CHARLOTTE – “Yea,” Paul Casey said slowly as a mischievous grin crept across his face. It was the kind of smile that belied a series of raging thoughts bubbling underneath. But Casey had just shot 69, securing his spot in the top 10 heading into Friday’s second round. On another day, perhaps he’d let them out – but not this time. On this occasion, he chose diplomacy.
“Let’s just say that I’m not a fan.”
When your livelihood is staked on winning and losing, it’s fairly common to see professional athletes shift the blame onto something else when things don’t go well. Golf doesn’t really have referees – the focus of ire in so many other sports – so it’s usually the course which bears the brunt of the criticism. It’s either too easy or too difficult, too long or too short, the rough is gnarly or the greens to lightning and everything in between. When the pressure of a major championship rolls around, it’s always something.
This week at the PGA Championship, it’s the green on Quail Hollow Club’s fourth hole.
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Quail Hollow has become a staple on the PGA tour as host of the Wells Fargo Championship, but ahead of its first major championship, architect George Cobb gave the course a face lift. He removed about 800 trees from the property, implementing new grass on the course and, crucially, replacing its former second hole with a 184-yard par three.
The design itself is relatively straight forward: No water, a handful of bunkers surrounding a straightaway hole that’s neither particularly long or short. The surface area of the green itself is huge, as Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo notes in this nice segment below.
But as Nobilo explains, as big as the green is, the actual playable area is quite small. There’s a great shot in the video where the camera drops closer to the ground, illustrating all the various bumps and slopes players have to navigate.
If you don’t hit the ball far enough on your approach your ball will roll backwards off the slope protecting it (golfers call these false fronts). There’s also a downhill slope prominent on the final third of the green, which means if you hit your ball slightly too far, you’ll have to chip it back onto the green.
You can’t even really bail out into the middle of the green, either. As you can see, there’s a collar running through it, which will either push the ball towards the front of the green or propel it towards the back. Better make sure your ball isn’t rolling too fast by that point, though, otherwise that back slope will come into play once again.
Or you could just go the Joost Luiten route, who rode the slope to the PGA Championship’s first ace since 2013.
But in all, pros have been following the Paul Casey line this week: Not a fan.
“There’s a lot going on there. Probably should be flattened a little bit,” said Gary Woodland, who opened with a three-under 68.
“The green is fine…It’s alright…It’s one of those that you have to hit your number. If you don’t, you are going to be off the green,” added Patrick Reed.
“It’s a little dicey,” said Tony Finau. “You have a forced carry on the front and the back kind of slopes away. Not my favorite green.”
It’s a tough question, asking pros to be that precise from that distance, but of course, that’s what major championships are about. It’s one of four times a year golf fans are allowed to ask unreasonable questions of its players, and they’ll worship any of those who manage to answer them.
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