Notes: Wells Fargo event deserved better than WDs

The 10th green at Quail Hollow.

The 10th green at Quail Hollow.

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9:38:12 PM ET. 04/24/2014




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Chances are, there are stories behind the stories, layers of truth that could be stripped away if the involved parties would sit behind closed doors and be honest.

But at some point, aren’t we justified to ask our athletes to do the right thing? To rise above their pettiness and sense of entitlement? To grow up and show some gratitude?

Much has been made of the handful of PGA Tour members who didn’t do any of that last week, choosing instead to sulk about shoddy greens at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., and withdraw. Forgetting that the folks behind the Wells Fargo Championship had for 10 years put on a world-class tournament, with tens of millions of dollars spent and endless hours contributed by volunteers, some chose to show their petulance and selfishness and go home. Some merely looked at the greens and headed to the exits, clubs never leaving the car trunk.

Embarrassing.

To belabor the handful who showed so little class to Wells Fargo folks who deserved better is to overlook the multitude of those who did do the right thing. Phil Mickelson. Rory McIlroy. Rickie Fowler. Lee Westwood. Lucas Glover. Charles Howell III. Nick Watney. Webb Simpson. Pat Perez. Bo Van Pelt. Those are just some of the names on a lengthy list of players who were able to give tournament officials a “free pass,” as Mickelson said, as a way of thanking them for staging such a brilliant tournament all these years.

No one enjoyed the condition of the greens at Quail Hollow – not club officials, not CBS, not the fans, not the volunteers and certainly not the players – and regardless of whose fault it was or whether PGA Tour officials were or were not forthright with players, a large number of players chose to do the right thing. That’s a tribute to them.

It’s just a shame that they were overshadowed by the few who couldn’t find it in them to respect the game and the people behind the tournament.

• • •

WHERE IT SLIPPED AWAY: For impact, Mickelson’s stunning pull that went out of bounds and led to a double bogey at the relatively tame par-5 15th in Round 3 certainly will be a lasting impression in recalling Lefty's inability to nail down the 2013 Wells Fargo Championship.

Just one hole earlier, he had pushed to 11 under and seemed in control.

The wild shot right at the 15th truly was an aberration, because the left-hander always has managed that hole well. He had made a double bogey at 15 one other time in his career, but mostly things have gone smoothly. Mickelson, in 40 rounds at Quail Hollow, is 14 under at the 15th, with 18 birdies and an eagle.

So, forget what happened at the 15th hole in Saturday’s third round. What prevented Mickelson from finally breaking through at Quail Hollow (he now has seven top 10s, but no victories) were the back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 in Round 4, and that is less of a surprise. Mickelson, like most Quail Hollow visitors, has had his hands full with the long, grueling par-4 16th and watery par-3 17th.

The lowlight was perhaps in 2005, when Mickelson made three double bogeys and a bogey at the 17th and tossed in a bogey at 16 to play those holes in 8 over. Elsewhere, he was 13 under.

For his 40 rounds at Quail Hollow, Mickelson has more doubles (five) than birdies (three) at 17.

At 16, where his errant approach hit a spectator in the head Saturday, Mickelson has just four birdies against eight bogeys. Mickelson has played Nos. 16 and 17 in a collective 18 over.

• • •

NOT QUITE RIGHT: It was suggested that Tiger Woods was skipping the Wells Fargo Championship because the PGA Tour had changed its schedule. Instead of three weeks between the Masters and the stop in Charlotte, there were only two.

It’s questionable how that qualifies as the Tour “changing its schedule,” because in 11 editions of the Wells Fargo Championship, the tournament has trailed the Masters by two weeks only four times. And furthermore, on two of those four occasions (2009, 2010) Woods has teed it up in Charlotte.

Players always have the right not to play, of course, but they could be a little less disingenuous with their reasoning. Heck, the 2013 PGA Tour schedule was confirmed more than five months ago, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise. But as a public service, let the record show that come 2014, there will again be just two tournaments between the Masters and the Wells Fargo.

The reality is that the PGA Tour and many of its tournaments are affected by the Masters. When the second Sunday in April is the 14th like this year (or the 13th, 12th, 11th), there are just two tournaments between Augusta and the Wells Fargo, which is tied into the week before the Players, which is committed to a Mother’s Day finish.

• • •

HE’S GONE QUIET: Wither Hunter Mahan? Great talent, extraordinary ball-striker, proven winner, but he sure drops off inexplicably. In 2012, he seemed a lock for the Ryder Cup team, only to fade badly over the summer and be left off the team. This season began in good fashion, but since finishing second at the Accenture Match Play Championship, Mahan hasn’t finished inside the top 20 in six starts. He’s a whopping 29 over in his last 10 rounds, and hasn’t played on a Sunday since March 24 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

• • •

PLAYING CATCH UP: Some of this, a little of that with an array of players:

• Gary Woodland certainly played the 18th at Quail Hollow in adventurous style. He had bogeys Thursday, Friday and Sunday, but on Saturday holed his second shot for a stunning eagle.

• Luke List has shown a flicker of light the past two weeks (31st in New Orleans, T-16 in Charlotte), but he continues to hold down both ends of the stats sheet when it comes to his drive. He is No. 1 in driving distance, but No. 190 in accuracy.

