OK, Viktor Hovland, you win.
If you’ve missed it, I’ve advised against the 23-year-old multiple times in recent weeks – in my contributions to GolfBet, on The Action Network app and in other places. That’ll teach me for listening to him, or at least buying into his rhetoric.
It was on Sunday, Feb. 21, when he said the following about The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida, site of his co-runner-up finish to Collin Morikawa: “To be honest, I wasn’t really much of a fan when I played the practice round here, not a really big fan of Florida golf courses.”
I stopped in my tracks. Wait, what? A touring professional, albeit very new to the lifestyle and how what you say could hurt you, admits that he doesn’t like a certain type of course?
I should have realized that it’s hardly the first time that we’ve consumed such self-assessment. Many notable short hitters especially have waxed honestly about how they can’t compete in the biggest ballparks. However, Hovland isn’t short of the tee. I was transfixed because we’re still learning who he is, and he tossed out a hunk of chum, and I feel like a chump for taking that bait, although it took a minute.
Hovland went on to score well in his opening two rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard before fading on the weekend. He then missed the cut at THE PLAYERS Championship. While the latter isn’t surprising because TPC Sawgrass is a disruptor, it seemed that he was right. After all, that was his first MC since The Honda Classic – also in Florida(!) – just over a year prior.
Then came the Valspar Championship not far from Bradenton in Palm Harbor (just north of Tampa). He put four rounds together on a tough course and punctuated a T3 with a field-low 65 on Sunday.
This just goes to show that Hovland isn’t dissimilar to many of the younger stars on the PGA TOUR who have been candid about any number of matters that they find challenging, both inside and outside the ropes. Then again, the aforementioned quote is but the first half of the excerpt from his post-round presser. Now read its entirety for full context: “To be honest, I wasn’t really much of a fan when I played the practice round here, not a really big fan of Florida golf courses, but every single round I liked this course a lot better. It’s just a good course.”
Absent tone, facial expressions and other factors that may have led me to dismiss the notion that he acknowledged a lack of confidence and affinity for stops in the Sunshine State, I latched onto what looked – looked – like a valuable nugget.
However, it’s not like I don’t ignore rhetoric regularly, but that’s usually when a golfer speaks highly of his health, course fit or anything otherwise positive about the near future. In those instance, let the evidence speak for him, I say.
What I learned is that there isn’t enough of that in reverse for a shiny new toy like Hovland, and it’s my duty to convey it to you. Note that I made room for him in my lineup in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Wells Fargo Championship (in alphabetical order):
Bryson DeChambeau (+1400)
Viktor Hovland (+2000)
Rory McIlroy (+2000)
Jon Rahm (+1000)
Webb Simpson (+2200)
Will Zalatoris (+2800)
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Tony Finau; Brian Harman; Max Homa; Sungjae Im; Joaquin Niemann; Patrick Reed; Xander Schauffele; Justin Suh; Justin Thomas; Cameron Tringale
Driving: Keegan Bradley; Corey Conners; Emiliano Grillo; Sungjae Im; Matthew NeSmith; Joaquin Niemann; Xander Schauffele; Brendan Steele; Cameron Tringale
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Stewart Cink (+6600) … More like the Power Rankings Plus. Two weeks removed since his convincing victory at Harbour Town – his third on that track – he presents similarly strong for Quail Hollow with five consecutive paydays dating back to 2011. The first four were top 25s. And prior to his win in mid-April, he finished T19 at PGA National and T12 at Augusta National, so he’s back on form, obviously. Sits second on TOUR in greens in regulation and first in par-3 scoring..
Patrick Reed (+3000) … For all his success, he’s one of the most unpredictable talents on the board. He looked good at PGA WEST and at Bay Hill and at Copperhead, but he missed the cut at each site this year. That can’t happen at Quail Hollow, right?! He’s 7-for-7 here with co-runner-up at the 2017 PGA Championship and a solo eighth in the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship. Of course, don’t sleep on the fact that he’s not in the Power Rankings.
Joaquin Niemann (+3300) … Came through on the promise as the top Draw for the Valspar Championship and finished T8. As he cycles through the stops in his third full season on the PGA TOUR, he’s eliminated the weakness of inexperience while fortifying his arsenal. Currently 12th in the all-around ranking and inside the top 15 in par-3, par-4 and par-5 scoring.
Brian Harman (+4000) … He won the only edition of the WFC at Eagle Point in 2017, but his record at Quail Hollow is solid. Including a T13 at the 2017 PGA Championship, he’s 7-for-8 with a three top 25s. The lefty also has been on fire of late thanks to his go-to one-two punch of splitting fairways and sinking putts.
