A bunched-up leaderboard heads into an interesting weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tiger Woods made it to the weekend at Quail Hollow, dealing with his share of troubles on the greens on a course that he said is significantly more difficult than when he played it last in 2012.
Over the past few years, when Woods missed due to injury, the North Carolina course that hosts the Wells Fargo Championship underwent several revisions, including a revamping of the first five holes that eliminated a par-5 and change the par from 72 to 71.
The greens have also been re-grassed twice — once due to a growing issue — in advance of the 2017 PGA Championship. It has meant a sterner test, one that Phil Mickelson said went from having nine birdie holes to five (presumably the three par-5s: Nos. 7, 10 and 15; and the two short par-4s: 8 and 15) and “13 really tough pars.”
The result is a slew of players in contention due to a bunched leaderboard and the inability of anyone to break away.
Tiger’s long memory
Woods has been known to never forget a slight, and like many players, he has a keen memory — down to club and distance — for a good number of shots he has hit over the years, especially in victories.
But sometimes the mind works in mysterious ways. Woods said he often putts from memory, and so far it is killing him at Quail Hollow. He hasn’t played here since 2012, when he missed the cut for the second time, but says he can’t get used to the new putting surfaces.
Woods made just one birdie on Friday and has taken 64 putts over the first two rounds. He has made just four birdies in two days and made just a single putt of more than 10 feet in the second round when he made a 13-footer on the final green, assuring a weekend tee time at Quail Hollow.
Tiger Woods birdies the last hole of his second round to put him at the current cut line of +2.
“Well, I remember a lot of my putts I’ve hit from years ago, sometimes even over a decade ago,” he said. “I can remember putts on certain greens and what they do, tendencies, especially in practice and at home, remembering the putts I would have to certain pins, going through the golf course in my head. I remember all those. So when they change greens I putt a lot on memory. I have a pretty decent memory.
“I’ve struggled a little bit here and there on certain courses until I got the feel of it. But this week is a combo that I’m just not they’re springy, firm but a little on the slower side. That’s not what you would expect. When you’re walking on the greens as I’m feeling on my feet, the greens are firm, but they’re just not rolling out.”
Woods is nine shots behind Malnati, tied for 48th with Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy.
No. 1 watch
With a tie for 12th or better, Justin Thomas will take over the No. 1 spot in the Official World Ranking from Dustin Johnson, who is not playing this week. Johnson has held the top spot since winning the 2017 Genesis Open, one of three tournaments he won last year prior to the Masters.
Thomas, of course, closed the gap with a five-victory season in 2017, including a win at Quail Hollow during the PGA Championship. He has added two more victories this season, including a win at the Honda Classic.
A 2-under-par 69 put Thomas in a tie for 29th after switching putters following the first round. He is even for the tournament and three strokes out of the top 12.
“I’m over thinking about it because someone told me, and it was a great way to put it, I’m not trying to have it for one week,” Thomas said. “I’m trying to have it for a long time. I can’t put too much pressure on having it because it’s not like it’s just going to be once and it will be done.
“I just need to continue to try to play good golf and give myself chances to win tournaments. You would hope if I keep playing the way that I’ve been playing that I’ll have it at some point.”
Rory McIlroy turned 29 on Friday, but there was little to celebrate on the course. At a place where he’s won twice, including 2015 when he shot a course-record 61, McIlroy shot a 76 that included bogeys on three of his last five holes. He made just two bogeys on the day and fell back to 2 over par.
“Yeah, I struggled,” McIlroy said. “Tough conditions. Obviously wind was up and gusty, greens were firm. Just struggled with everything really. Struggled with my game, struggled to get my ball in the fairway, made some pretty bad mistakes. Didn’t birdie any of the par-5s. It was just one of those days where I just couldn’t get anything going.”