• It’s quite a roller coaster when Bill Haas visits Quail Hollow. In 10 starts, he has missed the cut five times but recorded two fourth-place finishes.

• He might have faded Sunday at Quail Hollow, but Rory McIlroy continues to show he has a good feel for the course. In four starts, he has one victory, a T-3, a T-10 and a missed cut.

• Ah, the intriguing world of professional golf. Two weeks ago, former LSU Tiger Ken Looper was soaking in the PGA Tour atmosphere in front of hometown fans after Monday qualifying for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He finished T-21. The next week, far fewer people watched him finish second in a Hooters Tour stop in Savannah, Ga. For what he did at Zurich, Looper earned $58,740; he has made $8,490 in five Hooters Tour stops.

• Speaking of the Hooters Tour, Jon Curran – Keegan Bradley’s high school teammate and current roommate – has two victories and sits second on the money list, with $61,511.

• Not a bad little roll for Kevin Streelman. He finished first at Tampa Bay, T-21 at Bay Hill, T-3 on Hilton Head Island and T-6 at Quail Hollow. OK, so a missed cut was factored in there at the Masters, but the point is, he has four top 10s already this season, whereas a year ago he had but three.

• Easy as it might have been to get caught up in 14-year-old Tianlang Guan making the cut in two straight PGA Tour stops, it is far more notable what young Jordan Spieth is doing. He’s still a little more than two months from his 20th birthday and he continues to play beautifully. He was T-32 at Quail Hollow and in 30 rounds this year, Spieth has recorded 19 sub-par scores. Most impressive is this: His scoring average is highest on Thursday (71.22), as opposed to 70.22 Friday, 70.33 Saturday, and 70.33 Sunday.

• Steve Stricker has added a tournament. No, it’s not what you think. He still isn’t going to go to the Open Championship, but he has signed on for the two-day CVS Charity Classic (June 24-25), the Brad Faxon-Billy Andrade party that will celebrate its 15th birthday this year.

• • •

POWER OR PRECISION? DOESN’T SEEM TO MATTER: Only because a calculator was handy, the statistics were in front of me, and I couldn’t stand to watch the nauseating traffic backup at a par 5 during Sunday’s telecast of the LPGA tour’s Kingsmill Championship, we did some number-crunching.

What it proves is beyond me, but . . .

The top five players in driving distance are Luke List, Nicolas Colsaerts, Gary Woodland, Dustin Johnson and Robert Garrigus, who have combined for $3,567,877 in earnings this year. That’s virtually the same as what the top five in driving accuracy – Ken Duke, Tim Clark, Henrik Stenson, Jeff Maggert and Jim Furyk – have combined for ($3,314,907).

The top five in driving power average 82.2 on the money list. The top five in accuracy average 77.2.

• • •

TURNING THINGS AROUND: It wasn’t a stretch to suggest that Kyle Stanley was one of the most talented Americans under the age of 30 – if not the most talented. After all, in early 2012 he bounced back from a crushing collapse at Torrey Pines to win the very next week with a spirited rally at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

But things quickly soured the rest of the season and this year didn’t start too well, either.

Stanley, however, has posted two consecutive finishes – third in New Orleans, joint sixth in Charlotte – that might indicate a resurgence.

How significant is the improvement? In the first 29 rounds of 2013, Stanley was 33 over par, with just six sub-70 scores. The last eight rounds, Stanley is 22 under, with five scores in the 60s.

• • •

SMALL STEPS: We doubt it resonated in too many corners of the golf galaxy, but Robert Allenby finished T-27 at Quail Hollow. Doesn’t sound like much? Well, it’s his best finish since being tied for seventh at last summer’s St. Jude in Memphis. In between, Allenby has played 26 times – missing 20 cuts, withdrawing once and securing but five small checks.

Yes, the game’s been a struggle, so it was nice to see him catch a little bit of a break. You see, Allenby, at 2 over, figured he was headed home early again. But late Friday, Quail Hollow’s closing stretch devoured a few more victims who had been 1 over and suddenly 83 players at 2 over or better made the cut.

Allenby took advantage, relatively speaking, by shooting 71-70.

• • •

HOME NOT-SO-SWEET HOME: He can’t beat the commute, nor the familiarity with the course, but Johnson Wagner hasn’t seen that translate into stunning success in his hometown of Charlotte.

He missed the cut at Quail Hollow for the fourth time in seven starts and in his 20 rounds, he has broken 70 just twice.

• • •

AH, THE ANNUAL QUESTION: If it’s May, it must be time to ask: So, is The Players Championship a major?

One man’s view: No. There are four and only four – for reasons of simplicity, heritage and value. Who cares that the women now have five or six or whatever and the Champions Tour has seven or eight? We’ll keep it four at the PGA Tour level, thank you very much.

Of course, others are free to explore the question and when it was asked at the Sawgrass practice range, one player related a funny story. He said he was playing a practice round at the Stadium Course a year ago when he asked a veteran colleague if The Players was a major.

“We were on the 17th tee at the time and (the player) said no.” Seems the player then nodded to the far side of the tee where Jaxson de Ville, the anthropomorphic Jaguar who is mascot to the NFL team, was hitting shots toward the island green and every time he landed in water, he tossed a club.

“Yeah,” said the younger player. “I guess the Masters wouldn’t have Jaxson de Ville hitting shots at 16.”

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