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Renovations Promise Memorable PGA Championship At Quail Hollow

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We’ve waited for the proper test of brains and brawn all season long, and finally, Quail Hollow has arrived. What used to be a known commodity has been architecturally refined and will demand nothing less than greatness from the golfers who wish to add a major championship to their resume.

The PGA Championship returns to the Tar Heel state for the first time since 1974. Tanglewood Park, near Winston-Salem, hosted the event in which Lee Trevino denied Jack Nicklaus another major title. Quail Hollow is well known to the traveling professionals (it hosted the Wells Fargo Championship from 2004-2016), and it should yield a familiar winner. New holes, a new feel, and the air of a grand slam event will make Quail Hollow shine like never before. Time to get pumped for glory’s last shot, the 2017 PGA Championship in Charlotte.

Turning a PGA Tour Layout into a Major Venue

There are new, front-nine holes at Quail Hollow, meaning television viewers may not recognize them. No. 1 is a combination of the old 1st and 2nd holes. It’s a par-4 that will play more like a par-5, erasing the notion of a gentle handshake for an opening hole. The 4th is an entirely new par-3, shaped on land once occupied by the old 5th hole. The 5th is a massive par-4, playing over a valley to a hillside green. On the inward half, the 11th was lengthened by 40 yards. A corner oak was replaced by sand, and the hole will test the validity of Dustin-proofing a golf course.

Remember that Quail Hollow is home to the toughest three-hole stretch on the PGA Tour. The closing triumvirate of 4-3-4 demands nothing less than power and precision to avoid watery graves and close the door on the competition. The putting surface at No. 16 was moved nearly 100 yards to bring it up against … you guessed it … a lake.

Let’s talk grass for a second. Quail Hollow was regrassed with a strain of bermuda. Normally bermuda doesn’t engender fast and firm, unless it replaces rye, which encourages balls to drop and nestle. It hugs them with a mother’s embrace, which is not what professional golfers want during a round.

Four Groups you Probably Overlooked

  • 8:40 a.m. Thursday-Pieters, Schauffele, Pampling
  • 1:15 p.m. Thursday-Horschel, Fitzpatrick, Kim
  • 1:45 p.m. Thursday-Kuchar, Rose, Snedeker
  • 2:15 p.m. Thursday-Vegas, DeChambeau, Smith

Pieters and Schauffele are young guys with recent close calls in major championships. Kuchar and Rose are middle-aged guys who had major titles STOLEN from them this year. Vegas, DeChambeau, and Smith are recent winners on the PGA and European tours, who still have the good vibes of victory pulsing in their memory. And Horschel, Fitzpatrick and Kim are good, young players who could manage the traditional, tree-lined tour layout of Quail Hollow well.

Top-10 Contenders

World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational - Round Three

  • 1A: Rory McIlroy, Won 2X at QH-Wells Fargo Championship
  • 1B: Rickie Fowler, won 1X at QH-Wells Fargo Championship
  • 3: Matt Kuchar, DONE with having no major wins & on form
  • 4: Justin Rose, DONE with having one major win & on form
  • 5: Hideki Matsuyama, No one has more talent & temperament
  • 6: Jordan Spieth, Putting well, so you can’t discount him
  • 7: Jason Day, Finally on the mend, finally comfortable again
  • 8: Jimmy Walker, Cool enough to defend-none since Tiger in ’07
  • 9: Thomas Pieters, Time for more than Ryder Cup, lad
  • 10A: Grayson Murray, Young and confident #TotalDarkHorse
  • 10B: Zach Johnson, The little guy who can. See #Firestone

Dustin Johnson? Not on form. Justin Thomas? He will have to wait for 2018 for a major title. Henrik Stenson? See Dustin Johnson. Patrick Reed? Rubik’s cube of the PGA Tour. Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, et al.? Who knows? So many great golfers!

Related: Full betting odds for the 2017 PGA Championship

The Weather

It’s August in North Carolina, but it feels like September in Wales. Forecasts suggest precipitation for the next 10 days. The golf course should be soft, the rough might be difficult to tame, and if the rains do come to North Carolina’s Queen City during the tournament’s four days, Quail will eliminate a number of competitors. In fact, it might be reduced to a bomber competition. Forget the little guys; it will be the 290-yard carries that win the week.

My Predictions

World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational - Preview Day 3

Rory and Rickie will be paired together all four days. They will fend off all comers, and will reduce the field to a mano a mano duel. In the end, one will stuff an iron on the waterlogged 17th hole… while the other one goes for a swim. It will be an easier walk down the 72nd fairway for Rickie Fowler, as he captures his first major professional title.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Tour News

Tour Rundown: Magical stuff on three tours

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Something happened this weekend. Something quite large in the world of professional sport. An athlete with a hearing impediment claimed victory on the world’s stage. Diksha Dagar, former world deaf championship winner and silver medalist in Deaflympics golf, chased down a victory on the Ladies European Tour. In this writer’s mind, the winners of the Players Championship and the Kenya Open, while deserving of praise, take a rightful backseat to a standard bearer.

Ladies European Tour – South African Open goes to Indonesia’s Diksha Dagar

Diksha began the week with a double bogey, and closed it with a trophy in hand. Not the traditional manner of claiming a first, major professional victory, but certainly one for a unique record book. The young Indonesian golfer totaled 76 that first day, but dropped 10 strokes on day two with 66, sitting just two behind the leader. Her only trouble was, the leader was home-country pro Lee-Anne Pace, in search of a 10th Euro Tour win, and first in five years.

