The 17th hole at Quail Hollow will provide a stiff challenge for all four rounds. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Players got their wish last year when officials moved Quail Hollow’s 17th tee back to its original position, forsaking the place created specifically for the Wells Fargo Championship.
Not that No. 17 proved to be that much friendlier. Just more approachable.
The long par 3 still ranked as Quail Hollow’s sixth-toughest hole by the time Rickie Fowler won a three-man playoff for his first PGA TOUR victory. No. 17, in fact, gave up just one more birdie per round than a year earlier.
But the bogeys – and subsequent angst about an approach angle that didn’t fit the green – were down about 10 per round.
“Sometimes when you overdo it, it detracts from the greatness of the course,” Phil Mickelson said at last year’s conclusion.
Mickelson had suffered a particularly choppy affair with No. 17, most notably in 2005 when four passes resulted in three double bogeys and a 7-over-par aggregate. Each year from 2009-11, he was a combined 2 over at the hole.
Last year? Three pars and a birdie.
He wasn’t the only one, though. Many players grumbled that the pro tee – some 40 yards right of the member tees – created an angle that the green wasn’t meant to accommodate, especially from 217 yards away.
The green juts left into a pond, allowing water to guard on three sides. Hitting it short or left flirted dangerously with the water. Long wasn’t much better – the back half of the putting surface runs away from the tee.
The right fringe seemed to be a popular target, with the hope of getting up-and-down for par.
Bill Haas played Quail Hollow several times while growing up, and the tournament tee never was a consideration.
“[The member tee] was where I always played from, and I think that was the way the hole was designed,” he said. “I just think it helps receive a shot a little bit better than from the right.”
Now 25 yards shorter, the improved angle allows players to get away from playing defense.
“It makes it more of an exciting finish,” Rory McIlroy said, “because at least guys have got a chance to maybe make a birdie there coming in.”
No. 17 still has some bite, though, as McIlroy can attest. His bogey there in last year’s final round kept him from claiming a second Quail Hollow victory in three years. Fowler went through the week with four pars.