Emiliano Grillo (+6600)… Let’s try this again. One bad round to miss the cut on the number at Copperhead stung, but it still was only one bad round. He’s been firing on all cylinders more often than not throughout 2021 and he finished T9 in his last trip to Quail Hollow in 2018. Turn the page and reinvest.
Patrick Cantlay (+2800) … If I were to state a case for a second Wild Card, he’d be it. In his only prior appearance at Quail Hollow, he finished T33 at the 2017 PGA Championship, but the greater focus is on his recent scuffles. Sprinkled amid three missed cuts in individual competition, he finished T18 at the Match Play (meaning he didn’t survive the Group Stage) and he tied for 11th with teammate Xander Schauffele in New Orleans. Perhaps that’ll be the bump he needs because his class still is permanent.
Francesco Molinari (+10000) … Picking his spots but he’s been quiet since a T8 at Riviera two-and-a-half months ago. Quail Hollow is perfect for his skill set, at least when it’s activated, which is to say that it’s been inconsistent since returning to competition after his relocation to California in 2020. Still, with a T2 at the 2017 PGA Championship and a pair of top 20s in as many starts on the course for the WFC, grab him on the upswing.
Brendan Steele (+10000) … His strong tee-to-green game projects to get the job done, and it wouldn’t be the first time at Quail Hollow. In the Wells Fargo, he’s 6-for-7 with a pair of top 15s. Also strides in having connected for a payday in all 10 starts in 2021. Most recently, he went for a T3 at PGA National and partnered with red-hot Keegan Bradley for a T4 at TPC Louisiana.
Jason Day (+5000) … Given where I’ve slotted him among this group, you can get a visual sense for my confidence. I’m tiptoeing to the window because he’s the 2018 Wells Fargo champion who also finished T9 on the course for the 2017 PGA Championship. The 33-year-old Aussie hasn’t fulfilled elevated expectations for some time but he tends to play up to them than the alternative. Impossibly expensive in DFS but he’ll give it a run on the weekend for a top 30, say.
Kyle Stanley (+15000) … The 33-year-old Clemson product is comfortable in Charlotte. He was a Sleeper for the 2018 edition and delivered a T13. Responded with a T8 in 2019. Now doing his thing with the irons to be positioned 100th in the FedExCup and regain status north of the reshuffle next season.
Odds sourced on Tuesday, May 4 at 5 a.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.
Rickie Fowler (+6600) … Separating from life inside the ropes for a month can’t hurt but we’ve experienced this narrative before; that is, be careful to expect him to reconnect on a track where he’s experienced success. His history at Quail Hollow is phenomenal. It includes a breakthrough win in 2012 and four other top-six finishes, including a T5 at the 2017 PGA Championship, but he’s never been more distanced from those good times than today. So, continue observe only.
Bubba Watson (+5000) … He finished second at Quail Hollow in 2009, but the lefty presents as a trap this week because his form upon arrival is terrific. Missed the cut in his last Wells Fargo Championship in 2013, as well as in the 2017 PGA Championship. If you nibble, do so fractionally and with an aggressive lineup in DFS. Pave your own lane.
Matt Jones (+8000) … This is relative. The recent winner of The Honda Classic is 5-for-8 at Quail Hollow but without a top 25 since 2011. As he proved at PGA National, he’ll pop for something special every now and then, but stick with longer-term formats to collect all of his value. In a perfect world, he’s the guy you take in a middle or late round when you need an elevated floor who won’t keep you up nights.
Joel Dahmen (+8000) … The breakthrough champion at Corales has just that singular top-55 finish among only three paydays in 10 starts in 2021, so that will tantalize course-history buffs who can’t ignore a T16 and a solo second in the last two editions of the WFC, respectively.
Phil Mickelson (+12500) … We know how much he loves Quail Hollow. Why wouldn’t he? He’s second in all-time earnings on the course without the benefit of a victory. However, he missed his first cut in this tournament in his last trip in 2019. He also MC’d in the 2017 PGA Championship. And, of course, his success since turning 50 in 2020 has been limited almost exclusively to the PGA TOUR Champions.
Mackenzie Hughes (+20000) … He’s 64th in the FedExCup but he’s gone eight starts in individual competition without a top 30. I’m willing to ignore an unfavorable track record in favor of the value of that experience and how he’s a better golfer today, but I can’t get off the recent form on tough tracks.
Harold Varner III (+6600) … The East Carolina product and recent co-runner-up at Harbour Town is just 2-for-4 with one top 50 (T24, 2016) at Quail Hollow.
D.A. Points (+100000) … You didn’t need my approval not to invest but I’ve turned the spotlight to him because he’ll be exhausting his Major Medical Extension this week. To fulfill its terms, he’d need to win, so the medical is superfluous from that perspective. However, a solo second (worth 300 FedExCup points) would secure conditional status for the remainder of the season. He needs 262.456 points to achieve that. And hey, who knows. He was a playoff victim at Quail Hollow when Rickie Fowler broke through for the first time in 2012. Still, this very well could be Points’ last-ever start with fully exempt status on the PGA TOUR. He’s 44 years of age and he’s qualified for the Playoffs just once in the last seven seasons. He and I never have met, but as a fellow native of Illinois, I associate the arc of my connection to the PGA TOUR and fantasy with his as a notable golfer. It was right around when I started playing fantasy golf in 1994 when I’d see his name regularly atop the leaderboards in the agate of newspapers. (Remember newspapers?) No matter what happens in his 366th career start this week, Points won’t be forgotten as one of the most successful Illinoisians in PGA TOUR history. He’s won three times, finished second twice and totaled 19 top 10s among 168 cuts made.
Erik van Rooyen
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Brice Garnett … Forced to sit out the Valspar Championship after testing positive for COVID-19. Had finished T11 in New Orleans with Scott Stallings. Garnett has hung up his best results in non-standard events. In fact, he doesn’t have any top 20s in stand-alone individual competition all season, so he’s 114th in the FedExCup. That’s good news for his long-term investors who need starts. He’s not long off the tee, so that will dissuade gamers at Quail Hollow, but his precision on approach and confidence around and on greens elevate him into a position as calculated flier.
Sepp Straka … Also sat out the Valspar Championship due to COVID-19. He and Josh Teater teamed for a T29 in NOLA the week prior. Straka is 90th in the FedExCup. He arrives for his second start at Quail Hollow (MC, 2019) with five consecutive cuts made. Hits it longer than average and his irons are equal to pay off good drives, so consider him as a short-lister in DFS.
Will Gordon … He’s back in action since withdrawing early from the Valspar, also because of a positive test for COVID-19. He and Michael Thompson missed the cut at the Zurich. Gordon needs to get going so as not to waste his first year as a PGA TOUR member. Just 153rd in the FedExCup with one top 25 in 20 starts.
Tyler McCumber … Hasn’t pegged it anywhere since a T18 at Corales in late March, but nothing has surfaced to explain why. He withdrew early from the RBC Heritage and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and still sits a comfortable 63rd in the FedExCup. This will be his Quail Hollow debut.
Seamus Power … First sanctioned start since returning from a positive test for COVID-19. For more on him, open Sleepers
Brendon Todd … Tested positive for COVID-19. The good news is that he should be clear for the PGA Championship. Just 92nd in the FedExCup, his luster is fading but he leads the PGA TOUR in fairways hit and ranks fifth in Strokes Gained: Putting. It’s still too soon for salary gamers to hold their breath for a continuation of form so that he’s on sale in 2021-22, but now that we’re into May, it’s a dynamic to fantasy that will emerge by the time we exit the month.
Camilo Villegas … Hasn’t seen Quail Hollow in five years but gamers would have nibbled given recent form. Since a T8 at The Honda Classic where he locked up conditional status for the remainder of the season on what was his final start on a Major Medical Extension, he’s added a trio of top 25s. Currently 94th in the FedExCup, so he’s earned some control over his schedule.
Charles Howell III … Father Time is gaining on the 41-year-old, but he’s still a reliable complement for full-season rosters. Slots 103rd in the FedExCup.
Jim Herman … Since winning the Wyndham Championship last August, he’s 7-for-17 and without a top 25. Three of those paydays occurred in events with no cut. Sits 188th in the FedExCup.
Davis Love III … Since turning 50 in 2014, Quail Hollow has beaten him up, so this is a calculated decision not to play if that’s the only reason. He’s 0-for-4 on the PGA TOUR this season and struggling on the PGA TOUR Champions.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – Valspar Championship
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Corey Conners T21
2 Paul Casey T21
3 Justin Thomas T13
4 Justin Rose MC
5 Dustin Johnson T48
6 Patrick Reed MC
7 Louis Oosthuizen T8
8 Jason Kokrak T13
9 Charley Hoffman T18
10 Tyrrell Hatton DNP
11 Ryan Palmer T63
12 Scottie Scheffler T29
13 Viktor Hovland T3
14 Charl Schwartzel T21
15 Keegan Bradley 2nd
Wild Card Russell Henley MC
SLEEPERS RECAP – Valspar Championship
Emiliano Grillo MC
Patton Kizzire T60
Keith Mitchell 69th
Adam Schenk T18
Erik van Rooyen MC
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
May 4 … Rory McIlroy (32)
May 5 … Cameron Percy (47)
May 6 … none
May 7 … none
May 8 … Andres Romero (40); Chris Kirk (36)
May 9 … none
May 10 … Parker McLachlin (42)
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