On day three, Pace looked every bit a champion, and Dagar, equal parts runner-up. Scotland’s Michele Thomson and Germany’s Esther Henseleit were in the mix as well, ultimately tying for thrid spot at 3 under. As for the challengers? Pace stumbled with bogeys at 13 and 17, to finish at 4 under on the week. Dagar, in Pace’s words, played flawless golf and closed with birdies at 15 and 16, the later on a holed chip shot, to reach 5 under and claim victory. On this occasion, flawless was the diamond.

PGA Tour – The Players Championship has fitting champion on St. Patrick’s Day

At 2:20 EST, 18 golfers were within 2 shots of the lead at TPC Sawgrass. The leaders were in the throes of McIlrahmoid Fever, that wretched illness that strikes most golfers when much is on the line. Even thought it’s not an official major, the Players has every trapping of that august status: a course waiting to bite you on every shot, money, exempt status, peer respect, and P-R-E-S-S-U-R-E. In the end, only four golfers were within two shots of the lead, and two of them didn’t figure until late. Confused? Understandable.

In a nutshell: Jim Furyk made a run for the old guys, but came up one stroke shy. Jon Rahm hoped to claim that first big win of his professional career, but a wretched closing stretch did him in. Tommy Fleetwood, Jason Day, Brian Harman and others all tap-danced their way into, then out, of contention. In the end, it was the leprechaun himself, Rory McIlroy, who recovered from an early double bogey with 33 on the inward half, to raise the trophy of many faces. McIlroy, birdied 11, 12, 15 and 16 on his way to 16-under par. The title certainly cements him as a potential favorite to finish the career grand slam next month at Augusta.

European Tour – Magical Kenya Open ends up in the hands of Migliozzi

Don’t think that others didn’t try to claim the 2019 Magical Kenya Open trophy. The statue of the strutting rhinoceros would make other baubles pale in comparison. The final nine holes of this year’s event were as compelling as the majestic beast whose visage went home with Guido Migliozzi. The first-time champion on the European Tour took the lead early on Sunday, lost it, then found it again with a run of six pars to the finish. His birdies on 10 and 12 were enough to reclaim the top spot, and pars held his space atop the podium.

Last week’s winner, Justin Harding of South Africa, made four birdies and an eagle from holes 10 to 18. It was his unfortunate bogey at lucky No. 13 that kept him one shot behind the Italian. Countryman Louis De Jager also reached 15 under, closing with seven frustrating pars, while in search of the elusive bird to reach 16 under or better. Spaniard Adri Arnaus jumped into the lead with three mid-round birdies, but gave it back with bogey at the par-5 12th. One more birdie coming home was just enough to join the tie for second with the South Africans.

 

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Tiger Woods working with putting coach Matt Killen at The Players

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Tiger Woods says he is fit and healthy ahead of this week’s Players Championship, and the 14-time major champion has putting coach Matt Killen alongside him at TPC Sawgrass as he seeks his third title at the event.

Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte broke the news on social media, and the move represents the first time Woods has had an instructor of any type since his split with Chris Como in 2017.

Woods struggled with the flat-stick at his last outing at the WGC-Mexico, where he three-putted six times. That event represented the first time that Woods has lost strokes to the field on the greens at a tournament since the Northern Trust back in August, and over his previous 24 rounds, the 43-year-old ranks 42nd in this week’s field for strokes gained putting.

Killen currently works with Justin Thomas, J.B. Holmes, Bud Cauley and Blayne Barber, and speaking to Golf Digest, the putting instructor stated on Monday that he likes what he sees in Woods’ stroke.

“His stroke looked good. His putting is better. I like what I see.”

Woods tees off on Thursday at 1.27 pm ET alongside Webb Simpson and Patrick Reed.

 

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Francesco Molinari joins Callaway tour staff; WITB details

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Callaway Golf has announced that the 2018 Open Champion, Francesco Molinari, has joined its tour professional staff.

Molinari will make his debut on the PGA Tour as a Callaway staffer this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where he will game Callaway woods, irons, wedges, an Odyssey Putter, and a Chrome Soft Golf Ball, as well as a Callaway Staff Bag.

Regarding the announcement, the Italian had this to say

“I am joining Callaway because I’m so impressed by their equipment. More than anything, I’m looking forward to playing the new Epic Flash Driver and the Chrome Soft X Golf Ball. The ball speed gains that I’m getting from the driver are unbelievable. And this golf ball is the best one that I’ve ever played. The performance from tee-to-green, especially the feel and control, is exactly what I want.”

Speaking on the announcement, Callaway Senior VP of Global Sports marketing, Tim Reed stated

“We’re proud to welcome Francesco as our newest Callaway Staff Professional. We’re confident that he will play at an even higher level and enjoy many more great wins with Callaway equipment. He’s added ball speed off the driver with Flash Face Technology, and his performance on approach shots and around the greens has been spectacular with his new Callaway irons, wedges, and our Chrome Soft Ball.”

Currently in the Italian’s bag is an Odyssey Toulon Madison Putter which features a new Stroke Lab Shaft. Speaking on the putter which Molinari is presently using, Sean Toulon, SVP, Callaway Golf & GM, Odyssey Brand, said

“Francesco is a tremendous putter, and he really likes the milled performance he’s seeing from the Madison. And with the Stroke Lab Shaft he’s getting more consistency in the rhythm and the tempo of his stroke. It’s a combination that’s going to help him have a lot of success and make of a lot of big putts.”

Francesco Molinari WITB 2019

Driver: Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei White 60 TX

Fairway wood: Callaway Epic Flash Sub Zero (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei White 70 TX

Irons: Callaway Apex 19 (4-iron), Apex MB 18 Irons (5-PW)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X 100

Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 4 (50, 56, 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X 100

Putter: Odyssey Toulon Madison Stroke Lab

Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X

 

 

 

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