Horses for Courses: Wells Fargo Championship
April 30, 2019
By Mike Glasscott, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
Wells Fargo Championship preview
The Quail Hollow Club outside of Charlotte will host this event for the 16th time in 17 years. The lone exception was the 2017 edition that was played in Wilmington, N.C., at Eagle Point as Quail Hollow Club prepared to host the 2017 PGA Championship.
The Tom Fazio design's renovation saw the first five holes change dramatically, including the elimination of a slam-dunk birdie Par-5 hole, plus a change of grass (G12 Champion Bermudagrass) on the greens. Last year was the first TOUR event after the changes and not much was different: Quail Hollow is still extremely difficult. Laying out at 7,554 yards with "The Green Mile" to close, it's not surprising to learn it played the most difficult track on TOUR in 2017 and No. 5 most difficult last season.
A field of 156 will try and knock-off defending champion Jason Day to claim $1.422 million and 500 FedExCup points from the purse of $7.9 million. It's back to regular stroke play this week and the top 70 and ties will advance to navigate "The Green Mile" and Mother Nature, it looks, on the weekend. Better be able to knock it this week!
Jason Day (2018, -12): The powerful Aussie has never wowed gamers with his acumen tee-to-green but his short game is nothing short of legendary. It was on full display last year as he led the field in Strokes-Gained: Around-the-Green and was second in scrambling and Strokes-Gained: Putting.
Notables: First year for Par-71 saw only three players hit double-digits under-par as first-timer Aaron Wise (-10) and veteran Nick Watney (-10) shared second. ... Day was T9 at the 2017 PGA Championship, his first attempt at Quail Hollow Club since 2012. ... He's just the second winner to put all four rounds in the 60s, joining 2011 champ Lucas Glover in this exclusive club. ... Peter Malnati led after 36 holes before 75-74 weekend. ... Peter Uihlein fired the low round of the week, 62, on Saturday. ... Peter Jacobsen could not be reached for comment.
Justin Thomas (2017 PGA Championship, -8): The first-time major champ was the only player to post three rounds in the 60s for the week. ... Thomas (not playing this week) was solid thru the bag but it was his Stroked-Gained: Putting (4th) and birdie-or-better conversion percentage (T3) that stood out. ... Kevin Kisner (not playing) led by one after 54 holes over Hideki Matsuyama (playing) and Chris Stroud (playing).
Notables: Only 12 players broke par for the week. ... Matsuyama shared the lowest round of the week with 64 in Round 2.
James Hahn (2016, -9): Defeated Roberto Castro in a playoff as 54-hole leader and 2012 champion Rickie Fowler couldn't close the deal. ... Hahn is not playing this week due to injury. ... Only eight players made less than 10 bogeys for the week. ... Final edition on Mini-Verde Bermudagrass.
Notables: 2012 champion Rickie Fowler (T4) couldn't make his two-shot lead over 54 holes stand up. ... Justin Rose (3rd) led the field in Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green while Phil Mickelson (T4) led the field in Strokes-Gained: Putting. ... Hahn's other TOUR victory was at a very demanding, wet Riviera track.
Rory McIlroy (2015, -21): The 2010 champion posted the course record 61 in Round 3 en route to setting the tournament record of 21-under 267. His margin of victory, seven strokes, was also a record, as were his 27 birdies to become the first and only multiple champions.
Notables: Patrick Rodgers and Webb Simpson are the footnotes that finished seven strokes behind tied for second. ... The weather was PERFECT and the top 27 players only posted 10 rounds above par FOR THE WEEK.
KEY STAT LEADERS
Golfers around the top 25 in each statistic on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week. This is the 28th event of the season.
* - Top 10 finish since 2010; noted finishes in parentheses
Driving Distance (all drives)
1 Cameron Champ (first appearance)
2 *Luke List (T9 2018)
3 *Rory McIlroy
4 Wyndham Clark (first appearance)
6 Ollie Schniederjans
7 Tony Finau (T16 is best)
9 *Gary Woodland (T4 2015)
11 Seth Reeves
13 Byeong-Hun An
15 *Hideki Matsuyama (T5 PGA 2017)
18 Sam Burns
20 Trey Mullinax
23 Jhonattan Vegas
24 *Aaron Wise
24 *Justin Rose
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
1 *Rory McIlroy
2 *Hideki Matsuyama
5 Byeong-Hun An
6 *Gary Woodland
11 *Paul Casey (T5 2018)
14 *Luke List
15 Jason Kokrak
16 *Lucas Glover
17 Keegan Bradley
19 Sungjae Im (first appearance)
20 *Webb Simpson
23 Sergio Garcia (first appearance since 2013)
24 *Justin Rose
1 Dominic Bozzelli
2 *Pat Perez (T6 2011)
3 Martin Piller
4 *Jason Day
5 Denny McCarthy
7 *Rickie Fowler
11 *Vaughn Taylor
12 Wyndham Clark
15 Michael Thompson
15 Peter Malnati
17 *Charles Howell III
18 Julian Etulain
19 Scott Langley
23 Nate Lashley
24 Sam Burns
2 *Lucas Glover
3 *Webb Simpson
4 *Jon Byrd
6 *Hideki Matsuyama
8 Denny McCarthy
10 Ryan Armour
15 Michael Thompson
19 Anirban Lahiri
19 J.T. Poston
21 Jhonattan Vegas
23 Bud Cauley
25 *Justin Rose
LEVELS OF CONFIDENCE
Rory McIlroy: His stroke average is 69.57 and his worst finish in seven weekends was T16 last year. He's held the course record TWICE and he's lost in a playoff.
Growth and Income
Rickie Fowler: The 2012 champ didn't close the 54-hole lead in 2016 as he stumbled to T4 but he's never missed in seven tries with a trio of top-10 paychecks.
Phil Mickelson: You'd think this was the U.S. Open as Mickelson has EIGHT finishes inside the top five from 15 events here. The last four include T11, T4, T4 and T5 last year.
Justin Rose: I think he lost his way to the Queen City! After solo fifth in 2014 he didn't return until 2016 when he cashed solo third, his last visit to WFC.
Sergio Garcia: The Spaniard cashed in seven of eight before not returning after the 2013 edition. The harder the set up, the more I like him.
Lucas Glover: The 2011 champ has had half of his 10 weekends hit the top 10 over his 14 years of visiting including solo eighth in 2016.
Gary Woodland: His run of 12 consecutive rounds of par-or-better at QHC was busted with a 73-74 MC. He's cashed three of his last four T24 or better with T4 in 2015.
Roberto Castro: Plenty of eyes will be on him this week after T8 2014 and P2 2016 plus his near-podium finish with Cameron Tringale at Zurich.
Nick Watney: With three top-10 paychecks in the last six years his ball-striking proves it works here. Now, about his recent form...
Kevin Streelman: A pair of collections in the top 10 highlights just three cuts made in eight visits. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Webb Simpson: This will be his 10th WFC at QHC and he's cashed T38 or better in six weekend attempts.
Johnson Wagner: The last two events at QHC have been his best two with T28 in 2016 and T13 last year.