Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the Wells Fargo Championship was an instant success with both players and fans.
In its first nine years, it has produced a multitude of memories big and small. Here are nine worth recalling:
1. The first day
Having been without a PGA Tour event in Charlotte since 1979, the Wachovia Championship debuted with a flourish on May 8, 2003 with two of the game’s great stars – Nick Price and Fred Couples – sharing the distinction of being co-leaders after the first round in tournament history.
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Price and Couples shot 6-under-par 66s on the sunny, steamy day with Price needing only 20 putts in his round. It was the day the PGA Tour returned to Charlotte and Quail Hollow Club.
Retired Observer columnist Ron Green Sr. wrote it this way: “And as the sun headed down toward the treetops, you could look back over the day and say, yeah, that’s what we’ve been waiting for all those years since the Kemper Open left town 24 years ago.”
2. Toms’ staggers to the finish
David Toms was brilliant for 71 holes in 2003 and unforgettable on the 72nd hole as he won the inaugural Wachovia Championship by two strokes over Vijay Singh, Brent Geiberger and Robert Gamez.
With a six-stroke lead on the final tee, Toms lost his focus and nearly lost the tournament, chopping his way to a quadruple-bogey eight on the par-4 finishing hole. It was an inglorious ending – Toms four-putted the final green – but one that will be long remembered.
3. A big oops for Tiger at No. 10
In the final round of the 2005 Wachovia Championship, Tiger Woods hit his tee shot into the right trees on the par-5 10th hole and incurred a two-stroke penalty for moving a fence near his ball.
Players were given relief from the obstruction but Woods violated the rules by knocking down the fence that had been damaged by spectators. Two strokes were added to his score when he finished his round, turning a 69 into a 71, dropping him out of the top 10.
4. Sergio’s final-round collapse
With a six-stroke lead entering the final round of the 2005 Wachovia Championship, Sergio Garcia seemed on cruise control. But a watery double-bogey at the par-3 17th hole on Sunday sent him into a playoff with eventual champion Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk.
Garcia fell out of the playoff with a three-putt bogey on the first extra hole and his lost lead equaled a PGA Tour record for the largest final-round failure.
5. The local pro’s tour debut
On Monday of tournament week in 2006, Jamie Johnson, an assistant pro at National Golf Club in Pinehurst, shot 68 in a qualifying event to get a spot in the Wachovia Championship field, his first PGA Tour event.
Johnson’s week didn’t go as planned as he shot 84-88 and was 38 strokes behind the leaders when he missed the 36-hole cut.
“I didn’t get discouraged out there,” Johnson said. “Life’s too short.”
6. Tiger takes charge
On the same 2007 weekend when Rory Sabbatini said Tiger Woods was “more beatable than ever,” Woods proved otherwise.
Ignited by a dramatic eagle at the par-5 seventh hole – a 193-yard 7-iron approach shot and a 57-foot downhill putt – Woods picked up his 57th career PGA Tour victory. A week that started with Woods playing with basketball legend Michael Jordan in the pro-am ended with him pulling the ball out of the hole and flinging it down the 18th fairway after his first victory in North Carolina.
7. Tiger goes home early
In just his second event back after a self-imposed break following the turmoil in his personal life, Woods played at Quail Hollow in 2010, but it was a shockingly short stay.
Woods shot 79 in Friday’s second round, his second-highest score as a professional. On the back nine, Woods made consecutive double bogeys at Nos. 14 and 15.
“He hit a bunch of crooked shots,” playing partner Stewart Cink said.
8. Rory introduces himself
Two days before his 21st birthday in 2010, Rory McIlroy delivered on his enormous potential, shooting a final-round 62 that transfixed professional golf. He closed with six straight 3s on Quail Hollow’s dangerous back nine, finishing with a 42-foot birdie putt on the 18th green as he announced his arrival on the international stage. In 2009, he’d won his first professional title, a one-stroke victory at the Dubai Desert Classic.
“One of the greatest finishes I’ve ever seen ever,” CBS golf analyst David Feherty said of the win at Quail Hollow.
9. Two Clemson Tigers in playoff
Last year, for the first time in PGA Tour history, college teammates squared off in a sudden-death playoff. Clemson’s Jonathan Byrd started the final round three strokes ahead of former Tigers teammate and U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover.
The bearded Glover seemed to have it won in regulation only to see Byrd make a dramatic birdie on the closing hole to force a playoff. Glover won the playoff and shared his Mother’s Day victory with his mother, Hershey Glover.