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Golf: Revamped Quail Hollow presents tougher test for golfers

By Andrew Both

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Quail Hollow will unveil three new holes at this week's PGA Championship, changes that are expected to make the course significantly tougher for the world's best players at the year's final major.

What used to be a fairly gentle start at the annual PGA Tour event in Charlotte will now give players little chance to ease into their rounds, according to Kerry Haigh, who is in charge of the course set-up for the PGA of America.

He expects the first three holes to exact as heavy a toll as the brutally difficult last three, which have come to be known as the Green Mile.

"In my mind the first three holes are as difficult probably as the last three," Haigh said in an interview from Quail Hollow.

The three new holes all come early -- the first, fourth and fifth -- while the 11th green has been moved 40 yards further back.

Also, a new strand of hardy grass will make it possible for the greens, all of which have been regressed, to be presented firm, even in the heat and humidity of a southern American summer.

While the U.S. Open has a reputation for presenting the toughest test in golf, the PGA of America is more interested in providing a fair challenge.

"I'm never one to predict a winning score,” Haigh, the Chief Championships Officer of the PGA of America, said. “That’s not a concern of mine. Hopefully we present in a way that challenges the players.”

One thing that won’t change about Quail Hollow is the variety of holes that make it an enjoyable experience to play, and even more fun to watch.

All three par-fives are reachable in two shots for many players under normal conditions, and there are two driveable par-fours -- the eighth and 14th holes -- always a fan favourite.

But there are also some beastly holes where everyone will gladly escape with a par and run to the next tee, none more so than the new 524-yard par-four first.

“There is a nice mix of about six birdie holes, six reasonable and six tough,” said Haigh.

He also said the rough would not be particularly long, which should give players a chance at recovery shots, while making for some guesswork as to how hot the ball will come out.

“We don’t want to make it too thick to where you can’t move the ball,” Haigh said. “We want zero control.”

The bunkers have also been redone, now with a type of sand that is also used at Augusta National, and Haigh is determined to make sure the rough will not be long enough to impede balls from rolling into the traps.

“We try to bring bunkers into play,” he said. “If you’re going to build new bunkers you don’t want rough in the way to stop balls from running in.”

(Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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