By Jon Ackerman
Survival Of 'Green Mile' Crucial At Quail Hollow
Previous page: Off The Beaten Path: Samoset Resort On The Ocean
Rickie Fowler stood all alone atop the leaderboard as he approached the 16th tee box at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship. But no golfer is safe when entering "The Green Mile," the moniker given to the final three holes at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C. Many consider this finishing stretch the toughest of any course on the PGA Tour.
Despite playing 16, 17 and 18 at even par through the first three rounds of the tournament, Fowler found himself in both green-side bunkers his final time through 16. He left with a bogey, his first among the back nine that day, then took par on the last two holes to enter the clubhouse at 14-under.
It wasn't enough for the victory, but good enough for a playoff with Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points. Neither of those two men could escape The Green Mile bogey-free, either.
In the playoff, the three were sent back down 18, a 478-yard par 4. McIlroy got the most distance out of his drive, but Fowler's second shot was the highlight of the tournament. With the pin protected in front by a creek, he used a 51-degree wedge to stick it four feet from the hole. The 18th had allowed only four birdies all day.
After Points and McIlroy each needed two putts for par, Fowler calmly sank his first for just the fifth birdie of the day. It gave him his first career PGA Tour win.
"I didn't want to play it safe," Fowler said about that second shot afterward. "I had a good number (133 yards), and I was aiming right of the hole with the wind coming out of the right, and if I hit a perfect shot, it comes down right on the stick. ... I hit a perfect shot at the right time, and I was going for it."
Said McIlroy, "For Rickie to go out and play that hole the way he did, he deserved to win."
Guts and great shots are what it takes to win at Quail Hollow, one of the season's most popular events and where the PGA Tour stops this week. Some of the greatest players in the game have won here – McIlroy in 2010; Tiger Woods in 2007; Jim Furyk in 2006 – but not one has ever captured a second title.
The par-72 course totals 7,492 yards. It features two par-3's on the front and back, and two par-5's on the front and back. No. 10 is the longest hole at 598 yards, but allows ample opportunity for birdies despite a green that slopes back-to-front and right-to-left. No. 2 is the shortest at 178, yet is well-protected by bunkers.
The Green Mile, however, is what sets Quail Hollow apart. A fairway bunker on 16 makes landing tee shots a chore, and the green is regarded as the course's toughest. Then comes the signature hole at 17, a par-3 with a peninsula green. Tee shots have to carry nearly 200 yards over water. And at 18, drives must be accurate to avoid the bunker on the right and creek on the left, giving you a chance to stick the uphill approach shot near the pin.
As Golfweek reported last week, the greens at Nos. 8 and 10 have been completely re-sodded because they recently were deemed to be in unacceptable condition, but the surfaces should be fine for the weekend.
Those greens and all the others will be dug up in the week following the Wells Fargo Championship, as Quail Hollow will install a "more heat-tolerant MiniVerde Bermudagrass," according to Golfweek. The upgrades come in advance of the 2017 PGA Championship, which is set to become Quail Hollow's first major championship.
Other courses links on Back9Network.com: