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.”
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.