CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – Golf rarely produces shutouts but it happened Saturday at Quail Hollow.
The par-4 first hole did not surrender a birdie to any of the 75 players who made the 36-hole cut. Of course, some may quibble with the notion of calling a 522-yard dogleg a par-4 but that’s what the PGA Championship scorecard says.
For the week, the first hole has allowed only 15 birdies in three rounds and its 4.480 scoring average is easily the highest in the PGA Championship. It calls to mind what Rory McIlroy said after seeing Quail Hollow’s new first hole last fall for the first time.
Recalling the relatively short and benign original opening hole, McIlroy said Quail Hollow used to start with a gentle handshake and now it starts with a punch in the face. If a single hole characterizes the difficulty of Quail Hollow this week, it’s No. 1.
“I think it’s a great par-5,” J.B. Holmes said.
The last threesomes to tee off Saturday – the first nine names on the leaderboard – played the hole 6-over par. Four pars, four bogeys and Francesco Molinari’s double bogey.
So as the final round approaches, it’s natural to wonder which player will handle the three-hole “Green Mile” finish the best with the championship on the line. But that may be no more important than how they handle the first hole on Sunday.