A super summer of world class golf starts this week at Quail Hollow with the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship. It has only been nine months since the best players in the world teed it up at this course for the 2017 PGA Championship, but a lot has happened in that time.
Rory McIlroy, who has won here twice, is healthy again. Tiger Woods, who has won here once, is healthy again. Rickie Fowler might be one of the five best players in the world. And Justin Thomas is as elite as it gets (OK, maybe that hasn't changed).
Let's take a look at this week's contest.
What: Wells Fargo Championship | Where: Charlotte, North Carolina | When: May 3-6
Field and odds
- Rory McIlroy: 15-2
- Justin Thomas: 9-1
- Rickie Fowler: 12-1
- Jason Day: 20-1
- Patrick Reed: 22-1
- Hideki Matsuyama: 25-1
- Phil Mickelson: 25-1
- Paul Casey: 28-1
- Tiger Woods: 28-1
Field strength: A
That's as strong as the week before a major or the Players (which is next week) is ever going to get.
Three stories to watch
1. How to rate Tiger: I'm not totally sure what to do with Woods this week. The golf course has changed since Woods last played here in 2012 -- heck, it has changed since the PGA Championship nine months ago -- and while Woods has had some success here (four top 11s), he has also missed his past two cuts at this event.
Quail Hollow will be an interesting test for Tiger next week. Woods is ranked 202nd in driving accuracy this season. At last year's PGA, QH ranked as the most difficult course on Tour in the '16-17 season in proximity to the hole from the rough.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) April 26, 2018
And yet we might still be underrating what Woods is doing on the PGA Tour this year. With a new set of clubs in the bag and a month of rest behind him, anything is in play this week for Big Cat, which is exactly why I'm fired up for his seventh tournament of the season.
Tiger Woods is currently the only player on the PGA Tour ranked in the top-10 in both strokes gained around the green and strokes gained putting.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) April 30, 2018
2. Horses for courses: McIlroy, Fowler and Phil Mickelson own this place. They have combined to make 25 of 26 cuts and have three wins among them. McIlroy has six top 10s, Fowler has three and Mickelson has an incredible seven top-five finishes (but no victories). That trio against the rest of the field is a fun wager this week (and it gets even more fun if you throw in Thomas, who won the PGA Championship here last year).
3. The overlooked rook: Joaquinn Niemann made his professional debut a few weeks ago, and it didn't receive a ton of fanfare, even after he finished inside the top 10 and earned a spot at Quail Hollow this week. I can promise that if he grabs another top 10 at the Wells Fargo Championship, it won't go overlooked. The 19-year-old Chilean might be a star (or superstar), and he's certainly not short on confidence. I'm excited to see how round two on the PGA Tour goes.
"I'm playing golf in beautiful golf courses, enjoying every moment I'm here on the course," Niemann said on Tuesday. "These guys are really, really good. So being here is really nice and it helps a lot my game to grow up."
- 2017: Brian Harman
- 2016: James Hahn
- 2015: Rory McIlroy
- 2014: J.B. Holmes
- 2013: Derek Ernst
That Ernst win is still one of my favorites ever.
This marks 5 years since 1 of the most unpredictable outcomes in PGAT history, when Derek Ernst beat David Lynn in a playoff on Quail Hollow greens so bad Sergio opted to chip one from 4 feet. W remains Ernst’s lone top-10 in 101 starts. Lynn retired from pro golf the next year. pic.twitter.com/11U0e6sgAY— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) April 30, 2018
Wells Fargo Championship picks
|Winner: Fowler won here in 2012, finished T5 at last year's PGA Championship on this course and T4 in 2016. By my count, three of his past four outings on this course have been top-five finishes. I'm mildly concerned about such a long post-Masters layoff but not enough to not pick him. Odds: 12-1
|Top 10: I almost feel bad about this. Healthy Rory on this course is absolute fire. He has five straight top 10s at Quail Hollow (excluding the PGA Championship last year when he was injured), and one of those was a seven-stroke win over Patrick Rodgers and Webb Simpson in which he set the course record. Odds: 15-2
|Sleeper: Hey, look who has six top 10s this season and has already made over $2 million. Hadley has also finished in the top 20 in each of his past two Wells Fargo Championships. Love the number, too. Odds: 40-1
|Tiger watch: That feels like a strange number for somebody who is currently No. 6 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained overall. He hasn't played this course since 2012, and he has a fickle history -- four top 11s and two missed cuts in six appearances. Based on his history at this course and his 2018 so far, I have to think he contends if he makes the cut. Odds: 28-1