Players like changes made to Quail Hollow's 17th
By STEVE REED
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) PGA Tour players have been clamoring for change at Quail Hollow for nine years, and finally someone listened.
Club and tournament officials significantly altered the course's signature hole - the watery par-3 17th - by moving the tee box about 75 yards left to the member's tee for this week's Wells Fargo Championship. It not only shortens the hole by about 25 yards to 192, but also provides a more receptive angle to the green.
Players argued for years that the tees built specifically for the pros made for an awkward tee shot.
"I think it's a great decision just because of the way the green is designed," said Phil Mickelson, who was one of those who pushed for the modification.
"It's designed to receive the shot from over there," he added. "When the green gets firm like it will be this week it's a much better hole from over there. There is more decision-making and more risk-reward as opposed to 100 percent defense. I think it's a great hole from over there."
Mickelson has six top-10 finishes at the Wells Fargo Championship in nine attempts but has never won.
Quail Hollow's 17th hole has been one of the toughest par-3s on the Tour for years - a fact not lost on Mickelson.
In his previous 36 rounds at Quail Hollow he's a combined 14-over par.
WESTWOOD DOWN A CADDIE: Lee Westwood is third in the world rankings and can move to No. 1 if he wins this week and Rory McIlroy, the world's current top-ranked player, finishes seventh or worse.
But it won't be easy.
Westwood's caddie, Billy Foster, injured his right knee before a charity soccer match Monday and is expected to be out at least a month and possibly longer depending on the outcome of a CT scan Friday. Casey Kerr will take Foster's place on the bags for at least the next two tournaments.
Westwood said ideally he hopes to have Foster back for the Scandinavian Masters, one week before the U.S. Open.
"It'll be a loss for a few weeks, but accidents happen," Westwood said. "What can you do? He goes skiing twice a year and he's never done anything doing that, and then he puts his foot down wrong on a football field having a kick around, which like I said I could have done at home playing with my son in the garden, and it just blows out. I did remind him that he's now 46 and not 26."
Westwood said he received a call from Foster, who sheepishly informed him of the news.
"He started off by asking `Do you love me?'" Westwood said.
Westwood said he will miss Foster's advice from tee-to-green, but doesn't seem too worried that it will affect his game.
"I've been out here a long time," Westwood said. "This is not my first rodeo. I think I'll be able to cope."
RETURNING THE FAVOR: Speaking of caddies, Bill Haas took to carrying the bags for his younger brother Jay Jr. at Monday's qualifying event in Charlotte.
Normally it's the other way around.
Jay Jr. has been caddying for Bill since the middle of last year and the two have experienced great success together, with Bill winning the Tour Championship and the $10 million FedEx Cup in 2011. He started this year by winning a playoff at Riviera.
"Jay likes to play and I know that he has the itch every time he's out here," Bill Haas said of his brother. "He thinks he can play with all of the guys out here. I think he's got the talent."
Jay Jr. shot a 1-under 71 but didn't qualify for the tournament.
"I wanted him to get into the field," Haas said. "I thought maybe I could help him with a shot or two."
When asked who's more expensive as a caddie, Bill laughed and said, "He doesn't pay much."
WHAT'S THE MASTERS?: Hunter Mahan recently threw out the first pitch at a Texas Rangers game and got to mingle with some of the players.
Mahan said most of the guys knew who he was, but Rangers star Josh Hamilton didn't.
"After he hit batting practice he goes, `So what tournament did you play?" Mahan said. "I told him `The Masters.' You've got to the love the guy (because) he had no idea what the Masters was or ever heard of it. I mean he was just ... he was so funny."
TOP FIELD CONTENDING: The Wells Fargo Championship is always a competitive field and this year is no different. Five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Rankings are in the field, including McIlroy, Westwood, Mickelson, Mahan and Tiger Woods. Fifteen of the 19 PGA Tour winners from last year are entered.
The one notable absentee is Masters champion Bubba Watson, who withdrew from a couple of weeks ago to spend more time with his family.
WOODLAND WITHDRAWS: Gary Woodland withdrew from the tournament Wednesday to give his injured left wrist another week to heal.
Woodland suffered the injury during the third round of the Masters, continued to play and withdrew after the round. He said there is no structural damage and doctors have cleared him to play. But the former Kansas star has decided to rest the wrist. He plans to play next week at The Players Championship.
Woodland was replaced in the field by Russell Knox of Scotland.
Updated May 2, 2012