This is the toughest situation the Wells Fargo Championship has ever encountered. Actually it’s the only problem the tournament has ever faced. Last fall Quail Hollow Club lost it’s greens, and course officials and members tried for months to repair some of the dead areas. Last Tuesday, in conjunction with the PGA Tour, the club decided to completely re-sod the 8th and 10th greens, while doing major repair work to the 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 16th greens.
The end result is certainly something that anyone associated with the tournament would be disappointed in. In fact, several PGA Tour players have told me that they’ve never seen anything like this on tour. It’s been the talk of the patrons on site all week, and will certainly be a big topic for viewers when television coverage begins later today.
It was only fair to tell you the truth about the situation, but now let me tell you why some of the criticism bothers me. Have people forgotten what this tournament has done for the community? In its 11 year history, The Wells Fargo Championship has become arguably Charlotte’s premier event, with sellout crowds, including one of the 10 best fields in golf, and raised tens of millions of dollars for local and national charities. The event has gone so well that the PGA Championship will be played on the course in 2017, and there’s talk of a possible Ryder Cup being played here down the line. Moreover, the tournament has won the PGA Tour’s “Best In Class” award (on multiple occasions), handed out to the event that does the best job overseeing its tournament, and its treatment of the players.
Did you catch that last part? No other tournament treats its players better. Yet Ian Poulter, Dustin Johnson, and Vijay Singh all withdrew from the event after showing up for practice rounds. No specific reasons were given, yet Poulter tweeted last week about Quail Hollow’s greens, and speculated that he wouldn’t play if the rumors about their condition was true.
Pardon me for giving a tournament that has given the community and the PGA Tour so much a pass. I think they deserve a mistake or two. Tour player Joe Ogilvie said it best: “who has it better than us? Is the winner going to complain about the $1.2 million check they are going to receive on Sunday night?”
That’s why I’m not willing to give Poulter, Singh, and Johnson a pass. Withdrawing from a golf tournament due to the condition of the greens is weak. Especially when the course has never had any issue before, and likely never will again (the course will be shut down for four months as all 18 greens will be renovated to a new champion bermuda green surface). It makes those three players look like prima donnas, and gives the game of golf a bad name. This tournament has further allowed wealthy golfers to be wealthier, treated them like kings, and has had a huge positive impact on the community.
Make no mistake, the greens are in bad shape. But the tournament and its officials deserve a pass. Prima donna players walking out do not.