From the most valuable perspective, the Wells Fargo Championship begins the surge toward the FedExCup Playoffs. That perspective is playing time.
Beginning this week and extending through the Wyndham Championship on the first weekend of August, 10 of the 13 remaining non-majors are open events. The two of the 10 that don't reserve space for maximum fields of 156 are additional events that will host 132. In other words, for almost all PGA TOUR members with fully exempt status, and even for many with conditional status or worse, they can count on a full schedule the rest of the way.
Of course, it won't be easy, especially at Quail Hollow Club. In its post-major debut for the rank and file last year, it was the toughest par 71 in a non-major in all of 2017-18. For more on the stern test, how Jason Day scaled to victory and other nuggets, scroll past the ranking.
Among other notables, Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will include Henrik Stenson, J.B. Holmes, Jason Kokrak and 2018 co-runners-up Aaron Wise and Nick Watney.
Even as a par 72 since the inaugural edition of the Wells Fargo Championship in 2003, Quail Hollow challenged fiercely, so when Tom Fazio set it up to play as a par 71 for the 2017 PGA Championship, it came as no surprise that it established all kinds of new standards in difficulty in recent decades.
After Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, North Carolina, pinch-hit as host of the 2017 WFC, Quail Hollow returned to the standard PGA TOUR lineup last year. The field averaged 1.132 strokes over par, the most on the track since 2007 (+1.280).
Because it can stretch to 7,554 yards, the ability to move it off the tee will define the champion. At least in part. Quail Hollow is an equal-opportunity experience. Even though Day ranked ninth in distance of all drives a year ago with an average of 316.3 yards, almost 15 yards longer than the field average, he split fewer than half of his fairways and averaged just 10.25 greens in regulation per round to rank T69. The Aussie also finished a distant 59th in proximity to the hole on the 6,578-square-foot targets.
Instead, true to his vintage, Day excelled with his short game. With only four whiffs inside 10 feet, he ranked second in conversion percentage in that range, strokes gained: putting and scrambling. Customary for winners who don't stand over many par breakers with a putter but still capitalize, Day led the field in putts per GIR and co-led in putting: birdies-or-better.
Overseeded primary rough allowed to extend to two-and-a-half inches in places won't dissuade decisions to swing drivers. As Day proved, finding the shortest grass isn't a prerequisite. In fact, of the 12 who finished inside the top 10 on last year's leaderboard, eight ranked outside the top 30 in driving accuracy.
Still, there's nowhere to hide at Quail Hollow and there should be zero expectation to slingshot into the lead on the final three holes known as The Green Mile. Collectively, this par 4-3-4 finish averaged 0.864 strokes over par last year. That was one-fifth of a stroke lower than how it played for the PGA Championship a year prior.
Each hole of The Green Mile ranked inside the top 50 of all holes all season on the PGA TOUR. Fittingly, Day set a new mark for winners of the tournament. Not only did he go 3-under on the trio for the week – lowest of any champion – he also went bogey-free.
With inclement weather forecast, it's possible that the Champion bermudagrass greens won't touch the intended 12 feet on the Stimpmeter, but anything is possible in this part of the country at this time of year. Daytime highs will eclipse 80 degrees and the wind might kick up a bit, but it won't play a role often in club selection.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Champions One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesdays.