CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A bank’s name in the tournament title isn’t the only thing missing at Quail Hollow.
That thick rough lining the fairways is gone, too.
“There’s definitely a different setup,” said Jim Furyk, a past winner of what is now the Quail Hollow Championship. “We’ve come here a lot of times where the rough has been very deep, thick. It’s been a huge premium on accuracy. And the rough is very low this year, as low as I’ve ever seen it, and probably as low as I’ve seen it in almost any tour event I’ve ever played, outside of Harbourtown.
“Obviously, it’s a different style.”
The PGA Tour has been looking for variety in the way it sets up a golf course, and the staff had a surprise for the Quail Hollow Championship. The rough has been cut at 2 inches, so instead of players having to take a mighty hack out of the thick grass with hopes of reaching the green, they now can get a little more creative with their options.
Not that Quail Hollow will be there for the taking when the tournament starts Thursday.
To counter the low rough, the greens are expected to get up to 13 on the Stimpmeter (translation: super fast), putting a premium on the second shot, preferably from the fairway. And the final three holes remain among the scariest on tour.
It might not matter how the course is set up.
Quail Hollow – previously known as the Wachovia Championship, with no mention of Wells Fargo – established itself as one of the premier courses on the PGA Tour when it made its debut in 2003. Players love coming to this tournament, which shows in a field that has attracted Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia, defending champion Anthony Kim and a host of other stars.
“This is one of those tournaments that probably has a little bit more of a green light to kind of mess around with the setup and see what’s best and what’s not, because the players like the course so much,” Furyk said.
Besides, tour players never agree on everything.
Those who hit it straight off the tee tend to prefer thick rough that will punish those who are more wild. The power players would rather see shorter rough to allow them to escape from errant tee shots.
“Part of the guys are going to be – we know who a couple of them are – they’re going to be in here and be raving about how great the setup is,” Furyk said. “And one of them is left-handed.”
He wasn’t talking about Nick O’Hern, either.
“If he’s here this week, he’s going to love the way it’s set up, and he’s going to tell you about it,” Furyk said.
Yes, Mickelson is here this week.
And after Lefty’s pro-am round Wednesday, he was gushing with praise.
“The setup is awesome,” Mickelson said. “It’s the best setup I’ve seen. You’re going to see some birdies, you’re going to see bogeys. You’re going to see what I think is the most exciting shot in golf, which is the recovery shot. It’s no longer a deal where you have to hack it out of the rough. You’ll be able to be creative if you hit a bad drive. That’s a great quality.
“It’s going to be an exciting week.”
The field contributes to that, especially with Woods and Mickelson playing for the first time since the Masters, along with Masters champion Angel Cabrera and runner-up Chad Campbell. The other Masters runner-up, Kenny Perry, is missing because he’s serving as grand marshal at a Kentucky Derby parade in his native state.
There was a buzz on Wednesday, rare for a pro-am round. Then again, how often do fans get to see the No. 1 player in golf and a three-time MVP from the NFL in the same group. That would be Woods and Peyton Manning, playing a pro-am together for the first time since Bay Hill four years ago.
“Ran the wrong route,” Manning said to himself after yet another errant shot into the gallery.
Woods took a few days after the Masters to reflect on what he did wrong, and he said it took a reminder from those around him that even without a green jacket, life isn’t awful. In four tournaments since returning from knee surgery, he has a victory and two top 10s.
The greens are quick, which remind him of Augusta. As for the lack of rough?
“I’ve never seen it this short,” he said.
Woods won here in 2007 under thicker conditions, and he didn’t say which way he preferred that it play. Not that it matters. The lowest score still wins, and Quail Hollow has produced some big winners – David Toms, Vijay Singh, Furyk, Woods and Kim.
What it doesn’t have is a title sponsor.
Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia late last year, but took its name off the tournament under public scrutiny of banks receiving federal funds. The new logo is a Q with a feather completing the letter.
There’s not much grass in the logo, either.