Course Preview and Picks for the 2017 PGA Championship

By August 8, 2017PGA, PGA Premium

Introduction

Written by @kendoVT

The year’s final Major is upon us as golfers head to Charlotte, NC for the PGA Championship from Quail Hollow Club. The cut is Top 70 and ties with no MDF and the field is stacked as nearly all the golfers in the Top 100 in the World Golf Rankings will be teeing it up this week.  Quail Hollow is normally the setting for the Wells Fargo Championship so unlike a lot of Majors other than the Masters, we can use a bit of course history and trends in our research this week. The course has been revamped a bit for the Major as the first 5 holes were all redone or dramatically altered including the loss of one of the par 5s (hole 5) and there are a bit of smaller changes on holes 9 and 11. Other changes were made with the grass and I will go over those changes in more detail in the course description but outside of the first 5 holes, the course will look fairly similar to golfers who have played the Wells Fargo over the years. Even with these changes I still like looking at course history and trends from previous years, though I will definitely be weighing history a lot less than current form and stats. The course is best known for its closing three hole stretch nicknamed the Green Mile.This is one of the toughest closing stretches on Tour and no lead is safe on Sunday going into 16, 17, and 18. The 16th hole is a 508 yard par 4, the 17th is a 221 yard par 3, and the 18th is a 493 yard par 4. That’s three very long holes and the nickname is quite appropriate. If golfers play those holes at even par, they deserve a pat on the back and might be holding the trophy at the end of the week. On the other side of the spectrum, if your golfers are at or near the cut line coming into these three holes on Friday you need to say a little prayer. You really notice the length of the course when you see the yardages of where most approach shots are hit from. Since 2005 over 55% of all approaches have come from 175 yards or more. With the added distance during the course changes and the loss of a par 5, this number could be greater this week. Weather looks like it will be a factor as rain is in the forecast for the majority of the week so it is possible that the course will play longer than the yardage suggests. I have heard that the rain will not effect the speed and firmness of the greens but that is somewhat hard to believe if the course gets soaked. If it’s just scattered summer storms mixed in with sunny, humid days then I can see the course playing firmer and faster than people might think.

Course Description

Quail Hollow Golf Club is a 7,600 yard par 71 with four par 3s and three par 5s. The par 5s are reachable by the majority of golfers in the field as long as the fairways have a bit of roll and the course isn’t soaked. Golfers will need to take advantage of the par 5s as they are some of the easiest holes on the course. Looking at some previous winners here, the majority of them have dominated the par 5s. Last year when James Hahn won he was -9 on the par 5s for the week. When Rory won a couple of years ago he was -13 on the par 5s. When JB won in 2014 he was -10 on the par 5s. Now with one less par 5 on the course, these three holes have even more importance to a golfers success this week. The par 3s are fairly lengthy as three of them are in the 200-250 yard range. Even par is a great score on the par 3s for the week. The par 4s for the most part are very long as well. Six of the par 4s range from 449-500 yards, three of them are 500-525 yards, and two of them are very short and possibly drivable (8th and 14th). Off the tee golfers will see some of the most narrow tree lined fairways on Tour. Less than 50% of fairways have been hit here in years past and that number could be lower this week due to the change in grass. Typically the Wells Fargo Championship is held in May and the rough and fairways are over seeded with Rye grass and blended with the Bermuda grass. After the conclusion of the Wells Fargo Championship the greenskeepers lay an herbicide that kills all the Rye grass and the course goes full Bermuda until the Fall. This will be a slight difference that golfers see this week and when it comes to fairways as straight Bermuda grass is usually much more bouncy and firm. So if the course isn’t soaked you can expect a lot of roll out which will make the fairways even narrower than they already are. Another aspect of this change is the rough. From what I’ve heard the rough won’t be crazy tall but Bermuda rough tends to have balls sink to the bottom of the grass. This won’t cause golfers to punch out like we see at the US Open and The Open Championship but it will be a lot more difficult to judge the distances on approaches because this type of rough can lead to fliers and jumpers. Fairway bunkers guard the majority of landing zones around the fairways and if golfers miss wildly off the tee they will have to deal with some tree trouble. The trees aren’t densely situated and they actually removed about 1,000 trees in preparation for the Major so golfers will have opportunities to hit shots at the green even if they are near the trees. On approach shots golfers will see average sized greens with bunkers surrounding them. A lot of the greens are slightly elevated and have run off areas. Many of the greens are multi-tiered and have a lot of slope and undulation. The majority of the greens slope from back to front so hitting approaches underneath the pin will be key to having good looks at birdie. Hitting it past the hole will lead to treacherous downhill putts on greens that are fast with a stimpmeter rating of at least 12. The problem with these type of putts here is that golfers are more likely to leave longer putts for par if they are above the hole. Quail Hollow has been known over the years as one of the most difficult greens to make putts inside of ten feet. Another change golfers will see this year is that the grass on the greens have been changed from Mini Verde Bermuda grass to Champions Bermuda grass. Usually when grass is changed on a green it leads to bouncier, firmer conditions. This could cause less greens to be hit this year compared to others because nearly half of all approach shots will be coming out of the rough. With the lack of spin from a ball out of the rough and firmer/bouncier greens, I think the 63% of GIR hit here over the years will go down, leaving golfers with more chips and longer putts. Now all this could be null and void if the greens are soaked with rain and soft. I recently read an article by TJ Auclair on PGA.com that said he played the course recently after a torrential downpour and the greens were still firm and bouncy. I would keep an eye on the Golf Channel as the week progresses to see how much the conditions change due to the rain.

Key Stats For The Course

***In order of importance with the most important first. Not including Strokes Gained Putting (SG:P) and Strokes Gained Tee to Green (SG:T2G), which are key stats every week.

Strokes Gained: Approach (SG:A):

I know everyone is talking up Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG:OTT) this week and it’s definitely going to be something I look at but I feel like the approach game will be slightly more important due to the possibility that these greens will be more difficult to hit than in years past. I think being good with irons and hitting as many greens as possible will be more important than anything off the tee since less than 50% of drives land on the fairways.

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That’s it for this week. For more PGA DFS knowledge check out my Podcast. It’s called Fantasy Golf Degenerates and you can find it on iTunes. Make sure you check out the other golf DFS tools on Moose.RotoCurve including Jaebberwock’s weekly cheat sheet and the Moosenomics spreadsheet, as it is the best in the business. Also check out Moose’s new site Fantasy National Golf Course. The site has so much info and a lot of stuff you can’t find anywhere else and is currently in the beta stage. Follow me on Twitter @KendoVT for more fantasy golf info! Good luck to everyone this week and hopefully you win big!

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