With 2 weeks to go before the second major of the season, which is pretty fantastic that there are 2 majors this close together, the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Long Island, NY, the tour heads to Charlotte and Quail Hollow Club for the Wells Fargo Championship.
The defending champion is Jason Day who shot 69,67,67, 69 for a -12 finish and a 2 shot victory over Nick Watney and Aaron Wise last year. Day was slugging along at even par on the first 15 holes and Wise caught him at -10. But Day birdied 16 and 17 and hung on for the victory. the 12th of his career. That victory last May has been his most recent win.
Quail Hollow is a 7,554 yard, par 71 layout. Holes 16, 17 and 18, the Green Mile, though technically it’s only 3/4 of a mile, is the toughest 3 hole stretch in golf since 2007, with players averaging almost a stroke over par on those holes. The scoring average is 0.884. No.’s 8,9, 10 on Pebble Beach are next at 0.684. PGA National’s, 15,16 and 17, the Bear Trap, is next at 0.671. Muirfield Village, where the Memorial is played, is next at 0.633 with holes 16, 17 and 18. Fifth hardest is Torrey Pines South, holes 16,17 and 18 with an 0.619 scoring average.
Rory McIlroy won at Quail Hollow in 2010 as a 20 year old, 2 days before his 21st birthday (May 4th). He shot 62 on the final day for his 1st PGA Tour victory. He also won here in 2015 with a 3rd round 61. He has won 15 times on tour now, and has 4 majors on his resume, the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland, the 2012 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, SC, the 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in England, and the 2014 PGA at Valhalla in Louisville. But it’s been a while since he’s won a major. Still can’t get over the hump at Augusta National and complete the career Grand Slam. But he’s playing well now and will be a factor this weekend and in 2 weeks at Bethpage Black. Rory will be 30 on Sunday.
Tiger Woods had originally committed to play in this event, but bowed out after winning the Masters. I see 2 sides to this. He’s 43, his back has had all kinds of surgeries and problems, he’s still enjoying his victory at the Masters, his 15th major championship and 81st PGA career win, so I got all that. But I do like when players play at least 2 weeks in advance of a major. A lengthy layoff from competition can lead to rust, so I’m not sure if he’ll be super sharp at Bethpage. But the way he played at Augusta, you gotta have him in your top 5 favorites at the PGA. Geoff Shackelford and Matt Adams discussed it on the Alternate Shot segment of Golf Central last night, and both thought it’s no problem for Eldrick. I’m not going to say it’s no problem, but he is on fire. Still would like to see a player play in this event, a key event on tour, to prepare for the PGA. But I do understand why he’s skipping it. I see him in the hunt at the PGA at the end and possibly winning it. I’ll let you know what I really think 2 weeks from today.
Rickie, Fowler, the 2012 Wells Fargo champion, where he defeated Rory and D.A, Points on the first playoff hole with a birdie on 18, is in the field. Fowler, now 30, has been somewhat of an underachiever on tour. He has only won 5 times, and doesn’t have a major championship on his resume, so he needs to be able to close at least one deal in a major. He gets close a lot, but can’t seem to finish the job.
Phil Mickelson, world No.2 Justin Rose (Dustin is No.1), Sergio (cry me a river) Garcia, and Patrick Reed are also in the field. 2014 winner J.B. Holmes, who won at Riviera in February at the Genesis Open, is also in the field. So a good group competing for this championship.
No.18 is a beast. A 494 yard, par 4 with a creek running down the entire left side and a bunker 280 on the right that requires 302 to clear. Paul Casey was telling the Golf Channel that he aims for the grandstands behind the green in the right central part of the hole. A player can either take it at the creek and cut it or aim at the bunker and draw it, or look at the grandstand like Casey does and crank it. The second shot challenges the competitors with the creek running on the left side of the green, and a massive green itself. A lot of dramatic shots have happened on this hole. Justin Thomas won the 2017 PGA here. He’s injured right now with a sore wrist. He plans to play at the PGA in 2 weeks, but his status is uncertain at this time.
I’m going to take the 33 year old from Raleigh, North Carolina who now lives on the Quail Hollow course. He’s won 5 times on tour including the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco and the 2018 Players Championship. This is his home course and while he finished tied for 21st here last year, I like him to use the home field to his advantage.