PGA Championship Preview and selections with ThreeOffTheTee
GOLF: The PGA Championship at Quail Hollow starts on the 10th August
You have to hand it to the PGA - never frightened to make ballsy decisions in attempting to present their golf courses in a state that will continue to challenge the World’s finest talent and their high tech equipment.
If that means major surgery to one of their famous and traditional layouts, so be it. Quail Hollow, North Carolina, home to the 4th Major, the PGA Championship, starting Thursday, is testimony to this approach. It will always be a classic PGA Tour layout, so for those looking to find the winner, focus on regular US Tour players.
Home to the Wells Fargo Championship, the course has been tweaked and toughened in each of the last four years before major changes ahead of this year’s PGA.
The par 3 2nd hole has been scrapped to allow the opening hole to become a challenging 524 yard dog leg par 4 rather than a penalty kick birdie in its former guise as a 420 yard par 4. A brand new par 3 4th hole has resulted in the 5th being shortened from an easy par 5 to a tough 450 yard par 4.
The overall par is down to 71, with the course totalling 7,600 yards, so the winner is likely to be able to hit it for fun 300 yards plus off the tee. The final three holes are as long and tough a finish as you will find anywhere, hardly conducive to the cautious or nervous trying to play conservatively to get home safely. Yet for all the various design layout changes, perhaps the most significant factor at Quail Hollow will be the playing surface - Bermudagrass fairways and Champion Bermudagrass greens.
Without getting too technical, these will play firm and fast (stimp 12.5 on the greens is akin to glass) so the winner needs hit the ball high and land it softly, whilst having a nerveless putting stroke. A proper test, therefore, where plenty of bogeys and worse will be recorded.
Having said that, the par 5s are all birdie opportunities, so a winning score of -12 or better is likely. Rory is a worthy favourite, ticking all the requirements highlighted above, but 7/1 is just too short. Rose and Garcia would fit the bill if only they could putt better. Mickelson will love the course, but, whisper it quietly, his best may be behind him. Looking at the prices on Betfair, Adam Scott looks a great bet at 50/1 and Bubba crazy value at 120/1. Gary Woodland at 150/1 is a worthy outsider who has had much to deal with off the course this year and may at last be able to focus fully on his game. Not a dry eye in the house if he wins. Thomas Pieters, impressive behind Matsuyama last week, looks a good bet for top European at 18/1 and is no forlorn hope in the outright market at 70/1.