Wells Fargo Championship
Quail Hollow Club
Charlotte, North Carolina
Quail Hollow Club
Yards: 7,492 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: G2 Creeping Bentgrass; 6,500 square feet on average
Rough: 419 Bermudagrass and perennial rye grass at 2 inches
Water Hazards: 3
Course Architect: George Cobb (1961); Tom Fazio (1997; 2003)
Winner’s Share: $1,206,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Rickie Fowler defeated Rory McIlroy and D.A Points with birdie on the first playoff for his first win on TOUR.
Dates: May 2-5
Notes: This is year 11 for the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club. Webb Simpson and Johnson Wagner consider this their home club. Quail Hollow will host the 2017 PGA Championship.
This is the 11th edition of the Wells Fargo Championship. There have been 10 different winners.
Half of those 10 winners have won in a playoff. I’m not good at math but this would suggest that there is a 50-50 chance of a playoff again this year…
Only Anthony Kim (2008) and Rickie Fowler have made Quail Hollow Club the site of their first victory on TOUR.
Six of the 10 winners at WFC have won majors in their careers.
There have been 18 tournaments this season. After Americans won the first 14, the rest of the world, Scotland, Australia and Northern Ireland, have won the next three in a row. That streak came to an end in New Orleans as the USA is back in business.
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods THRICE (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36), Laird (30), Scott (32), G-Mac (33) and Horschel (26) last week. The young folks (30 and younger) now have seven victories; the 30-somethings have nine victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have their two wins.
Rank and File
As of Monday morning, 21 of the top 50 in the OWGR are playing this week.
Quail Hollow Club, located just outside Charlotte, N.C., hosts this tournament for the 11th time. The course was built in the early 60s and was remodeled by Tom Fazio in the late 90s. The first year of this tournament was 2003 when David Toms fired 278 (10-under) to win. Only Sean O’Hair (279) has gone higher in victory. Anthony Kim’s 272 in 2008 is the tournament record.
Quail Hollow Club boast the hardest three-hole finish two of the last three years yet only ranks at the midway point of the hardest courses on TOUR (25 hardest of 49 played in 2012). This makes sense when you realize that Kim, O’Hair, McIlroy and Fowler weren’t exactly seasoned veterans on TOUR when they won here. The averaging winning score here is just a hair under 13-under par so players will have to make hay on the first 15 holes so they can breathe easy on the final three. Good luck with that. No. 16 plays uphill to 480 yards. No. 17 is a 200-yard carry over with water surrounding almost the entire green but they moved the tee box to an easier location last year. And just to top it off, No. 18 has a creek running through it just to make you think a little bit harder about that final tee shot and approach shot. Not many places to leave it!
Looking at the list of winners, Toms, Singh, Furyk, Woods, O’Hair, McIlroy, Glover and Fowler, the one thing that stands out is ball-striking. Sure, they had to hole putts as well, but these guys keep it in play and hit tons of GIR. The rough will not be a huge deal. Last year on Sunday Rory McIlroy ( 5 of 14) and D.A. Points (6 of 14) couldn’t find the fairway but hit 14 of 18 (T6) and 15 of 18 (1st) greens respectively to join Fowler in the playoff. Fowler hit 11 of 14 fairways that same Sunday to lead the field.
The course is lush and green and has two new greens on Nos. 8 and 10 that were replaced less than two weeks ago. When they return here next year, all 18 greens will have their bentgrass replaced with Bermudagrass to get ready for the PGA Championship in 2017. For more course changes, please read Rob Bolton’s Power Rankings at pgatour.com. Confidence and ball-striking is a must this week. Players that have been playing well will factor as will the “old guard” of the world’s elite.
Let see who’s going to factor this week.
Top 10, Plus One
Rory McIlroy: In 17 rounds in 2013 he has played exactly three of them over par and that includes 79 on Saturday at the Masters that led to T25. Gamers get frustrated with McIlroy because he’s not that automatic top 10 like Tiger Woods was in his prime. Get over it. There’s only one Tiger and one Rory so deal. McIlroy showed up here last year after posting a T40 at Augusta and finished P2 to Rickie Fowler. He shot a Sunday 62 in his victory here in 2010. On a similar, long, challenging layout at Valero he was second to Martin Laird.
Webb Simpson: After missing the cut in his last two events, Simpson decided that he needed to find his love for the game again. He started playing practice rounds with college kids who would just pick a target and hit it. This freed his swing up and the results at Harbour Town were pretty good as he fell in a playoff to Graeme McDowell when his unlucky birdie putt blew away. He credits his wife with reinforcing his belief that he can win and he was THIS close to doing so last week. It won’t hurt that he’s playing his home course this week either. He finished fourth here last year.
Nick Watney: He’s made seven cuts on the bounce and is right on the precipice of breaking out. He shot four straight 69s last week in New Orleans to finish T15 and that was with a double on the back nine on Sunday. Ball-strikers do well here and he fits that description. He’s made seven of eight cuts at Quail Hollow and six of those have been T24 or better including last year’s solo eighth.
