Congratulations are in order for Billy Horschel who took home the title at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. It was just a matter of time before one of the most consistent players on tour broke through in the win column. I had Billy on my short list of contenders and I am glad to see he did not disappoint.
This week the tour heads to the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte North Carolina for the Wells Fargo Championship. The Quail Hollow Club is a course built to hold tournaments since it was first opened in 1962. From 1969-1979 it was the host site for the Kemper Open, it then held the Seniors Invitational from 1980-1989. After a hiatus the tour returned to Quail Hollow in 2003 and has not left since.
The players this week will be playing the 7.492 yard, par 72 George Cobb design and attempt to knock off defending champion, Rickie Fowler. This is the site of Fowler’s first and only PGA Tour victory so expect him to come prepared to defend. In fact players will be confronted with one of the most difficult closing stretches in golf, dubbed the “Green Mile.” More on the closing stretch later. Anthony Kim set the 72 hole record in 2007 with a 272 and Rory McIlroy’s 62 is the 18 hole record set in 2010.
If the Zurich Classic of New Orleans was considered devoid of star power, the Wells Fargo Championship is quite the opposite. This week’s field brings 10 of the top-25 players in the world all vying for the title. Rickie Fowler returns to defend his title. 2010 champion and world number two, Rory McIlroy is in the field. Add Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and many others and you have a tournament made for excitement.
The Wells Fargo Championship, like other Tour events, believes in giving back. In fact, to date, the Wells Fargo Championship has donated $14.8 million to charity. As always The First Tee is a beneficiary of the event with the Charlotte chapter taking center stage. The primary Charity this week is Teach for America, the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates who commit two years to teach in urban and rural public schools. According to the Teach for America data sheet:
“Since 1990, more than 37,000 Teach For America Corps and alumni have directly impacted the lives of more than 4 million students. Teach For America alumni are a force of leaders working from inside education and every other sector to effect the systemic change needed to ensure educational equity and excellence for all children.”
While the players will feel great knowing they are making a difference they will not feel great staring down the “Green Mile” four times this week. The “Green Mile” is the affectionate name given to 16-18 at Quail Hollow Club and an area of the course that will most definitely decide the champion.The 16th hole is a par-4 that measures 478 yards. As if the length is not enough, the players will have to ensure they avoid the fairway bunker that would otherwise limit any chance for far if found. Players will be faced with either a long to mid-iron into one of the most challenging greens at Quail Hollow. Welcome to the “Green Mile, “only two holes to go. Par at 16 will be a welcome score regardless of the conditions.
The 17th hole is a 198 yard par 3 and is considered the signature hole at Quail Hollow Club. The green juts out into the water creating a shot that must carry 195 yards to find dry land. A unique factor at 17 is the five different tee box options that can be used. the potential for 17 to yield more bogies or worse than birdies is very real for the players this week. The par 4, 478 yard finishing hole is annually regarded as one of the most challenging holes on tour. The tee shot at 18 requires premium placement with a fairway bunker right and a creek down the left side just waiting to gather errant shots. The uphill second shot requires an iron into a deep and sloped green protected by hazards on both the left and right side. In the final round of 2012 there were only four birdies on this hole before Rickie Fowler’s tournament winning birdie.
This event has played host to some incredible finishes. Here is a video montage, albeit a bit old, reliving some of the greatest moments at this event.
YouTube Video Courtesy of pgatour
In fact this event was the mechanism for the number nine shot of the year on tour. It was Rickie Fowler’s gap wedge to a tight pin setting up the playoff winning birdie.
YouTube Video Courtesy of pgatour
With the 2013 edition here who has the best chance to win? Who will fend off this star studded field and take home the title? Let’s look at a few options.
Up Next: The Contenders