May 1 2013
Half of the 10 editions of the Wells Fargo Championship have gone to a playoff, so you could run a separate Stats Suggest covering the seven that settled for a tie for second and still walk away with a reasonable opinion of what's worked in regulation. This version of the feature will focus only on the last seven champions, three of whom emerged in sudden death.
Greater Charlotte is a supportive golf community that boasts several PGA TOUR members as residents. Quail Hollow is one of the most popular stops for the touring professionals. Both are contributing factors on some level for why the PGA of America will be hosting the 2017 PGA Championship here, but the course itself has earned it.
Largely known as a layout that caters to ballstrikers that can move it off the tee, the numbers support it to some degree. Of the last seven winners of the Wells Fargo Championship, only Jim Furyk, who defeated Trevor Immelman in a playoff in 2006, didn't rank among the top 25 in distance; Furyk placed 59th. Meanwhile, five cracked the top 25 in fairways hit, including Furyk (third) and Fowler (T2). All but Lucas Glover (T26), who outlasted Jonathan Byrd in a playoff in 2011, finished off their titles inside the top 16 in greens in regulation. Sean O'Hair (2009), Rory McIlroy (2010) and Rickie Fowler (2012) ranked inside the top five in both total driving and greens hit, the two stats that comprise ballstriking.
Five champions cracked the top 10 in strokes gained-putting, but McIlroy is the only from the aforementioned ball-striking trio that populates this list as well. (O'Hair ranked 67th in strokes gained-putting; Fowler was 30th.) None of the winners threatened the top 10 in proximity to the hole, and only Furyk (first) and Anthony Kim (fifth; 2008) sat high in scrambling.
What's interesting, and ultimately somewhat disappointing if you're hoping to learn something unique about the golf course in terms of numbers, six of the seven winners ranked inside the top 10 in both par-4 and par-5 scoring average. This is a trend you'll often see among winners on longer tracks that play to a par of 72. Incidentally, O'Hair is the only winner outside the top 10 in both splits, but just barely at T12 and T11, respectively, and he's the only champion to conclude his week inside the top 10 in par-3 scoring (T10). If these patterns hold again this week, expect a winner with some pop off the tee (for the par 5s) that creates ample birdie opportunities.
One final periodically recurring theme is the youth of recent winners. Kim (22), McIlroy (20) and Fowler (23) claim this tournament as their PGA TOUR breakthrough. Of the seven winners in this week's focus, the average age at the time of their titles is 26.86. Of the golfers in the field, Kevin Chappell (26.82) is nearest that mean. He ranks 21st in total driving, 81st in greens hit, T13 in par-4 scoring average and T91 in par-5 scoring. And while he's just 4-for-11 on the year, he's 81st in FedExCup points and leads the PGA TOUR in final-round scoring average. Chappell is also still chasing his first TOUR victory.