CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The PGA Championship will begin Thursday, and officials are already talking about a return engagement in Charlotte.
"It's 100 percent in our plans to bring the PGA Championship back to Quail Hollow," PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua said.
[SECTION: 2017 PGA Championship page]
That couldn't be until 2024 at the earliest, given the PGA Championship sites are set for the next six years.
Bevacqua didn't mention a specific date for a potential return. But he's pleased with the excitement surrounding the event, including record ticket sales.
"Operationally, we think the championship just sets up well here," Bevacqua said Wednesday at a press conference. "So we of course need to get through this week, but I would tell you we can't wait to get back here."
This is the first time Charlotte has hosted a major golf championship.
Bevacqua praised Johnny Harris for his leadership in bringing the tournament to Charlotte and the Quail Hollow Club course setup.
"The golf course is in spectacular shape and we'll see what happens here the next four days," Bevacqua said.
Several players, including Phil Mickelson, have praised the decision to host the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. It's ranked as the sixth best golf course in North Carolina by Golf Digest.
The PGA of America's Chief Championship Officer Kerry Haigh praised officials for coming up with new ways to make a fan-friendly tournament.
"The idea of bringing the spectators in in a totally different way, walking in through the parking lot and the first experience is the 18th green - I'm not sure there's a better experience in any championship golf venue than the minute the spectators get in and see the 18th green," Haigh said.
Golfers, spectators take break from rain
Day 3 of the PGA Championship week at Quail Hollow Club will get underway Wednesday morning with players hitting the course for practice rounds, and it will be the first day golfers and fans will not have to deal with rain.
By 7 a.m., conditions were already much better around the course than they were Monday or Tuesday, which is good timing since crowds are expected to be much larger Wednesday.
In all likelihood, the players here will have to deal with the rain again before the conclusion of the tournament.
Jordan Spieth, the second-ranked player in the world, admitted just how difficult the course will play when it’s soaking wet, saying golfers lose length off the tee because the drives don't roll down the fairway and the greens are new and fast.
“It is valuable to have seen that, but I also recognize how hard it’s going to be,” Spieth said. “This is going to be one of the most challenging tracks that we've played, the way that it's playing right now and the way it will continue to.”
[PHOTOS: Johnson, McIlroy, Speith make last-minute preps before PGA Championship]
Channel 9 Meteorologist John Ahrens has been talking to groundskeepers all week about how they have been struggling to deal with the wet weather.
The crews have been hardly able to do anything on the course for the past three days. They haven’t been able to mow or even move the water out of the fairways because they don't want to hurt the fragile nature of the course.
On Wednesday, they may actually get a little help from mother nature.
There was a northerly wind running through the course around noon that will help bring some of the moisture out of the ground.
The humidity Wednesday is also lower and that means the plants around the course will use the moisture in the soil to assist.
But the crews know that even with more people on the grounds, they've got to get out on the course.
"The great thing about practice rounds is it’s practice,” said Keith Wood. “So if I see an opportunity, I’m gonna out and go.”
The walkways and all the edges where people watch the players is a different story.
There have been plenty of slips and falls, and medical crews took care of over 100 people on Tuesday alone, mainly because of the wet weather conditions.
[FORECAST: Brief break from the rain before wet weather returns]
There have also been several changes to the course itself this year, and some of the pros told Channel 9 they're eager to experience them firsthand.
There have been a few changes to the front nine since the last Wells Fargo Championship and overall, the course is longer and more challenging.
The wet conditions aren't helping much, but those that have raved about Quail Hollow in the past, like Phil Mickelson, are eager for their chance to attack the course. Mickelson said the changes they've made have been perfect and will require a deft hand to navigate.
“It’s actually made the course a little bit tougher, but it’s done it in a very subtle way rather than overdoing it, over contouring the greens, over contouring things. It’s actually become more subtle, the beauty and the challenge of the golf course has come out,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson added that the changes will certainly lower the score needed to win. He predicts a score somewhere around par would likely be good enough to take the championship.
Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory visited Quail Hollow Wednesday for the final practice rounds.
McCrory said he believes the PGA Championship will go down as one of the best sporting events in Charlotte history.
He pointed to the positive attention it's bringing to the state and the boom to Charlotte's economy.
McCrory said he will be following our hometown players.
“I'm really shooting for Webb Simpson because he lives right here in Charlotte,” McCrory said “I’d really like to see a Charlotte, North Carolina boy win the PGA.”
McCrory said he hopes to be out at the tournament as much as possible this week.
