Holes 16, 17 and 18 at Quail Hollow Club have combined to be by far the toughest three-hole finishing stretch on the PGA Tour since the inception of the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship on the course in 2003.
The combined holes have played an average of 0.916 strokes above par, with the No. 2 finishing stretch being the Memorial Tournament’s Muirfield Village, which has played 0.598 above par.
The finish should provide an exciting conclusion to the tournament Sunday. David Toms won in 2003 despite a quadruple-bogey 8 on the 18th hole. That’s the same number 2015 PGA Championship winner Jason Day made on the hole Saturday to shoot himself out of contention.
“Having three tough finishing holes in a major, you know that most likely it’s going to come down to those last three holes,” Dustin Johnson said. “Having a good game plan, a good strategy, and executing obviously is going to be the big key.”
The 506-yard par-4 16th hole has water to the left and behind the green, the 223-yard par-3 17th has a peninsula green with the only bailout area to the right, and the 494-yard par-4 18th has a creek running up the entire left side of the hole.
The first five or six holes, if you can escape those you can play the next eight, and the last three are hold on for dear life.
Third-round leader Kevin Kisner
The holes are living up to their reputation this week, playing as the three hardest holes on the course at about a combined 1.21 strokes over par.
“It will be an exciting finish, I think, with 16, 17 and 18, and even with the drivable par-4 14th in there as well,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got four of the last five holes with water and excitement, and I think it will be an exciting finish to the tournament if there’s a few guys up around the lead at that point.”
Third-round leader Kevin Kisner has the course sectioned in three parts, and hopes to be in good shape by the time he gets to the finishing stretch. “The first five or six holes, if you can escape those you can play the next eight, and the last three are hold on for dear life,” Kisner said.
The winner might have to brave the daunting three-hole stretch more than once. In the event of a tie after 72 holes, a three-hole aggregate playoff will commence on the three holes. If players are still tied after that, the playoff converts to sudden death beginning on 18 and continuing on 16, 17 and 18 again.