It was a breakthrough win for Sam Burns this past weekend at the Valspar Championship, as he joined the ever-growing group of budding young stars on TOUR. He capitalized down the stretch as Keegan Bradley made a costly error off the tee on the par-3 13th and never really recovered. Burns sauntered down the final fairway with a four-shot lead to coast to his first TOUR win.
Now, the TOUR heads to another traditional stop for the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. Quail Hollow will host the event once again and brings in a fantastic field that features six of the top-10 players in the world.
Justin Thomas has the best odds of the bunch as he returns to the site of his 2017 PGA Championship victory. Thomas is also coming off a solid ball-striking week in Florida at the Valspar. He will be joined by the likes of Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau, both of whom are making their first appearances since the Masters. Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed round out the rest of the top-10 players in the world who will feature at Quail Hollow.
This high-quality field is looking to get dialed in ahead of the second major of the year in two weeks: the PGA Championship. The course at Quail Hollow will provide a nice test. It is a big-boy course, requiring distance off the tee and precision with long irons.
Quail Hollow Club – Charlotte, NC
7,521 yard, par 71
- Three par 5s, Four par 3s, 11 par 4s
- Average Green Size: 6,578 square ft (about average for the TOUR)
- Four water hazards in play on seven holes
- Bermuda grass surfaces tee to green, though there are reports of some Poa still present on greens
- Bermuda grass rough grown to 2 inches and overseeded with ryegrass
- Since the last tournament they raised the first tee, extended the left-side bunker on 10 and added pine trees to the right side of the green at 14 and behind 15.
The 7,521 yards will play as a long course this week for a par 71. Quail Hollow is one of those tracks where distance is nearly a prerequisite to compete since Strokes Gained Off the Tee is a big factor in the outcome of every Wells Fargo Championship. Players will feel that from the very first tee, as the 495-yard par 4 was merged in part with the second hole prior to the 2017 PGA Championship, which allowed it to play longer. It’s a starting hole that will give you a very quick picture of the rest of the course because you’ll need a couple of well-struck shots to have any shot at birdie. In fact, each of the first three holes play over 450 yards as par 4s, making it a difficult start.
Players will finally see a couple of par 3s at the fourth and sixth, with the fourth providing an opportunity to hit some wedges into the greens at just 167 yards. The sixth however is a beastly 249 yards on the scorecard this year and will be a hole that players will be happy to escape with par on.
The opportunities to score on the front nine really come in the next two holes. The par-5 seventh is a reachable hole in two by the longer players in the field, and it annually plays as one of the easiest on the course. It yields birdie or better more than 44% of the time and will be a spot that players must score throughout the week. It is followed by the eighth, which is the easiest and shortest par 4 at Quail Hollow and will be another birdie opportunity.
The birdie fun will end as they head to the ninth, which plays as one of the three hardest holes on the course at 505 yards for a par 4. With par there, they make the turn to the par-5 10th.
This section of the course is a bit middling through the 15th. Players will have some opportunities to make birdies as they play a stretch where only the 12th and 13th rank inside of the top half of holes on the course. They will look to take advantage, especially as they get to the final par 5 at No. 15, knowing that the final three holes they will be looking to simply hold onto their round.
Quail Hollow’s final three holes are known as the Green Mile, and they play as three of the four hardest on the course.
The par-4 16th is the easiest of the three, but that’s just semantics for a hole that plays 506 yards and sees bogey or worse about 28% of the time.
Then, you turn to the most difficult par 3 on the course, interestingly listed at just 190 yards on the scorecard this year, but I’m sure we will see it play from several tees this week. It is a full carry over water to what is typically a firm green. Big numbers are in play at 17 since worse than bogey is carded over 5% of the time.
As if the players won’t be beat up enough by then, they still have the most difficult hole on the course to play at 18. The 494-yard par 4 has water a creek down the entire left side of the hole and large pines blocking out the approach on the right. A long, accurate drive is required to avoid trouble, and the approach to the elevated green brings more angst for players looking to close out their round. This final stretch of holes always makes for great drama as the leaders come through on Sunday afternoon, and it will undoubtedly help decide this year’s champion.
McIlroy won this event back in 2015 and had another top-5 in 2016, but that was before they changed the course. He still followed it up with a tie for 16th in 2018 and a tie for eighth in 2019, showing it still really fits his game. He’s not in the best form, but may make for an interesting contrarian pick this week.
The winner of this event in the first version after the course changes was Jason Day. The Australian has always shown an ability to navigate around big courses like Quail Hollow, and he followed it up in 2019 with another top-25 finish.
The angle around Reed’s course history isn’t just highlighted in his finishes at this tournament, but also with his best finish on this course as the runner up at the 2017 PGA Championship alongside a couple of others. He hasn’t missed the cut in any of his other trips to Charlotte over the last five years and has another top-10 in that span.
Pictured above: Patrick Reed
Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images