Quail Hollow’s lightning-quick greens strike in 1st round of PGA Championship

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Quail Hollow’s lightning-quick greens strike in 1st round of PGA Championship

PGA Tour

Quail Hollow’s lightning-quick greens strike in 1st round of PGA Championship

CHARLOTTE – The fastest greens ever played in a major? That was the Brooks Koepka’s take after posting a first-round 68 Thursday in the 99th PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

“With some of the pin locations, these greens are the fastest greens I’ve ever played,” Koepka said. “And the thing is, they are only going to get faster and firmer. So it will be really interesting to see how the rest of the week plays.”

The PGA of America’s Kerry Haigh has long resisted publishing speed readings in an attempt to de-emphasize both the chase for pace and the focus on Stimpmeter numbers that cause headaches for superintendents. This week’s Golf Course Superintendents Association of America Tournament Fact Sheet states that the G12 Bermudagrass is cut at .125 inches and presented at “championship speeds.” The first round at Quail Hollow offered a stark departure from the PGA Championship norm, with the first-round speeds pushing a healthy 14 feet on flat putts, even faster on downhill and down-grain putts. A normal PGA Tour event tends to hover around 12-13 feet.

“The greens, if they get about a foot faster, they are kind of unplayable with the pin placements I think,” Koepka, the U.S. Open champion said. “I mean, these slopes are just getting bigger and bigger with the speed of the greens and the grain.”

The speed matches what players saw during Sunday and Monday practice rounds before rain appeared to slow them up Tuesday. Players said the surfaces were noticeably faster thanks to tournament mowings, rollings, modern drainage and the effects of 24-hour-a-day SubAir system vacuuming moisture from the root structure.

“I don’t know what they did,” said Koepka, whose 29 putts left him 138th in strokes gained: putting (-2.086). “You never really quite felt like the ball was ever going to stop. Sergio (Garcia) hit a putt today that I thought was three feet short and it trickled into the hole.”

British Open champion Jordan Spieth, chasing the career Grand Slam, opened with a 1-over 72 and struggled with the pace.

“I was defensive and still had to make four- to five-footers for par on a couple them,” Spieth said. “Some of these putts that I had for birdie are really one out of five maybe to make. On other greens you are looking at 50 percent. Out here, it’s just the way it is.”

Spieth pointed to the severity of hole locations as adding to the difficulty.

“The pins are on two-and-a-half to three-degree slopes,” he said. “(Putts) are difficult to make if you don’t leave it below the hole with not a lot of break.”

The speeds did not help place of play, with players marking all but tap-ins due to the speed and breaks. Early threesomes took more than five hours, with the afternoon wave looking at five-and-a-half-hour rounds.

With rain possible the next three days, the faster-than-expected speed may have been in anticipation of a dampening effect.

“That could slow them up and make them a little more receptive,” Koepka said. “You know, we’ll see. But they definitely don’t need to be faster.”

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