Makeover lengthens Quail Hollow's Green Mile

By Randall MellApril 30, 2014, 6:23 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Green Mile is even longer now.

With Quail Hollow Golf Club getting a major makeover in the last year, the famed 16th, 17th and 18th finishing holes will make it even more nerve-wracking on a leader late Sunday afternoon.

“Everybody talked about how this was one of the best golf courses on Tour; I personally did not agree with that,” said two-time PGA Tour winner Paul Goydos. “I now think this is one of the top five or 10 golf courses we play. I can’t imagine them doing a better job than they did.”

All 18 of Quail Hollow’s greens were rebuilt, with contours softened and MiniVerde Bermuda replacing bent grass. More than 100 trees were removed from the course. Architect Tom Fazio, who was involved in the original renovation in ’03, oversaw the changes.

The Green Mile is longer, different now. Overall, the three finishing holes are cumulatively 66 yards longer than last year.

“One of the things we are trying to do on this tour is identify the best players,” Goydos said. “You have a one-shot lead standing on the 16th tee in the last round and you win, you’re probably the best player that week.”

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Since Quail Hollow became home to this championship in 2003, its three finishing holes have ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in difficulty among PGA Tour stops nine times. They’ve ranked No. 1 three times. They have never ranked lower than No. 3.

“I can’t think of three holes in golf, including majors, that are tougher finishing holes than these,” said Webb Simpson, a member at Quail Hollow.

At the par-4 16th, the green was moved 80 yards to the left, where it borders water. The fairway was shifted left, too, creating space atop the hill for the Green Mile Village and Green Mile Club, viewing areas with spectacular vistas.

The 16th hole was lengthened 21 yards since last year, to 508 yards, but could play as far back as 528 yards.

“I think 16 is a bazillion times better than the old 16,” Goydos said. “It’s a much better hole. One, it’s prettier. Two, it’s longer.”

Goydos said it’s a strategically a better design now.

“The architect said this is a long, hard par 4, and, yes, there is water on the left, but he also gave me the opportunity to run the ball up on the green," Goydos said. "I have options there now. The old hole, you had to hit it [high] to try to stop it. That was the only option. Now, he has a green with a bunker and water, and if the pin is on the right, you can hit cuts and fades in there, you can run it up there, you can hit it high. You can do different things to accomplish the same thing.”

The tee boxes at the par-3 17th were shifted, with a new back tee playing 221 yards, which is 23 yards longer than a year ago.

“The 17th hole is a lion with a thorn in its foot,” Goydos said. “There’s just no way around the hole.”

Simpson said there’s going to be a common place to miss there.

“I saw Tom Fazio at a dinner,” Simpson said. “I joked with him. With that new tee, if we play it back there, the tournament's going to need to hire someone, permanently, to stand on the tee, and every time somebody hits, just yell `Fore!’ because people will go right of the green.”

Mark Wilson likes the angle of attack set up at 17 better now.

“When they had the left tee there, it always made it a little easier than they wanted, but the right tee was brutal,” Wilson said. “So, it’s in between. I love where that tee box is there.”

The par-4 18th hole was lengthened 15 yards to 493 yards.

“It’s a good finishing hole,” Goydos said.

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014. 

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."