The Wells Fargo Championship edition of By the Numbers contains a tale of two superstars — and how Derek Ernst beat them both (and everyone else, of course). Rory Mcilroy and Phil Mickelson were a study of opposites from a stats perspective, while Ernst was impressive all around. And now without further ado: this week’s By the Numbers.
Derek Ernst started the week as fourth alternate for the Wells Fargo Championship. After notching his best finish in his rookie year, T47 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, he rented a car to drive to Athens, Georgia, for the Web.Com Tour event.
On the way there, Ernst got a call that he would replace Freddie Jacobson, who had been the fourth player to withdraw. To avoid a $1,000 drop fee, the 22-year-old UNLV grad had to drive back and return the car to Athens and rent another car to get to Charlotte.
In a strange week at Quail Hollow, where the greens weren’t exactly up to par and the weather felt more like Scotland than Charlotte, it was only fitting that Ernst, who had missed five of seven cuts this season, was crowned the champion.
The biggest story of the week has been and continues to be the state of the greens at Quail Hollow Club. Some say it’s due to a tough winter. Others say the new superintendent screwed up. Another says the Tour screwed them up with using crappy soil.
We’re not sure, but the greens are — to borrow a line from a friend — more chewed up than Evander Holyfield’s ear (and look crappy on television, apparently), so the pros are missing short putts. During the second round, Sergio Garcia even used a wedge to chip his six-footer on no. 3 to avoid a bump in his line.
You can watch it above. Sergio may make it look easy, but anyone who has tried it knows that it’s actually a bit trickier than it appears. First, the one-handed shot from the tree at Bay Hill, and now, the chip-in putt! — Sergio knows his trick shots
Phil Mickelson still has nine holes to play, but he’s cruising so far, rolling in four birdies on the front nine to take the outright lead at eight-under. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the guys who teed off in the morning wave on Friday at Quail Hollow Club.
Coming off a T25 finish at the Masters, Rory McIlroy joked on Wednesday that he’s not a guy who relies on his putter to score. He knows his game well. On Thursday, McIlroy drove the ball well, finding 11 of 14 fairways, and gave himself plenty of looks for birdie, hitting 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
When Nate Smith, who earned a spot in the Wells Fargo Championship by firing 63 in the Monday Qualifier, walked into the locker room on Wednesday afternoon, he found his new golf bag with a note (pictured above) attached, “All players, please sign for charity auction. Nate Smith, you’re welcome.”
Nate had left the bag he was using for his tournament next to his locker and when his buddy James Hahn came across it, he saw it as an opportunity to get Nate back for a prank earlier in the day.
Turns out it may have brought some good juju, as Nate shot a five-under 67 to share the first-round lead with seven other players, including world no. 2 Rory McIlroy.
Padraig Harrington, one of the most prolific tinkerers in the game, played with a belly putter for the first time in a competitive round at the Wells Fargo Championship. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the best day, shooting an opening 80, which included 32 putts.
While Harrington thinks the anchored stroke should be banned, he’s using the belly putter because he thinks it’s helping him stroke it better. Which is intriguing coming from the three-time major champion and R&A ambassador because it basically strengthens the argument for the USGA and R&A’s looming ban that is expected to be announced later this month.
Ogilvy checks out the 9th green, which is in the roughest condition
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.
Tiger Woods will take a pass on next week’s PGA Tour event, the Wells Fargo Championship, in Charlotte.
Traditionally, Woods has played at the tournament at Quail Hollow Club, but he also usually has a three-week break after the Masters. Due to a scheduling change, the tour stop in Charlotte was moved up a week.