The First Look: Wells Fargo Championship
April 26, 2019
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- April 26, 2019
- Jason Day is the defending champion at the Wells Fargo Championship. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
THE PLAYERS Championship titleholder Rory McIlroy, the only man with two victories at Quail Hollow Club, makes his first start since Augusta as a traditionally strong field returns to Charlotte to begin the final push before the PGA Championship.
Reigning FedExCup champion Justin Rose is back after a two-year hiatus, having placed third in his last visit in 2016. Jason Day is the defending champion, seeking to become the event’s first back-to-back winner and join McIlroy as the only multiple winner.
FIELD NOTES: All told, the lineup boasts 14 of the top 30 in the current FedExCup rankings. … Phil Mickelson is back for his 16th visit in 17 editions, still seeking an elusive first Quail Hollow win. He owns 12 top-12 finishes in the event, including a share of fifth last year. … Though Tiger Woods elected to bypass Quail Hollow this year, the lineup features his three predecessors as Masters champion: Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Danny Willett. … Zack Sucher, sidelined 19 months in 2017-18 by an unspecified injury, will attempt his first TOUR start since the 2017 Travelers Championship. He’s made six starts this year on the Web.com Tour. … Two men are set to keep perfect Wells Fargo Championship attendance – Rory Sabbatini and J.J. Henry.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
STORYLINES: McIlroy returns to a place where he has finished outside the top 10 just twice in eight visits, though one was last year’s tie for 16th. He won in 2010 with a final-round 62, then again in 2015 with a Saturday 61. … Webb Simpson, whose home lies minutes from Quail Hollow, seeks to reverse his current fortune on home turf. He’s missed the past two Wells Fargo cuts, though he also has a pair of top-5 finishes in his back yard. … Day’s victory last year marked just the second time since the tournament began in 2003 that anyone has posted four rounds in the 60s. Lucas Glover was the first, doing so in 2011. … Just one of the past nine defending champions has managed a top-25 finish, when McIlroy took fourth in 2016. Five of those nine never made it to Sunday.
COURSE: Quail Hollow Club, 7,554 yards, par 71. Now a perennial top-10 entry among the PGA TOUR’s toughest courses, Quail Hollow hosts its second Wells Fargo edition since a year off to conduct the PGA Championship. The course ranked as the fifth-toughest on TOUR last season, ahead of two major venues (Augusta National and Bellerive). It was an undisputed No.1 after hosting the 2017 PGA, showing its teeth after a Tom Fazio upgrade that included three redesigned holes. Originally laid out by George Cobb in 1961, the course already was known for its “Green Mile” closing stretch which is annually rated 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 the TOUR made its return in 2003.
For those visiting the Charlotte area, must-play courses include Birkdale GC (Huntersville, N.C.), The Tradition GC (Charlotte, N.C.) and Skybrook GC (Huntersville, N.C.). Book your reservations via TeeOff.com.
72-HOLE RECORD: 267, Rory McIlroy (2015).
18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Rory McIlroy (3rd round, 2015).
LAST YEAR: Day rallied from a mediocre start for his second victory of the year, recording a pair of birdies along the vaunted “Green Mile” to rise two shots clear of Nick Watney and rookie Aaron Wise. Day carried a two-shot advantage into the final round, but spun his wheels by playing the first 15 holes in even-par while Wise pulled alongside. A 10-foot birdie at No.16 gave Day sole possession of the lead again, and his tee shot at the 230-yard 17th took four bounces before kissing the flagstick for a kick-in birdie. Day collected his 12th PGA TOUR victory, moving within one of Adam Scott for second all-time among Australian pros. Watney drained a 59-foot birdie at No. 18 to tie for second with Wise, who recorded his best career finish before winning the AT&T Byron Nelson in his next start. Wise went on to qualify for the TOUR Championship and win Rookie of the Year at the age of 22.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 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.-6 p.m. (featured groups). Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (featured groups), 3-6 p.m. (featured holes). International subscribers (via GOLF.tv): Thursday-Friday, 11:00 to 22:00 GMT. Saturday-Sunday, 13:00 to 22:00.