The Wells Fargo Championship returns to Quail Hollow Club with Rory McIlroy as the defending champion. It’s a familiar venue with plenty of course horses and statistical fits, so pegging those that will likely populate the Sunday afternoon leaderboard may not be as difficult this week as it can be others.
When McIlroy picked off the win in Charlotte, NC last May, it appeared that he was on track for another huge year. Unfortunately, and untimely injury submarined the heart of his season and he hasn’t hoisted a trophy on the PGA TOUR since. Expect him to try and remedy that on a track that absolutely fits his eye. His 21-under final tally last year was seven clear of second and a tournament record.
Quail Hollow Club is a par-72 layout of 7,575 yards. It features the expected dose of four par 5s, four par 3s and 10 par 4s. It is known for the Green Mile, which is the difficult closing stretch of the par-4 16th, par-3 17th and par-4 18th. Those holes traditionally play among the toughest three-hole stretches on the PGA TOUR.
While the course, which will also host the 2017 PGA Championship, offers plenty of meat in terms of yardage and a fair share of difficult holes, scoring opportunities do exist. There are two par 4s that are on the verge of being reached off the tee. They are the eighth and 14th holes. On top of that, each par 5 is reachable for the longest hitters, and several are reachable for virtually everyone with a solid drive.
The Stats Say
Quite simply, distance matters. When four of the last five winners are Rory McIlroy (twice), J.B. Holmes, Rickie Fowler and Lucas Glover, it becomes obvious that pounding drives where they can be found is a big factor. Because the par 5s are gettable, it’s imperative to take advantage of those opportunities. Ball-striking probably takes precedent over putting, so strokes gained: tee-to-green is worth a look. As always, par 4 scoring average is never a bad metric to consider.
In addition to the stats, we’ve taken a look at course history and current form in an effort to submit this week’s power ranking.
Off we go!
1. Rory McIlroy – Unquestionable leadoff batter, McIlroy has two wins, a runner-up and five total top 10s in six trips. He has to be licking his chops not only this week, but also with the 2017 PGA Championship sitting seven majors away. Dude won by seven last year, so he can bring this to its knees if he’s on. If you need a stat, he is first in par 5 scoring average.
2. Phil Mickelson – It’s amazing he’s never won at Quail Hollow considering he’s made all 11 cuts and nabbed five top fives. He’s missed his last two cuts leading into this week, but that really shouldn’t matter for the veteran at this ballpark.
3. Rickie Fowler – A lot has happened, all good, for Fowler since winning here in a 2012 playoff over McIlroy and D.A. Points. He continues to battle being a bit inconsistent, but even that is getting more palatable for gamers. In addition to his win, he has another top 10 in his five-for-five resume at Quail Hollow and sloshed his way to a T20 in New Orleans earlier this week. Ranks inside the top six in par 5 scoring and SG:TTG.
4. Adam Scott – This one is more complicated than the first three. For starters, he’s missed his last three cuts at Quail Hollow after finding success on his first four trips. He’s also cooled considerably after racking up back-to-back wins earlier in 2016. Ranks first in par 5 scoring average, second in SG:TTG and 13th in driving distance, so the stats are tasty.
5. Justin Rose – Laid an egg in New Orleans as the defending champ last week, which muddies the waters this week in Charlotte. The stats check out, ranking inside the top 20 in all the main metrics for Quail Hollow. He also has a top five as recently as 2014 here, but has missed a couple of cuts in six tries as well.
6. Bill Haas – Steady performer in 2016, Haas is quite familiar with Quail Hollow and has amassed two top-five finishes over his 11 attempts. He’s made his last five cuts entering this week, which includes a P2 in Tampa and two other top-15 finishes. He’s a safe play.
7. Hideki Matsuyama – Course horses may miss that he’s slowly trending up here, posting a T20 in 2015 after a T38 in 2014. Current form players will recognize his pair of top 10s in his last three PGA TOUR starts. The stats work, although they are not great. Simply put, he’s close to checking all three boxes in a big way, but could also be overlooked.
8. Kevin Chappell – He’s going to get that breakthrough win somewhere, and probably sometime soon. He’s made four of his five cuts at Quail Hollow, including back-to-back top 20s and enters on the heels of back-to-back top 10s.
9. Ryan Moore – One has to look past his horrible statistical fit here, and focus on current form and course history. He’s made his last five cuts at Quail Hollow, with two top 10s and a third top 20. He’s also logged a pair of top-five finishes in his last four PGA TOUR starts.
10. Byeong-Hun An – Expect him to be a sexy play after his P2 in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Monday, but he is a fit anyway. He’s long enough, the stats work, and he’s playing well.
11. J.B. Holmes – Past champ has his share of misses to go along with one other top 10 in the Wells Fargo. The better sign is his current form, with a T4 at the Masters and a T13 in the Valero Texas Open in the bag. Everyone knows he has length to burn.
12. Jamie Lovemark – Probably should have been last week’s winner, but couldn’t buy a birdie on the par-5 18th. His recent form suggests that it’s safe to ignore his two missed cuts in as many trips to Quail Hollow in most formats.
13. Patrick Rodgers – May not be accurate to say that he burst onto the scene with his T2 here last year, but from a PGA TOUR fantasy standpoint that’s pretty much what happened. He’s been feast-or-famine this year, so expect more of a feast than a drought this week.
14. Lucas Glover – Not only is he a past winner, he also a runner-up and fourth-place finish. He’s quietly making plenty of cuts in 2015-16, but staying safely outside of the top 10. If there is a course where he could pick one off, this is on the short list. A great value for deeper games where making a cut has value.
15. Webb Simpson – Joined Rodgers in the T2 last year and uses Quail Hollow as a home course. It’s all about putting for him, as he’s notably struggled since snapping the belly putter over his knee last winter.
Best of luck to all!