It seems as if the next wave in the PGA Tour schedule has begun. The Masters is behind us and it is on to The PLAYERS Championship and The U.S. Open. To kick things off in this next chapter, it is The Wells Fargo Championship. A big boy tournament for sure with 14 of the Top 25 ranked players in the world here in the field this week – but it is that 93rd ranked player in the world that has everybody once again paying attention – and that is Tiger Woods.
Designed by George Cobb in 1961, Quail Hollow Club is a tremendous golf course located not far from Charlotte, North Carolina. It is loved by the players and is one of the more exclusive private clubs in America. Tom Fazio was brought in for an extensive redesign in 1997 and the course began hosting this event in 2003. It was just last summer that The PGA of America made Quail Hollow the site of its Major Championship, The PGA Championship, which was captured by Justin Thomas. The President’s Cup will be played here in 2021. It is a stern test of golf. For The PGA Championship last summer, Quail Hollow ranked as the hardest golf course on Tour all season, one notch ahead of Augusta National. The final three holes on the course are collectively known as “The Green Mile,” and they consistently rank as one of the most difficult closing stretches the players face all year.
The golf course demands a little bit of everything but it all starts off the tee where both accuracy and power are required. While that’s a nice combination to have at any course, here it is a must. The next step is getting one’s ball on the green in regulation. This challenge is compounded this week by the fact that Quail Hollow ranks as one of the more difficult courses to get one’s ball close to the hole on approach. With hitting greens in regulation and hole proximity both being a tough task, Scrambling and avoiding 3-putts in turn, become a factor. Finally, one will need to take care of the brutal Par 3 holes here at The Wells Fargo as three of the four are well over 200-yards in length.
Next week we are at TPC Sawgrass for The PLAYERS Championship. When this concludes, we’ll be less than 30-days away from the season’s second Major Championship, The U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
Rory McIlroy (+8.30 Pinnacle) Rory McIlroy earned his first PGA Tour victory here at The Wells Fargo in 2010. He went on to win here again in 2015. In five additional visits he has two Top 5 finishes, two Top 10’s, and a missed cut.
Justin Thomas (+11.52 Pinnacle) Thomas finished 7th here in 2015 and was cut in 2016. In 2017, he won The PGA Championship on this golf course. In 2018, he hasn’t finished worse than 22nd in a stroke play event.
Rickie Fowler (+12.48 Bookmaker) Like McIlroy, Fowler too make Quail Hollow the site of his first PGA Tour victory, doing so in 2012. He took 4th here in 2016 and was 5th at last summer’s PGA Championship. This is Fowler’s first competitive appearance since we saw him take 2nd at The Masters.
Jason Day (+1800 5Dimes) The smooth putting Australian hasn’t missed a cut since last July. He was 9th here last August for The PGA Championship and was 9th again back in 2012 for The Wells Fargo.
Patrick Reed (+25.46 Bookmaker) In four visits to The Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, Patrick Reed is yet to miss a cut. His finishes however have been less than stellar at 28-58-32-32. He did take 2nd here though last summer at The PGA. Reed comes in with five straight Top 10 finishes including his Masters win.
Hideki Matsuyama (+22.98 Pinnacle) Matsuyama has had excellent success at this golf course, going 11-20-and-38 at The Wells Fargo and at last year’s PGA Championship, he was your leader after 36-holes. Matsuyama eventually went on to finish 5th.
The Long Shots
Ryan Moore (+5000 5Dimes) The UNLV Rebel has two Top 10 finishes here along with a Top 20. He was 13th at last summer’s PGA Championship. He has four Top 10 finishes on Tour this season with the last coming just two weeks ago in Texas.
James Hahn (+182.39 Bookmaker) Hahn won The Wells Fargo Championship here in 2016 and was 13th at last year’s PGA. Prior to missing the cut at The RBC Heritage last month, he hadn’t missed a cut since last August.
Grayson Murray (+105.75 Pinnacle) Murray hails from North Carolina and while a “home game” is not always a benefit in golf, he did fare well at The PGA Championship, taking 22nd last year despite shooting a final round 75. In three of the last four weeks on Tour, Murray has gone 14-14-16.
Tommy Fleetwood (+33.58 Bookmaker) In Tommy Fleetwood’s first trip to The Masters in 2017, he missed the cut. He came back this year and took 17th. Last year’s PGA Championship was Fleetwood’s first look at Quail Hollow and he finished 61st. I expect the same type of change in position on the leaderboard here as we saw with Fleetwood at Augusta National. You have two very demanding golf courses, ranking 1st and 2nd hardest on Tour in 2017. Fleetwood has changed his own position from a Top 20 ranked player in the world to one flirting with the Top 10. He ranks 4th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and 10th in Strokes Gained: Around the Green. He is also 12th in Par 3 Scoring. Like Rory and Rickie, I like The Englishman to get his first PGA Tour victory at Quail Hollow Club.
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