Palmer steals the show, at least for a day

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - No one else at Quail Hollow has won more majors, and no is close to his PGA Tour victories. Not surprisingly, no one had more fans following his every move Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship.

That used to be the case for Tiger Woods.

This time it was for Arnold Palmer, the King, but only for a day.

The tournament that always goes the extra step brought in an 81-year-old for its star power in the pro-am. Palmer, who once lived on the 15th hole and helped bring the Kemper Open to Quail Hollow years ago, played with club president John Harrison and Sam Saunders, Palmer’s grandson who was given a sponsor’s exemption.

“It played tougher than I’ve ever seen it play,” Palmer said. “But it’s great. I think it’s set up for a real good tournament.”

Woods, who last year missed the cut with his highest 36-hole score, is not playing because of what he described as a minor knee injury sustained in the third round of the Masters. He is to decide Friday whether to play next week in The Players Championship.

Quail Hollow isn’t suffering from lack of star power.

The defending champion is Rory McIlroy, who turned 22 on Wednesday. His birthday celebration included being selected for random drug testing. McIlroy only has two wins, although last year was extraordinary. He rallied with a late eagle just to make the cut, then closed with a course-record 62 for a four-shot victory over Phil Mickelson.

McIlroy hasn’t played in America since he shot 80 in the last round of the Masters to lose a four-shot lead, a moment equally memorable for how he handled such a devastating moment in his young career. He isn’t playing next week at The Players, so that meant a trip over from Northern Ireland, than going right back home.

Even if he were not the defending champion, McIlroy said he wouldn’t miss it.

“This is one of my favorite golf courses and one of my favorite events of the year,” he said.

The setup is similar to last year, a mini-Masters, with the rough cut so low that it’s only about an inch deep and mainly defines the fairways. That can lead to some aggressive play for birdies and eagles, along with trouble when players try to escape from the trees.

And that’s why Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion, loves it.

“It really is exciting because it gives you an opportunity to try a recovery shot,” Mickelson said. “There’s a lot of penalties with as many trees that they have here, but I think it’s the most exciting shot in golf.”

Just to clarify, the short rough allows him to reach the trees?

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