First some current Bulldog golfing news of the undergraduate variety. There is a mixed bag of results. Ladies first, and that means the good news. Our Women’s Golf Team is heading to the Tallahassee Regional of the NCAA tournament, where the top 6 of 18 teams will advance. The Lady Bulldogs are currently #34 in the nation, and should have a good chance to move on though this Regional is loaded with top teams. They finished 4th in the SEC Championship, beating Auburn in the quarter-finals before losing to eventual champ USC in the semi-finals. It was a good season for Coach Josh Brewer’s squad, lead by spectacular junior Jillian Hollis who captured 2 individual titles with 3 more top 5s, same as the team results over the season. Hollis is still in the running for the Annika Award, given to the top women’s collegiate golfer each season.
The men didn’t fare quite as well. By Georgia standards, this was a rebuilding year having graduated extremely deep talent the last couple of seasons. They finished 11th in the SEC (Auburn beat Bama on the final hole for the title), but were still invited to the NCAA Regional round May 14-16, where 13 teams compete in each of the 6 Regionals, and the top 5 teams advance to the NCAA Championship held at the end of May. Georgia will be playing in Texas at the Bryan Regional hosted by top seed Texas A&M. Since the NCAA moved to this Regional format, Georgia has qualified for Regionals 29 of 30 years, and in each of Coach Chris Haack’s 22 seasons as Head Golf Dawg.
Now on to the professional game.
Tournament: Wells Fargo Championship, May 3-6, 2018
Course: Quail Hollow Club, 7,554 yards, par 71.
Defending Champion: Here’s the thing. Alabama’s Justin Thomas was the last person to win on this course, as the PGA Championship was held here last August. But the tournament itself moved to Wilmington, NC so they could ready Quail Hollow for a major, and UGA’s own Brian Harman won the Wells Fargo in it’s temporary stop at Eagle Pointe GC in 2017. But James Hahn was the last to win this tournament on this course, which was in 2016. Am I the only one who enjoys pondering these things? Eh, forget it. Harman is the defending champ.
Harman pulled off a birdie-birdie finish to his final round, including a 28 foot putt on the final hole to snag the victory from a hot Pat Perez and a usually dominant world #1 Dustin Johnson. Thomas’s victory was no less daunting in the PGA Championship, where he birdied 7 of his final 12 holes and kept off UGA’s Kevin Kisner (victim of just 2 bad shots and 2 unlucky bounces).
Fun Fact: Phil Mickelson has played here 14 times, and finished in the top 12 eleven times. Always the bridesmaid.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:45 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
Former 'Dawgs in the Field ( Five ): Russell Henley, Harris English, Keith Mitchell, Hudson Swafford, Kevin Kisner.
The PGA Tour stays in the South, having jumped from Austin to Augusta to Hilton Head to New Orleans, and now settles in Charlotte. I’m not crazy about Charlotte, but I am crazy about this golf course. Quail Hollow has been around for about 50 years, and hosted the old Kemper Open in the 70’s. But it fell on hard times until new ownership brought in the right corporate sponsors and the right course designers to give both the tourney and the track a facelift.
What we are left with is quickly becoming a shining star on the PGA Tour schedule, and a favorite of many professionals. The tournament is first-class and does a tremendous job hosting the players (Mercedes courtesy cars, top accommodations, swag aplenty, etc.). And that is fitting considering the course is one of the toughest and best on the regular Tour calendar.
It is long and has plenty of elevation. The greens are quick, and the Carolina pines provide obstacles while several water features wind their way through the grounds looking for unwary golf balls. The finishing stretch of holes includes a long par 3 over water and a long, uphill par 4 with a creek down the left, and is branded as “The Green Mile”. No word on if Sam Rockwell will serve as an additional distraction.
With such amenities and such a demanding course, the Wells Fargo attracts a deep and talented field. Rory McIlroy has won twice here and tees it up again. Aforementioned bridesmaid Phil Mickelson has it on his regular rota. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth are scheduled to play, and one other notable in the form of Tiger Woods. We haven’t seen Tiger since his T32 in Augusta, but he will play this week and next at The Players Championship.
We also have 5 former Bulldogs putting peg to ground to see what goes down. Kisner is coming off a strong performance last week where he basically carried his partner in the Zurich Classic team format. Swafford and English teamed together last week but did not fare very well. Keith Mitchell has turned in to a cut-making machine (making the field cut, thus playing the weekend and cashing checks) and looks to continue a great rookie PGA Tour season. And Russell Henley plays his first tournament since The Masters, and since the birth of his first child (Masters Week).
So plenty of golfing variety and you don’t even have to pay extra for that kind of action. And as always...