Quail Hollow: Firm, fast greens exasperate players

By Ryan LavnerAugust 11, 2017, 12:41 am

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – No, this isn’t the Quail Hollow of old, the bomber’s paradise that served up 20-under winning scores and back-nine shootouts.

Only 24 of the 156 players broke par Thursday on a day that should have been ideal for scoring, with temperatures in the mid-80s and little wind. The best score in the first round of the PGA Championship was 4-under 67, the first time since 2008 that no player in this event opened with a round of 5 under or better.

An ambitious 90-day renovation last spring has turned Quail Hollow into a decidedly more exacting test. There’s a 524-yard opener. There’s a par 3, No. 4, that no one besides Joost Luiten (who made an ace) enjoys. And there are fast, firm greens – thanks, SubAir – that require equal parts luck and skill to navigate.

“We joked about it today,” said Bud Cauley, who shot 69. “It’s amazing how much more difficult you can make a place when you suck the moisture out of the greens.”


PGA Championship: Scores | Live blog: Day 1 | Full coverage


Rory McIlroy has played some of the best golf of his career here, winning twice and posting a 61 and 62 along the way. But no one in the field will even sniff those numbers this week. Not with the 6,700-yard venue playing even longer because of the rain-softened fairways. Not with the new Bermuda rough that swallows errant shots. Not with the re-grassed greens rejecting even the highest-spinning shots.  

“The greens are as firm as I’ve ever seen at a PGA Championship,” said McIlroy, who shot 72.

McIlroy played in the afternoon, alongside Rickie Fowler (69) and Jon Rahm (70), when the grain in the greens was even more exaggerated, making it even trickier to hole putts. Some players compared the green speeds to Augusta – only with more subtle slopes throughout.

"We just kind of tap it," said Rahm, "and hope it stops by the hole."

“These greens are the fastest greens I’ve ever played,” said Brooks Koepka, who shot 68, “and the thing is, they’re only going to get faster and firmer.”

Faster greens lead to more tentative putting, but firmer greens lead to exasperation, that good shots aren’t necessarily rewarded. Rahm pointed to Fowler’s approach into 18, a high, soft cut that landed pin high and still released 15 feet past.

“It’s hard to play golf like that,” Rahm said, “especially with the holes as difficult as they are right now.”

This was to be expected, of course. The Wells Fargo event produced an average winning score of 14 under over the past decade, but almost everyone agreed that the player hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday will have finished single digits under par.

Does it feel as though a U.S. Open will break out here?

McIlroy wasn’t about to go that far.

The fairways are still generous. The penalty for a wayward drive isn’t as severe. There are still opportunities to score.

“But the greens are as firm as a U.S. Open,” he said.

Rain is in the forecast for the next three days. Given the way Quail Hollow played Thursday, it will be a welcome sight.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.