Earlier this week, Channel 9 experimented with the transportation options.
on Monday, we took an Uber from our WSOC studio near uptown to Quail Hollow Presbyterian Church. That trip cost $21.
[TRANSPORTATION: Travel options to get to PGA Championship]
[PGA CHAMPIONSHIP DAY 2: Golf greats take swings at soggy Quail Hollow]
[FAN GUIDE: 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club]
[LINK: Fan resources for 2017 PGA Championship]
From there, we took the free PGA shuttle to Quail Hollow Club. The entire trip took 52 minutes.
On Tuesday, we parked at the Scaleybark light rail stop and took the Blue Line to Sharon Road West. With our PGA ticket, the trip was free.
From there, Channel 9’s crew got on the shuttle to Quail Hollow. That route took 65 minutes in total.
One passenger told Eyewitness News he was glad the light rail is a free option.
"It was convenient. It was easier to park in uptown and come down here and utilize public transportation," said Mark Munn.
Two challenges fans might face are that Uber may cost more because of the large event, and that the parking lots at the light rail stops will fill up fast.
Fans can also park at one of the designated lots, but they will need a pass ahead of time.
Fans said the wait to get through security hasn’t been too bad.
Each person is required to go through a metal detector.
They aren't allowed to bring backpacks, but they can bring in a folding chair and one unopened bottle of water.
“Very easy, very fast but that could be very different tomorrow because everybody's gotta dig through their pockets and do all that, so I could see that being a little different tomorrow,” Chris Harmon said.
A larger crowd is expected for the Thursday’s first day of championship rounds.
RARE COMPANY: Rory McIlroy can join an elite list with a victory at Quail Hollow
Only four players have won a major and a PGA Tour event on the same course. That starts with Tiger Woods, who did it on two different courses. Both majors were also in the same year as the tour event he won - Pebble Beach in 2000 (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and U.S. Open) and Torrey Pines (Buick Invitational and U.S. Open).
Ben Hogan also won the Los Angeles Open and the U.S. Open in the same year (1948) at Riviera.
Jack Nicklaus won the 1975 PGA Championship at Firestone, and he won the World Series of Golf at Firestone a year later. Walter Hagen won the 1925 PGA Championship at Olympia Fields, and then he won the Western Open at Olympia Fields two years later.
McIlroy won in 2010 and 2015 at Quail Hollow, which did not host a PGA Tour event this year.
Charlotte’s Jason Kokrak goes long in the long drive competition
The top three finishers in Tuesday's 2017 PGA Championship Long Drive Competition were Jason Kokrak (321 yards), Tyrrell Hatton (316 yards) and Dustin Johnson (315 yards).
The Kokrak-Hatton-Johnson triumvirate combined to hit their drives more than a half mile (2,856 feet) despite Tuesday’s wet conditions at Quail Hollow.
Kokrak, who is a Charlotte resident, joins Byeong Hun An (2016/Baltusrol, 347 yards), Anirban Lahiri (2015/Whistling Straits, 327 yards) and Louis Oosthuizen (2014/Valhalla, 340 yards) as winners of the PGA Championship Long Drive Competition since it was re-launched in 2014.
Through PGA REACH, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America, the top three finishers will be granted charitable donations of $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000, respectively, to their designated USA based 501(c)(3) charities of choice.
Officials announce PGA Championship's move to May in 2019
Players are allowed to wear shorts during practice rounds at the PGA Championship. That might not be necessary in two years when it moves to May.
[PGA CHAMPIONSHIP COVERAGE DAY 1: Golfers, spectators dodge rain, get first look at course]
The PGA of America is moving its major championship to May for the first time in 70 years when it goes to Bethpage Black on New York's Long Island in 2019 as part of a long-term plan that involves a major shift in the golf calendar, including The Players Championship going back to its March date, the PGA of America and the PGA Tour announced at a press conference Tuesday at Quail Hollow Club.
“We are thrilled to announce these two significant changes, which will greatly enhance the professional golf calendar starting in 2019,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said. “Our thanks to the PGA of America for its partnership in what will allow both organizations to meet our short- and long-term objectives, while delivering incredibly compelling golf to our fans around the world.
“The calendar for the PGA Tour season is among the most important and challenging aspects of our business, and the changes we’re unveiling today give significant flexibility to create a schedule including the FedExCup Playoffs that is in the best interests of players, fans, tournaments, communities and our partners, from start to finish."
The change has been in the works for four years, one official said. The catalyst behind the movement was golf's return to the Olympics, along with the PGA Tour's desire to wrap up its FedEx Cup before the NFL begins.
