Quail Hollow joins Erin Hills as first-time hosts for a major championship this season. Built in 1960, the club hosted the Kemper Open from 1969 until 1979 (put on the World Seniors Invitational the next decade). In 1997, renowned Masters architect/re-designer Tom Fazio was commissioned to supervise a decade-and-counting make-over.
While James Hahn was finishing off his playoff victory in May of 2016, crews were tearing up the first five holes in preparation for the 99th PGA Championship. Three different firms were in charge of tearing down and rebuilding the opening five holes, plus adding a new back tee at No. 11 in preparation for hosting this event.
Bettors that lean on course form must be aware that the redesign included the regrassing off all 18 holes with Champion Bermuda. That shouldn’t be a huge deal because this is the third time since 2013 that Quail Hollow has regrassed their greens changing from Bent to TifEagle to Champion.
Quail Hollow eliminated the opening par five and will play as par 71. The opening five holes included four of the easiest on the card and will be different for everyone this time around (should favor premium players). Playing at 7,600 yards with most greens defended by front bunkering (all redone with similar white silica as Augusta) and back-to-front slopes, I’m having a hard time looking at anyone besides the power players and GIR (greens in regulation) experts.
Even the greenest of investors know about the finishing stretch called “The Green Mile“. The final five holes all include water, and the last three are the toughest of the bunch. There’s no faking it with 504, 223, and 494 all with water in play on these championship holes.
As with most PGA Championship tracks, length is a factor. Luckily for the players recent renovations have cleaned up tree lines and lower-lying limbs so recovery shots from the Bermuda rough can at least be attempted. With (4) par fives playing 483 or better and every par three 184+, length will have to be in the equation this week. Or PREMIUM short players if they can navigate the traps and tight-lie Bermuda in the landing areas. Leaning on putters will be tough this week, as these greens are new and the fresh surfaces will take some time getting used to.
If you thought the deck was stacked against short hitters, the odds grow larger with weather in the mix. Target golf on a wet course favors those who know where their golf ball is going and will widen those landing areas and greens. MUD BALLZ! With thunderstorms forecasted for the entire four days, I’m going to lean heavily on the big, bad, ball-strikers.
This Will Win You A Bar Bet
Before last year due to Olympic scheduling, the previous nine winners of the PGA had finished T-20 or better at WGC-BI the week prior.
Golfers that fit the trend:
|1.) Hideki Matsuyama|
|2.) Zach Johnson|
|3.) Charley Hoffman|
|4.) Thomas Pieters|
|6.) Paul Casey|
|7.) Rory McIlroy|
|8.) Adam Hadwin|
|9.) Russell Knox|
|10.) Rickie Fowler|
|11.) Scott Hend|
|12.) Thorbjorn Olesen|
|13.) Hudson Swafford|
|14.) Kevin Chappell|
|15.) Xander Schauffele|
|16.) Adam Scott|
|17.) Jordan Spieth|
|18.) Daniel Berger|
|19.) Dustin Johnson|
|20.) Matt Kuchar|
|21.) Henrik Stenson|
|22.) Bubba Watson|
This Will Win You A Bar Bet ll
There are only 11 players to win the week before winning a major. Rory McIlroy is the last to do so when he won the 2014 WGC-BI before winning the PGA Championship at Valhalla.
(In order of preference for this week and tournament only. Rankings vary week-to-week based on event, course, form, life, weather, price).
Rory McIlroy (7/1) – Backed up his top five at Royal Birkdale with T-5 last week at Firestone, new caddy notwithstanding. To say this course fits his eye would be insulting to his eye(s) as he’s posted two wins, two course records and top 10’s in six of seven tries. The longer and wetter the better, and these setups are made for his game.
Jordan Spieth (9/1) – He’d love to pip McIlroy to the finish line in the career grand slam race but let’s remember only six men in history have accomplished that milestone. The Texan has already done the difficult part in winning back-to-back majors in 2015 so this won’t be a “new” experience in that sense. Remember, his issue last week was putting, not ball-striking, and that’s easier to correct quickly.
Hideki Matsuyama (11/1) – All cylinders were firing last week at WGC-BI as he torched the field and had just about every part of his game tuned in. As mentioned above, it takes some cache to join the win, win major next week club. He has it. His worst finish in a major this year was T-14 at Augusta.
Rickie Fowler (14/1) – Quail Hollow is his spiritual home as he picked up his first Tour win here with a playoff victory over McIlroy and D.A. Points. He adds two more top 10’s to his six-year haul. There’s not a weakness in his bag and he closed 67-66 last week to bag another top 10.
(Just missed and should make excellent support staff for deeper games/tickets).
Brandon Grace (50/1) – He’s played the weekend in nine of his last 10 majors including six in a row. He finished third at Whistling Straits and T-4 at Baltusrol. I’m trying to remember why a guy who closed with 62 at Royal Birkdale is doing way down here…
Tony Finau (66/1) – Played six majors in the last three years and made four cuts. He’s also never cashed for worse than T-27 so this stage doesn’t bother him. The formula is quiet simple here; Finau blasts it off the tee and takes advantage with his irons and he hasn’t MC in his last nine (three of his last six were top 10’s).
Kyle Stanley (125/1) – Similar to Finau, Stanley has plenty of goods from tee-to-green. It’s no secret, as like Finau, putting can be a chore. These two fellas will hope the new greens reset the field when it comes to putting this week. He leads the Tour in GIR and that will never hurt in a major. He’s also 12th in scoring average.
Xander Schauffele (100/1) – Folks, stick him in your lineup and forget about it. If you thought his U.S. Open was a fluke, you’ve been highly disappointed to see his first Tour win and three additional top 20’s since. The better news is he crushes it off the tee, is 20th in GIR and 26th in scoring average. He should be higher up the list.
Phil Mickelson (28/1) – Gamers will remember when he lost the plot late to Derek Ernst in 2013. Although he hasn’t won, he’s bagged NOYNE top 10’s in 13 starts in Charlotte. His wonderfully inconsistent form drops him here but we’ve learned over the recent years if you’re going to jump, jump when he’s on a familiar, happy track. This week easily qualifies.
(Long shots, no-names with names, trending, event jockeys, and everyone else with a few warts).
Lucas Glover (150/1) – With five top 10’s from 13 tries, the former U.S. Open champ and 2011 WFC winner should feel right at home this week at Quail Hollow. His recent form is the deterrent.
Jason Kokrak (150/1) – Perfect. Charlotte resident. Hits it a mile. No top 25’s in his last seven. Epitome of long shot.
Bud Cauley (225/1) – He’s had almost a month off so he should be fresh after T-12 at JDC. He sits top 50 in both GIR and scoring and top 30 in tee-to-green and approach.
(Not this week, fellas)!
Sergio Garcia (33/1) – After his “honeymoon” in Akron resulted in T-39, which came as no surprise, I’ll point out he did end the week with 67. Fades are always relative. If you find Garcia at a price you like, I can see popping him into any lineup. I’m not building my lineup around him as part of me wonders, in a non-Ryder Cup year, if his is “over”.
Jason Day (25/1) – I thought he turned the corner after solo second at AT&T Byron Nelson and T-15 at Memorial, a course he never plays well. I was wrong. MC, MC, T-27 and T-24 in his last four isn’t inspiring regardless of his record in this event.
Mike Glasscott is a renowned golf expert making contributions to Rotoworld.com and Golfweek Magazine. You can hear ‘Glass’ frequently on WGCL Radio and interact with him on Twitter @MikeGlasscott.