The First Look: Wells Fargo Championship
April 27, 2018
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- April 27, 2018
- Tiger Woods is back in the field at the Wells Fargo Championship next week. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
FedExCup titleholder Justin Thomas returns to the site of last summer’s PGA Championship triumph, headlining a strong field at Quail Hollow Club in the final event before attention turns to THE PLAYERS Championship.
Two-time Wells Fargo champion Rory McIlroy and fellow winners Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods are set to play their first competitive rounds since the Masters. For Woods, it marks his first visit to Quail Hollow since 2012.
FIELD NOTES: Newly crowned Masters champion Patrick Reed is back with hopes of building on major momentum – not only from Augusta but his share of runner-up honors at last year’s PGA. … Reigning U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka also tees it up for the second consecutive week after three months off to rest a wrist ailment. … In all, the lineup boasts nine of the top 15 in the world rankings and 14 of the top 25. … Chilean teen Joaquin Niemann, whose first professional start saw him place sixth at the Valero Texas Open, makes his second at Quail Hollow. Though the former world amateur No.1 already had a sponsor invite, he can pocket it for later by virtue of his top-10 finish. … Two entrants have yet to miss a Wells Fargo Championship start – J.J. Henry and Rory Sabbatini.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
STORYLINES: Though Thomas isn’t defending champion – Brian Harman is – he’s the last man to win at Quail Hollow when five birdies in his final 12 PGA Championship holes proved enough for victory. He also tied for seventh at the 2015 Wells Fargo. … Woods makes his seventh start of 2018, coming off a share of 32nd at Augusta National. After finishing no worse than 11th in his first four visits to Quail Hollow – including a 2007 win – he’s missed the cut in his past two visits. … Phil Mickelson once again seeks his first Wells Fargo victory, despite 11 top-12 finishes in 14 previous visits. Last year, he placed 18th. … Since the tournament began in 2003, Lucas Glover (2011) is the only man to post all four rounds in the 60s. Last year at Eagle Point GC, no one had more than two sub-70 rounds. … Five of the past eight defending champs have not been around on Sunday, and only McIlroy – fourth in 2016 – has followed up with a top-25 finish.
COURSE: Quail Hollow Club, 7,554 yards, par 71. Back in its usual spring slot after a one-year hiatus to host the PGA, Quail Hollow comes back with even more bite than before. With upgrades from Tom Fazio that included three redesigned holes, Quail Hollow took the top spot among 2017’s toughest courses and it wasn’t even close – more than a half-shot tougher than No. 2 Augusta National. Originally laid out by George Cobb in 1961, the course already was known for its “Green Mile” closing stretch annually deemed among the toughest on TOUR. Quail Hollow was the original site of the Kemper Open (1969-79) and later the World Seniors Invitational (1980-89) before Fazio was brought in to get the course ready for the TOUR’s 2003 return.
72-HOLE RECORD: 267, Rory McIlroy (2015).
18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Rory McIlroy (3rd round, 2015).
LAST YEAR: Harman made up for a poor chip by curling home a 28-foot birdie putt at Eagle Point’s final hole, capturing a one-shot triumph over Dustin Johnson and Pat Perez. It capped a birdie/birdie finish for Harman, though things didn’t look so optimistic after his attempt to hit the par-5 final green in two went long and left – followed by a chip that just snuck onto the putting surface. The putter saved him, though, watching the ball steam into the hole for a hard-way birdie. When Jon Rahm failed to chip in for eagle moments later, Harman had his second PGA TOUR victory. Johnson was seeking to win his first start since a slip-and-fall mishap forced him to withdraw from the Masters, draining a 15-foot birdie at No. 18 to draw even with Perez. Rahm was alone in fourth, two shots back.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:45 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
PGA TOUR LIVE: Thursday-Friday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (featured groups), 3-6 p.m. (featured holes).
RADIO: Thursday-Friday, noon-6 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-6 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com).