The move to May also puts the PGA Championship in the middle of the major championship season - after the Masters, before the U.S. Open, instead of being stuck at the end in August when courses typically are softer because of the summer heat and sports fans have one eye turned toward football.
Still to be determined is the how the rest of the PGA Tour schedule is constricted to finish around Labor Day. One official said the playoff event in Boston is likely to go away after 2018. Another official said one plan is for the Greenbrier Classic, typically held in July, to move to the fall.
The PGA Championship has been in August since 1969 with two exceptions. Jack Nicklaus won in February 1971 when it was held at PGA National in South Florida, and last year it was held the final weekend in July at Baltusrol ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The PGA is scheduled for Harding Park in San Francisco in 2020, so there was always the possibility of moving to May during the next Olympic year. However, that would mean the PGA gets bounced around the calendar every four years.
The PGA of America was interested in building continuity, and a move to May could energize what has been looked upon as the last of the four majors. That also would allow it to go to some areas that were deemed too hot for August, such as Texas, Florida and parts of the Southeast. It already has said the PGA Championship would return to Southern Hills in Tulsa before 2030. The last time it was held at Southern Hills, in 2007, temperatures topped 100 degrees.
The move also could serve as a boost to golf courses around the country - the PGA of America has some 27,000 golf professionals - going into the heart of the season.
But it also eliminates other parts of the country from hosting the PGA.
One official said two traditional sites - Whistling Straits in Wisconsin and Hazeltine in Minnesota - would not be able to host the PGA Championship in May. Officials feel comfortable with the weather and agronomy for Bethpage Black, and they are hopeful for good weather in 2023 for Oak Hill in Rochester, New York.
The Players Championship, traditionally held in March two weeks before the Masters, moved to May in 2007 to get away from the biggest major of the year and create a sequence of big events through the summer.
By going back to March, and creating space for the PGA Championship in May, it allows the tour to end its season around Labor Day instead of late September when the NFL is in full swing, and it keeps a strong sequence of events leading into the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The PGA Championship celebrates its 100th anniversary next year, and it has a long history of moving around the calendar. The first one was played in October in New York. Since then, it has been held in every month except for January, March and April.
The last time it was played in May was in 1949, when Sam Snead won at Hermitage Country Club in Virginia.
Steady rain keeps the course damp for golfers, fans Tuesday
Golfers and fans managed to get through the rain on Monday and the golf course stayed in tact during Monday night's storms. But the persistent rain Tuesday morning made it a rough start to day two of the practice rounds.
Crews working on the course are concerned about the fairway and the rough. They said it's so damp, and as soon as the golf ball hits, it will stop.
Officials said they're waiting for the rain stop and then they can evaluate the situation.
As for the fans, there is a lot of mud and puddles that they have to get through to watch the players.
Carolinas Medical Center officials said they treated more than 100 people Monday at Quail Hollow. They said they're worried about injuries due to slippery paths.
"We're doing everything we can to deal with some of the hospitality areas with the amount of water that's flowing off the tents and into the vending area spots. We're putting out tons of pine straw, some Turface," course superintendent Keith Wood said.
The No. 1 priority for officials is making sure the course is playable. There are very specific times when crews can get out on the course and work on it.
The condition of sodden fairways and the rough are raising more concerns, and with more rain coming from the next front, there are still questions as to how to handle all the slosh.
“We're gonna evaluate if we can mow, gonna walk the fairways look at the tee boxes and see what we can do and see what we shouldn't do,” Wood said.
Andrew Price slowly trudged through the sludge with his son in a stroller.
"We noticed some standing water in the valleys and fairways,” Price said. “Sometimes it takes longer to get going. You got to push a lot harder.”
There's just no way to escape the mud.
"You worry about slipping into the mud, but I haven’t seen anyone go down yet,” Larry Hallman said.
Crews said this will have to be part of the price of admission.
Changes made to The Green Mile to enhance experience
Day two of the practice rounds gave golfers another look at The Green Mile, the nickname for the final three holes at the Quail Hollow Country Club in south Charlotte.
There have been various changes to both the course and club in order to prepare for the historic tournament, and that includes the Green Mile Club.
The private hospitality club designed for individuals and small groups overlooks the 16th, 17th and 18th holes.
As part of the master plan for the course's upgrades, a second level was added for better views and to accommodate more people for the 99th PGA Championship.
“This is a taste of Quail Hollow for folks outside of our membership to get the Quail Hollow experience with this view,” said general manager Tom DeLozier. “It’s almost like a membership experience within the golf tournament.”
The Green Mile Club is set to open Wednesday.
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