McIlroy enters next phase of season

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“You can’t lie about it _ the greens are shaky,” defending champion Rickie Fowler said Wednesday. “But I feel like come tournament time … you’re still going to be able to make putts. There is still a hole out there. Someone’s going to have to make putts this week. Someone’s going to win the golf tournament. They’re still giving out a trophy and a jacket at the end of Sunday.”

No one is more disappointed than tournament officials, who spared no expense trying to fix a problem that was out of their control. The South has been plagued by an unusually cold and wet spring, which tournament director Kym Hougham said was the primary culprit. The bent greens are to be torn up in two weeks and replaced by Bermuda, a move that is one year too late.

How bad are they?

The greens on Nos. 8 and 10 had to be replaced by sod just last week _ in fact, the 10th green had to be re-sodded twice because the roots were growing sideways. For the new sod, the club paid for strips of grass that were 4 feet wide and 60 feet long to reduce the number of seams, even though it was the most costly. Several other putting surfaces have patches of brown where there is no grass.

On four greens, the players were asked to only hit one shot in the practice rounds and limit their putting to alleviate stress on the greens.

“I’m trying to see how many bounces it takes to get to the hole,” Robert Allenby said. “That was 22 for a 33-foot putt.”

Allenby took issue with a memo from PGA Tour officials that warned players of four bad greens at Quail Hollow, with the rest of them typical of tour greens.

“There’s not one green that’s like a normal tour green,” Allenby said. “That might have confused a lot of players.”

Woods decided last week not to play, presumably because he forgot there were only two weeks between the Masters and Quail Hollow, a change in the schedule this year. Nine players already have withdrawn, including past champions Vijay Singh and David Toms. Ian Poulter was in Charlotte on Tuesday but never made it out to the golf course. He withdrew citing personal reasons. Not all of the withdrawals are related to course conditions, although there were enough to make other players wonder.

Tournament director Kym Hougham didn’t hide his disappointment, nor did he make any excuses.

“It’s unfortunate,” he said of the greens. “There was a lot of effort put it to rectify the situation. A number of factors contributed, Mother Nature being the biggest. But you know our standard. They deserve good greens, and we didn’t produce good greens. And we’ll make sure that never happens again.”

For the players who showed up _ and stayed _ they planned to make the best of it.

“We come to Quail Hollow and they’re _ for me _ probably the best greens on tour, usually,” McIlroy said. “It’s just unfortunate that they’re not quite up to the standard that they usually are, but it’s no big deal. The rest of the golf course is in phenomenal shape. It’s going to be the same. Everyone has to putt on them, and the best player at the end of the week is still going to win. I don’t think there is a big problem at all.”

“I don’t mind because I’m not a guy that relies on my putting, per se,” he said. “So it will eliminate quite a lot of the field. I don’t mind that at all.”

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