For the second time in five editions, the Wells Fargo Championship will be contested on a course other than its primary so that Quail Hollow Club can continue preparing for another premier event. In 2017, Quail Hollow was the host of the PGA Championship. This September, it’ll be the stage for the Presidents Cup.
Pinch-hitting is TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. It hasn’t hosted the Wells Fargo Championship, but it’s not a stranger to the PGA TOUR and its sanctioned circuits.
For analysis of the par 70, what the field of 156 can expect and more, continue reading beneath the ranking of projected contenders.
POWER RANKINGS: WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP
Francesco Molinari, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Draws and Fades.
A thorough history of the role that TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm has played for the PGA TOUR can be read in “Five Things to Know”. It’s experienced a variety of changes, and that’s an understatement.
After its position as an annual par 71 for the old Kemper Open and its subsequent iterations into 2006, it underwent a full-scale renovation in 2007. That included a revision of overall par to 70. The PGA TOUR Champions made a stop in 2010, and then the Korn Ferry Tour descended twice in an eight-month period stretching in 2013. All who showed were challenged by what was a new, fresh examination.
The course returned to the PGA TOUR to host the last two editions of the Quicken Loans National in 2017 and 2018. With a scoring average of 71.458 in the former, it was the hardest par 70 in a non-major that season. Scoring eased to 69.894 the following year when Francesco Molinari was the kind of zone that would make present-day Scottie Scheffler seem like he’s misfiring. (Molinari is committed this week; Scheffler is resting.)
Both previous contests were in late June. In 2018, moderate winds gave way to calm, hot air by the final round. No such conditions this week with springtime weather in the mid-Atlantic. (TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm is about 10 miles northwest of Washington, D.C.) With the threat of rain on Friday and Saturday, daytime highs will drop from the mid-70s to potentially no higher than 60 degrees by the weekend. Winds also will freshen.
After 2018, the par-5 second and 10th holes were extended by a respective 22 and 31 yards. Now tipping at 641 and 591 yards, respectively, TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm maxes out at 7,160. Bentgrass greens average just 4,265 square feet, and they’ll be ready to run 12½ feet on the Stimpmeter, weather pending.
As of Monday afternoon, 44 of this week’s entrants were here in 2017. Of them, 26 returned in 2018 from which there is a total of 51 back this week. Just as it was for them a few years ago, the pair of par 5s will not be a reliable source of par breakers.
Overall, for a course with small greens, the challenge to salvage par is multiplied by the combination of fescue and bluegrass rough, the longest of which is trimmed to 2½ inches, but there’s an intermediate cut that’s 1¼ inches high. Although greens are not entirely foreign, they’re relatively unfamiliar with the passage of time, so, just as Molinari showcased during his incredible display en route to an eight-stroke victory four years ago, the premiums to eliminate the big numbers are equal parts splitting fairways and hitting greens in regulation.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.