather that arrived.

“I think that’s what people enjoy about the British Open is watching the hard wind, the rain, the guys just trying to survive out there,” Kuchar said. “Today is my day. I get to kick back in the afternoon and watch the guys just try to survive.”

He wound up watching another short-game clinic from Spieth.

The key to his round came in the middle, starting with a 10-foot par putt on No. 8 after he drove into a pot bunker. The biggest break came at No. 10, when the rain was pounding Royal Birkdale. Spieth hit into another pot bunker off the tee, could only advance it out sideways, and came up short of the green in light rough. He was looking at bogey or worse when he chipped in for par.

“Massive,” he said about the par. “Nothing said `4′ about this hole. I feel a little guilty about taking 4 on the card.”

And he wasn’t through just yet. Spieth rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt across the 11th green, and then after watching Henrik Stenson’s tee shot on the par-3 12th land softly, Spieth realized he could take on the flag. He hit 7-iron to 2 feet for another birdie, and followed that with a beautiful pitch to tap-in range for par on the 13th.

Even so, his work is far from over.

The chasing pack features U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, who failed to make a birdie but stayed in the hunt with 16 pars in a 72, and Ian Poulter with his newfound confidence, which is growing even higher with the support of the English crowd. Poulter shot 70.

Not to be overlooked was Rory McIlroy, who recovered from a horrific start Thursday to salvage a 71, and then kept right on rolling. McIlroy, who was 5 over through the opening six holes of the tournament, ran off three birdies with full control of every shot on the front nine.

And much like Spieth, he kept his round together with crucial par saves when the wind was at its worse.

McIlroy posted a 68 and was at 1-under 139, only five shots behind with only five players in front of him.

“To be in after two days and be under par for this championship after the way I started, I’m ecstatic with that,” McIlroy said.

Not everyone got off so easy.

Justin Thomas, who started the second round just two shots behind, drove into the gorse on the first hole and took double bogey. That wasn’t nearly as bad as the sixth hole, where he tried three times to hammer out of the thick native grass well right of the fairway. He couldn’t find the ball after the third one, and he wound up taking a quintuple-bogey 9. Thomas made another double bogey on the 13th hole and shot 80.

Charl Schwartzel was tied for the lead after four holes. And then his approach to No. 5 sailed over the green and led to double bogey, leading to a downfall so severe that the former Masters champion shot 78.

Spieth never looked as if he was under any stress, except for his tee shot into the bunker on No. 8. A British writer suggested a lip-reader could have detected some choice words coming out of his mouth. Spieth smiled and replied, “I speak American. You probably didn’t understand me.”

The language of his clubs was all too familiar. For the first time this year, he is making his normal share of putts — a lot — to go along with ball-striking that has been strong all season. And he established himself as the target for the weekend at Royal Birkdale.

SOURCE: ESPN

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