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.

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Phil rubs fan's Donald Duck hat seven times, signs it

By Nick MentaJune 18, 2018, 3:09 pm

There is a case to be made that what Phil Mickelson did on Saturday made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

There is also a case to be made that the USGA's setup of Shinnecock Hills made a mockery of a major championship and was worthy of derision.

Whatever you think about what Mickelson did on Saturday - and how he attempted to justify it after the fact without even a hint of remorse - watch this video.

The next time you hear someone say, "If anybody else had putted a moving ball on purpose and not apologized for it, it would get a different reaction," you can point to this video and say, "Yeah, here's why."

Here's what happened once a still-strident Mickelson was done rubbing Donald Duck hats on Sunday, per Ryan Lavner:

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

The 2024 Ryder Cup at Bethpage is going to be a three-ring circus, and Mickelson, a likely choice to captain the U.S. team, will be the ringmaster.

Separately, shoutout to 2017 Latin Am champ Toto Gana, who does a terrific Donald Duck (skip to end).

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Ryder Cup race: Mickelson out, Simpson in

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:34 pm

There's a new man at the top of the U.S. Ryder Cup race following the U.S. Open, and there's also a familiar name now on the outside looking in.

Brooks Koepka's successful title defense vaulted him to the top of the American points race, up four spots and ensuring he'll be on the team Jim Furyk takes to Paris in September. Dustin Johnson's third-place finish moved him past Patrick Reed at No. 2, while Webb Simpson entered the top eight after a a tie for 10th.

While Bryson DeChambeau remained at No. 9, Phil Mickelson dropped two spots to No. 10. Tony Finau, who finished alone in fifth, went from 16th to 13th, while Tiger Woods fell two spots to No. 37.

Here's a look at the latest U.S. standings, with the top eight after the PGA Championship qualifying automatically:

1. Brooks Koepka

2. Dustin Johnson

3. Patrick Reed

4. Justin Thomas

5. Jordan Spieth

6. Rickie Fowler

7. Bubba Watson

8. Webb Simpson

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9. Bryson DeChambeau

10. Phil Mickelson

11. Matt Kuchar

12. Brian Harman

On the European side, England's Tommy Fleetwood took a big stride toward securing his first Ryder Cup appearance with a runner-up finish that included a Sunday 63 while countryman Matthew Fitzpatrick snuck into a qualifying spot after tying for 12th.

Here's a look at the updated Euro standings, with the top four from both points lists joining four picks from captain Thomas Bjorn at Le Golf National:

European Points

1. Tyrrell Hatton

2. Justin Rose

3. Tommy Fleetwood

4. Francesco Molinari

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5. Thorbjorn Olesen

6. Ross Fisher

World Points

1. Jon Rahm

2. Rory McIlroy

3. Alex Noren

4. Matthew Fitzpatrick

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5. Ian Poulter

6. Rafael Cabrera-Bello

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Koepka autographs local kids' 'Go Brooks' sign after win

By Grill Room TeamJune 18, 2018, 2:30 pm

Brooks Koepka is a two-time U.S. Open winner, but that doesn't mean he's now too big to go sign a couple pieces of cardboard in somebody's front yard in the middle of the night.

Koepka's girlfriend, Jena Sims, posted two pictures to her Instagram story on Sunday of "Go Brooks" signs she says were put up by some local kids in the area where Koepka was staying for the week.

The first is dated prior to Koepka's final-round tee time.



The second is from Sunday night.



And here, separately, for no reason in particular (other than the fact that she posted it) is a video of Sims running over a parking cone at last year's U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

Speaking of kids, just feels those two are gonna make it.

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Koepka moves to No. 4 in world with U.S. Open win

By Will GrayJune 18, 2018, 2:05 pm

After successfully defending his U.S. Open title, Brooks Koepka reached a new career high in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Koepka held off Tommy Fleetwood to win by a shot Sunday at Shinnecock Hills, becoming the first player to go back-to-back in nearly 30 years. As a result, he jumped five spots in the latest rankings to No. 4, six spots higher than he reached with last year's U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills.

Fleetwood finished alone in second place and moved up two spots to No. 10, tying his career-best placement. Patrick Reed moved up two spots to No. 11 by finishing fourth, while fifth-place Tony Finau went from No. 37 to No. 31.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


It was a largely quiet week in the rankings despite the fact that a major championship was contested. Outside of Koepka and Finau, the only other player inside the top 50 to move up or down more than three spots was Jason Dufner, who went from 53rd to 48th with a T-25 finish.

Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1 for the second consecutive week, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Jon Rahm dropped one spot to No. 6, with Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Fleetwood rounding out the top 10. Hideki Matsuyama fell two spots to No. 12, dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since October 2016.

Despite a missed cut at Shinnecock, Tiger Woods actually moved up one spot to No. 79 in the latest rankings. He plans to play the Quicken Loans National and The Open in the coming weeks, which will be his final two chances to move into the top 50 in time to qualify for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The event is being held for the final time this summer at Firestone Country Club, where Woods has won eight times.