WILMINGTON, Delaware — While preference between PGA Tour host courses inevitably varies from player to player, Rory McIlroy seems to have felt right at home on his first visit to Wilmington Country Club.
“It’s a golf course that’s kind of a little bit more up my alley compared to last week in Memphis,” McIlroy said Wednesday after his pro-am round. “A lot more drivers off the tee, a lot more space off the tee, a lot more, I guess, opportunities to hit the driver. Length is an advantage here, where in Memphis it’s not really the case.
At 7,534 yards, the South Course at Wilmington Country Club, host of this week’s BMW Championship, is nearly 300 yards longer than last week’s venue, TPC Southwind in Memphis. Greens average about double the size, and Kentucky bluegrass/rough fescue are over an inch longer. Compared to Southwind and East Lake Golf Club, host of next week’s Tour Championship, McIlroy said his length would be much more of an advantage.
“These kind of big, northeast-style golf courses, they’re great venues to play tournaments,” he said. “It’s the kind of golf course I usually do well on.”
Like many in the field, this is McIlroy’s first time seeing Wilmington Country Club. This week is the first tour event played in the state of Delaware, and McIlroy wasn’t the only one noticing the length.
“It’s a big boys golf course, 7,500 yards. The three par-5s are pretty much out of reach,” last week’s champion Will Zalatoris said on Wednesday. “If I were to design a golf course , that’s probably how I would do it for myself, so I’m very excited.
Xander Schauffele told reporters that the length and style of the course actually makes it easier to learn, especially for so many players seeing it for the first time, compared to a more original course like Harbor Town, which is shorter. more than 300 meters.
“There just isn’t much. I know it might sound bad, but it’s really long, you don’t want to hit it raw, and every putt you have is almost downhill,” Schauffele said. “It’s difficult to do a 650 yard par 5 ‘special’. It’s just very long. It would be next to impossible if you made a 650 yard hole with a dogleg and water and an elevated green and clearances.
“It wouldn’t be my favorite course to play blind, but you could definitely do it.”
While Schauffele viewed the style of the course as an advantage when playing for the first time, Patrick Cantlay, the defending champion of the Caves Valley event, a course that many players compared to the south course, seemed to tire of bomber havens. .
“I think it’s also strange to me that we play so many golf courses that they just add length to the golf courses,” Cantlay said Tuesday. “It’s so surprising to me that golf courses that none of the guys that hit far, they don’t go to Hilton Head, they don’t go to Colonial, they don’t go to the little, little dogleggy tree-course bordered golf courses.
Cantlay stopped short of calling the course a US Open setup, but went on to say that the south course doesn’t require much thought.
“It’s just how far can you hit it and catch your driver on every hole and hit it as high and hit it as far as you can,” he said. “I’m so surprised that [the Tour hasn’t] I get it, and it seems like we’re getting more and more of the same bomb golf courses as far as you can get week after week.
Cantlay beat Bryson DeChambeau to the 2021 BMW Championship after being tied at 27 under over 72 holes. DeChambeau mastered Caves Valley that week, over 340 yards from the start.
While most pros were hesitant to guess a winning score this year, Justin Thomas said Wilmington would be tougher than Caves Valley but could still see a lower score. He also noted how this course is also different from the other two playoff host sites due to the different grasses around the greens.
“Rough is a little different to get out of it,” Thomas said. “Last week you had to be very careful with the grain and where you landed it, if the ball landed in the grain it was going to jump straight or if it was downhill it was going to fly off, versus at now that’s kind of what you see, that’s what you get with the slope.