The 2017 PGA Championship will start this Thursday at Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 4th major championship of the year will be determined in the “hotbed” of golf in the Carolinas where there are so many wonderful venues and places to play. The famous Pinehurst resort with 8 championships including Pinehurst No. 2 is about an hour’s drive down the road. I haven’t had the pleasure of playing Quail Hollow but the course looks absolutely immaculate and more than ready to host a major championship.
PGA Championships in recent years have been at courses that have undergone significant design changes to attempt to test the PGA professional. This year is no exception as renovations and alterations to the course were implemented by the club with supervision from the PGA of America. The course measures out at 7,610 yards which will provide some challenge to the professional.
I recall playing Whispering Straits a year before the 2015 PGA Championship was held there and I felt that the professionals would have trouble there. I thought even par or a few under par would be the winning score. I couldn’t have been more incorrect in my analysis as the professionals had little trouble with the 7,500 yard layout with a plethora of bunkers and challenging conditions produced very good scoring. That event also “chronicled” the exploits of Dustin Johnson’s infamous bunker or no bunker shot on the 18th and 72nd hole of the tournament which cost him the championship.
Quail Hollow is set up to present an interesting test but I believe the professionals will “go low” during this event. I expect the winning score to be 19 or 20 under par. THESE GUYS ARE GOOD! The course will favor the “gorilla” drivers of the Tour and 300 yard+ drives will favor them and potentially render the course defenseless despite the renovations. The focus of the event will certainly be the closing three holes named as the “Green Mile.” The Mile starts with the par 4, 506 yard with a pretty narrow fairway for a hole of this length requiring two accurate shots to the green. The 17th is a par 3 of 228 yards with water in a menacing position on the left side of the green. It may force the player to draw the ball from right to left but any shot missed to the right will make chipping interesting depending on pin positions. The 18th is a beautifully designed hole of 495 yards as a par 4 with a creek meandering on the left side of the fairway which will be in play so driving position off the tee will be important. Nerves will be tested by these holes as the leaders finish their final rounds. The weather forecast will be the usual hot and humid conditions which will add even more length to the drives. There are potential thunderstorms that will bring rain and take the sting out of the fast greens and enable the players to be more aggressive to go after the pins. My championship pick for this event is a tough one. I like Rory McElroy if he is focused and unleashes his significant power game. Perhaps Hideki Matsuyama can break through as he has been close in many of these events as he drives it long and accurately. Other notables who should be in the hunt has to be Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson and Brooks Koepka. Jordan Speith has to be considered a factor but my feeling is that this course will require a bit more power but no one on tour currently putts under pressure in a major championship like Jordan. A tough choice but I’ll go with McElroy.
Kudos to Quail Hollow for a beautiful course and setting for this event.