How Quail Hollow's Green Mile can make or break a champion

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How Quail Hollow's Green Mile can make or break a champion

Players competing in the 2017 PGA Championship will face one of the most difficult closing stretches in all of golf.

Known as "The Green Mile," the 16th, 17th and 18th holes at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, will play a monstrous role in the outcome of the season's final major. Comparatively speaking, the Green Mile is right up there with the three closing holes at TPC Sawgrass, Carnoustie and Muirfield Village as the most demanding in the game.

Let's take a look at the last three at Quail Hollow and what makes each so difficult.

The 16th

No. 16 is a massive, 506-yard par 4 — one of two par-4 holes on the course that measure 500+ yards. Prior to changes that were made by designer Tom Fazio in 2013, No. 16 — while still difficult — was a relatively straightforward hole. Now, the green has been moved some 80 yards left to truly bring the water into play on the dogleg hole. 

The trouble starts right from the tee. There's no room to miss/bail out on the left, as the fairway pretty much drops off down a steep embankment into the water. Even if a player is lucky enough to have his ball somehow hold up in the rough instead of meeting a watery grave, the second shot will be no bargain with the ball well above the player's feet. Anything left that isn't wet surely turns this into a three-shot par-4 hole.

Based on the wind, club selection for even a perfect drive will be a challenge. From the fairway, players will most likely be hitting a mid-to-long iron into a green surrounded on three sides by water. You can't miss left, you can't miss right and you can't miss long.

The 17th

If players get through the 16th unscathed, the work is far from over. With a major championship on the line, you're unlikely to find a more intimidating par 3 than the 223-yard 17th.

The signature hole at Quail Hollow features a near-island green with a carry over water of nearly 195 yards. There's plenty of room to bail out right of the green, but that could bring a whole bunch of potential nightmares into play for the second shot should there be a lousy lie in the rough or a spot in the greenside bunker. Players will be hitting the next shot staring at the water surrounding the green. Anything that comes into the green too hot and you can probably kiss that ball goodbye.

There are so many spots on this green for great hole locations. Expect to see a couple of sucker pins hugged tight near the water on the left. And if the wind gets whipping at all during the tournament, you can be sure that No. 17 will be weighing heavy on the minds of the players long before they reach the tee.

The 18th

The finishing hole at Quail Hollow is one of the prettiest you'll find anywhere. It can also cost you a tournament — or in this case a major — if you don't give it your undivided attention.

In 2003, when 2001 PGA Champion David Toms won the inaugural Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow (formerly the Wachovia Championship), he did so despite making a disastrous quadruple-bogey 8 on this hole. Luckily for Toms, he had a healthy six-stroke lead playing the final hole and still managed to top runner-up Vijay Singh by two.

The point? No lead is safe on this difficult 494-yard hole.

There's a nasty fairway bunker on the right said and a meandering creek runs up the entire left side of the hole. After hitting a pinpoint drive down the middle, the second shot needs to be precise with hazards on both sides — and in the back — of the severely sloped, deep green.

The fairway gets tighter and tighter as players get closer to the green.

There's no let up on the final three holes at Quail Hollow. Whoever navigates the Green Mile best on PGA Championship on Sunday will no doubt be a worthy champion.