Everybody’s talking about the damaged greens at the usually pristine Quail Hollow Club. It’s only Wednesday and the state of the greens is the most popular topic of the tournament. Just walk out to the putting green — quite a few of the players will tell you that it’s the best one on the course. They’re half-joking, but there’s some truth to it. Which is a shame for the well-run tournament that’s a favorite among players, caddies and the media.
As I was walking away from a conversation on the practice green on Wednesday afternoon, I said I was going to take a walk to check out the shoddy greens. Stephen Ames, who was rolling some putts, heard me and chimed in, “You’re standing on one.”
He added, “This is the good one.”
Ames didn’t crack and he said they were pretty bad, especially the 9th, 13th and 16th. (See picture of the 9th green that I took here.)
I walked out with a few guys and when we approached the ninth, you could see from a good 20 yards away that it wasn’t in the greatest condition. One observer said, “Holy crap! Are we at Azalea Sands in Myrtle??” (Which is a public course considered below average in North Myrtle Beach.)
Last week, tournament officials had to resod the greens on nos. 8 and 10, which several players remarked were the smoothest at Quail Hollow Club (though they’re extra slow because they hadn’t been cut).
So, what happened? Well, it depends who you ask. I heard a dozen different reasons. It sounds like it’s a combination of factors.
The weather has been colder than usual and March was a tough month in the Charlotte area — though several other courses that also have bent grass greens are doing just fine.
There’s also a new superintendent who is a Bermuda grass expert and he may have struggled with the bent grass (which was an issue last summer). After the tournament this week, Quail Hollow Club is tearing up the greens to replace them with more heat-tolerant Bermuda grass in preparation for the 2017 PGA Championship.
Johnson Wagner, a member at Quail Hollow, told Golfweek that the problem was the Tour agronomy staff had come in and done extensive top-dressing.
“It went from a perfectly sodded green three weeks ago, which I thought was unbelievable, to being dead,” Wagner said, who acknowledged nos. 8 and 10 were in trouble.
Tour officials “vehemently disagreed”in response to Wagner’s comments.
“This course is perfect every other year,” said Bill Haas. “Perfection is hard to achieve every year.
“You might get a bad break on nos. 9, 11 and 13, where the grass has died in spots and it’s bumpy. But overall they’re fine. I don’t think it’ll be a big problem.”
Haas added with a smile that he wanted his comments to sound positive. Don’t worry, Bill, you were fair and mild compared to most!
One caddie said, “Let’s just put it this way, if I were playing a muni course and the greens were like this, I’d walk off.”
Nine players have withdrawn since the start of the week, citing injury or giving no reason. On Tuesday afternoon, Poulter went out to the 8th green and had a long look and talk with a Tour official. He withdrew shortly after.
Many have implied or suggested that the poor condition of the greens was the reason that Tiger Woods decided not to play Quail Hollow, which is on his traditional schedule. Speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
When I was examining the 11th green, JJ Henry was hitting some putts after the amateurs in his group had walked to the next tee. I asked how they were rolling, he shrugged. His caddie chimed in, “No comment!” and added the players are competing for $6.5 million, so relatively speaking, it’s not a big deal. JJ agreed.
As Nicolas Colsaerts finished putting on no. 10, he didn’t have a problem with the greens, saying “they’re fine.” This is Colsaert’s first year playing a full schedule on the PGA Tour. Previously, he spent most of the time on the European Tour, where the course conditions aren’t always as perfect as they are in America.
That is the rational way to look at the situation, especially since every other year the course is in mint condition. The guys on the PGA Tour are spoiled and many will tell you just that, but this is very unusual for the greens to be in such poor shape for any event on the calendar.
“It doesn’t bother me,” said Boo Weekley, who doesn’t let a lot of things get to him. “Everyone wants to complain about something. You know how it is out here.”
“It’s aggravating, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” Boo added. “Somebody’s gotta win a million dollars, so why not it be me? Everyone has to putt on the same greens.”
Phil Mickelson said there would be more players making 20-footers than 5-footers. Gulp. It’s only Wednesday.
“You can’t lie about it, the greens are shaky,” said 2012 Wells Fargo Championship winner Rickie Fowler in his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday morning. “But I feel like come tournament time, with the way they’ll be able to possibly cut and roll the greens, you’re still going to be able to make putts. There is still a hole out there. So the way I’m going into it, someone’s going to have to make putts this week.”
Added Rory McIlroy, who notched his first PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow in 2010: “Everyone has to putt on them, and the best player at the end of the week is still going to win. I don’t see why there is they’re not as good as they usually are, but I don’t think there is a big problem at all.”
When asked a follow-un on whether he needed to adjust his attitude due to the bumpy surfaces, Rory said candidly, “I guess if you start missing putts, then you’ve got to just accept it. I don’t mind because I’m not a guy that relies on my putting, per se. So it will eliminate quite a lot of the field. I don’t mind that at all.”
One thing’s for sure: The guy atop the leaderboard at the end of Sunday won’t have a problem with the greens.
(AP Photo/Chuck Burton)