The organizers of the Wells Fargo Championship have really outdone themselves in the last 12 months, and that's saying something for a tournament that's seemingly always tinkering for bigger and better. In fact, selecting which headliner deserves top billing here is foolhardy. However, for those still concerned about the temporary issues with the greens at the eighth and 10th holes at Charlotte's Quail Hollow Club, we'll start there and promptly turn the page.
Immediately following last year's tournament, the bentgrass putting surfaces were replaced with ultradwarf Bermuda grass. It's weather-tolerant and ideal for championship designs, particularly in this region of the country that experiences the hot and cold punches that Mother Nature throws.
The next stop in North Carolina is Pinehurst No. 2, which will undergo a transition of its own to the ultradwarf following the conclusion of this summer's U.S. Open doubleheader. It was announced recently that Pinehurst will measure 7,562 yards for the men. That happens to be the exact measurement on the scorecard at Quail Hollow, which is standard-issue par 72 with four par 3 and four par 5s. (Pinehurst No. 2 will play as a par 70.)
Holes 15-18 at Quail Hollow, the last three comprising The Green Mile, have been stretched an aggregate 70 yards. There's a new tee 23 yards back at the par-3 17th that lifts its maximum distance to 221 yards, but the most noticeable change occurred at the par-4 16th. To accommodate hospitality, the fairway was moved about 80 yards to the left. Not only did that create new sightlines off the tee and into the green, but the hole can now top out at 508 yards, 21 more than last year. The Green Mile is a par 4-3-4 finish that averaged +0.818 strokes to par in 2013. Each of the holes has ranked inside the top-six hardest on the course in all 11 editions of the tournament.
Overall scoring hit a six-year high at 73.043, ranking Quail Hollow as the second-most difficult par 72 in non-majors.. Striping its fairways is never a bargain, evidenced again last year with a clip of just 51.73 percent, good for fifth-lowest on the PGA TOUR and the fifth consecutive year inside the top five of all events. Interestingly, distance off the tee was down considerably at 274.6 yards. That's a drop of approximately 20 yards over the usual and largely due to cool conditions and secondary winds from the north and east.
Hitting the 6,500-square foot greens is about the easiest test on a course set up like final exam. Last year's field averaged 64.33 percent (ranking 19th), but the mean proximity to the hole placed second-longest at 38'9". Scrambling was limited to 53.90 percent (10th).
If the layout feels like that of a major, that's the point as Quail Hollow is preparing to host the 2017 PGA Championship. On March 18, it was announced that the title sponsor extended its agreement through 2019 with the caveat that the Wells Fargo Championship will be contested at Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, N.C. in 2017. Simply more evidence of a popular tournament that never sits still.
The severe weather that affected the South since Sunday night is expected to exit greater Charlotte by Thursday morning. Once it does, passing clouds will pose as the only threat to ideal conditions. High temperatures will flirt with 70 degrees. Prevailing winds from the west and southwest will serve as a natural challenge to the field of 156.