Rickie Fowler: The defending champion quite likes it around here as he’s finished WIN, T16 and sixth in his only three starts over the last three years. He has only one round over par and that was his first round three years ago. He only made three bogeys on the weekend in New Orleans and his accurate driver will help put him in excellent position here for a fourth year in a row.
Lee Westwood: He blasted the weekend here last year (68-66) to jump into a T5 so he’s definitely on the radar this week. He was T10 at SHO and T8 at Augusta, two places where he is horse-for-course. If last year in an indication, he’ll add this place to his list of places he enjoys playing. He’s also surprisingly seventh in scrambling and has made 12 cuts in a row so that won’t hurt either.
Bill Haas: He’s made nine cuts in a row and has been playing very solid golf in 2013. Haas ranks eighth in GIR and has five top 10 finishes to co-lead the TOUR. In five weekends he’s played in nine tries, Haas has finished fourth and T4 twice and hasn’t finished outside the top 30.
Dustin Johnson: WD ON WEDNESDAY MORNING
D.A. Points: Time to hop on board! After winning in Houston and finishing second in New Orleans, Points returns to Charlotte where Rickie Fowler knocked him and Rory McIlroy out the playoff last year. He showed last year that he can find GIR from places other than the fairway and that helps around these parts. He’s hot and confident and that’s what we look for on a week-to-week basis!
Lucas Glover: The 2011 champion at Quail Hollow has also added T22 and T2 in the last four years though he was MC last year. He’s striping it right now and even though he didn’t win last week, he’s gotten another taste of being near the winner’s circle. The only thing missing in his “comeback” tour is a victory as he’s pegged top fives at Honda and Zurich. He’ll give himself plenty of chances with as well as he strikes the ball. Come on the putter! Please be aware that his wife is due any moment with their first child. He remarked last weekend that he has no problem walking off the course to be with her for this special event. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Bubba Watson: I’m sorry I love Watson. He’s inconsistently consistent and can bust it any week. After his “scared” round of 73 to open last week, he backed it up with 65. After his even par round on Saturday, he went low again with 66. I wish I would have stuck with him in the Yahoo! game on Sunday last week. I would have had a monster…He’s made his last three cuts here and that includes T2 in 2009. He did not play here last year.
Phil Mickelson: Here he is again as “plus one”. As with most places he plays, his course history is off the charts. In nine events, he’s been T9 or better SIX times. You can’t leave him off but you cannot ignore that he didn’t fire at the Masters. That’s Mickelson in a nutshell, Phrankenwood or not.
Jimmy Walker: Another familiar name to this column and there are reasons why! Long off the tee? Check. He’s 26th in GIR and 21st in strokes gained-putting. He’s fourth in scoring average. He’s played on 20 consecutive weekends. He has 4 top 25s and four top 10s. He’s essentially the 2013 Bo Van Pelt and that’s a compliment.
Sergio Garcia: He’s six of seven in Charlotte which includes T2 in 2005. He’s six of six this season on TOUR and his worst finish was T13 in stroke play if you don’t count the week he WD when I had him in the one-and-done at Bay Hill. I’m not bitter or anything…
Padraig Harrington: He’s Phil Mickelson Light of Ireland. He’s top 10 or bust. His last two appearances in Charlotte have seen him finish T9 (2011) and T7 (2010). After posting T9 his first tournament this year he went MC, MC. He racked up aT10 at SHO but then he no-showed at Augusta with 75-78. Figured it out yet? Me neither.
Ian Poulter: After beginning the season T9 and fourth, Poulter hasn’t been living up to gamer’s expectations. He’s fired final rounds of 75 at Doral and 75 at Bay Hill to knock him out of possible top 10s and he didn’t fire at the Masters. Yet, his putting and grit can pull him through if things aren’t going well. According to his Twitter feed, he’s been in the Bahamas practicing as he prepares for this WFC/PLAYERS double over the next two weeks. He was fifth here in 2009 in his last appearance.
Chris Kirk: In his last four events on TOUR he’s finished T21, T30, T22 and T16. His worst round over that stretch is 73. Once. When you make as many putts as he does, you tend to hang around. He’s already made more cash this year than he did in all of 2012. He’s seventh in the all-around ranking and seventh in total putting. He’s the perfect complement to a horse-for-course this week.
Henrik Stenson: He was T2 in Houston and backed that up with a very solid T18 at the Masters in his last time out. His course history is not very good but his form what I’m looking at here. He’s long, accurate and has no problem racking up GIR.
Boo Weekley: Well, when you’re hot, you’re hot. He’ll have to play himself off my list. He’s made 10 cuts in a row and has three top 10s on the season.
Nicolas Colsaerts: I opined last week that New Orleans could have been the tonic Colsaerts needed in the States. Grip and rip it with light rough. There will be a few more trees this week but he’s super-long and hits plenty of GIR. It’s his first time here so let’s hope he bring his GIR game like he did last week (T8).
Kevin Streelman: Another form over course history pick for me as Streelman is cruising along in 2013. After winning in Tampa, he was T21 at Bay Hill, MC at Augusta and T3 at Harbour Town. Not bad. His game is growing up and is confidence is sky-high at the moment. Good combo.