Quick look at the Wells Fargo Championship
May 02, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
2018 Wells Fargo Championship preview
Sam Snead and Tiger Woods are the two winningest golfers in PGA TOUR history. But while Snead cleaned up in North Carolina, posting 10 of his career 82 wins in the state, Woods counts just one win in the Tar Heel State among his 79 victories.
It came in 2007 at Quail Hollow, the Charlotte course he will play again this week at the Wells Fargo Championship. Shooting a final-round 69 that matched the low round of the day – and included a 57-foot eagle putt on the seventh hole -- Woods won by two strokes over Steve Stricker in a season that would eventually end with him winning the inaugural FedExCup.
Woods is making his first start in the event since 2012 and his first start in the golf-rich state since 2015, when he made his only appearance at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro. He’s played just nine times in North Carolina as a TOUR pro. But that 2007 win isn’t the only one in his golfing life.
He was 16 years old when he won the 1992 Insurance Youth Golf Classic at Pinehurst No. 7, leading wire-to-wire in mostly rainy weather to finish with a record nine-stroke victory. At 8 under, he was the only player under par. Oh, and he also won the National Junior Long Drive Championship, with a drive of 281 yards.
His biggest galleries that week consisted of approximately 75 people. Going out on a limb here, but they’ll likely be bigger this week. After all, North Carolina golf fans don’t get to see Tiger that often.
One North Carolina resident who considers himself a “huge fan” of Woods is UNC head basketball coach Roy Williams. Earlier this year, Williams told media members that he gets regular updates on his smartphone whenever Tiger plays.
“Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods, to me, are the guys that I really have a great deal of respect for because they were the best and nobody had better focus, nobody had better work habits and all that,” Williams said. “I’m amazed by those kind of guys.”
Besides his regular TOUR appearances at Quail Hollow and Sedgefield, Woods has been back to play Pinehurst two other times – both at the famed No. 2 course for the U.S. Open. He finished third in 1999 and second (by two strokes to Michael Campbell) in 2005. Woods did not play when Pinehurst No. 2 hosted the U.S. Open in 2014.
Overall, Woods has won PGA TOUR events in 16 states, led by Florida (his current home) at 16 wins, followed by California (his birth state) at 14. North Carolina is one of eight states in which he’s won just once, a list that also includes Arizona, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York and Oklahoma.
Last call for THE PLAYERS
This week’s event is the last chance for golfers to qualify for the PGA TOUR’s signature event, THE PLAYERS Championship. For those not already qualified, there are two ways to get in: a) Win at Quail Hollow or b) Move inside the top 10 in the FedExCup standings.
Among those players in the Wells Fargo field who are still seeking a spot at TPC Sawgrass are Beau Hossler, ranked 35th in FedExCup points; veterans Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell and two-time PLAYERS champ Davis Love III; and North Florida resident Sam Saunders.
THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER
His last visit to Quail Hollow went fairly well, didn’t it? Expect the course to play a little different than it did in August.
Quail Hollow and TPC Boston are the only two courses on TOUR in which McIlroy has posted multiple wins.
He’s made 25 starts since his last TOUR win and has four runner-up finishes – including his last start at the Masters.
At the end of the “Green Mile” – the final three holes at Quail Hollow that rank as the toughest three-hole finishing stretch on the PGA TOUR – is the 493-yard par-4 18th. Two years ago when the course last hosted a regular TOUR event, the 18th played to a stroke average of 4.481, making it the most difficult closing hole in golf. A creek runs down the left side of the fairway, and the uphill approach is to a green guarded by hazards on both sides. If you need a birdie here to win … well, good luck with that.
Quail Hollow Club - Hole No. 18
THE LANDING ZONE
The 345-yard 14th is a drivable par 4 but thanks to water down the left side as well as some well-placed bunkers, the hole still plays above par. In 2016, it played to a stroke average of 4.002. Two eagles and 110 birdies were recorded against 58 bogeys, 24 doubles and three others. Just under half the field on the weekend in 2016 attempted to drive the green, so there are many options in play. Here’s a look at where all tee shots landed in 2016 when Quail Hollow last hosted the Wells Fargo Championship.
From PGA TOUR meteorologist Wade Stettner: “High pressure will remain across the Carolinas through Friday, resulting in dry weather and above normal temperatures in the middle to upper 80s. A front will approach from the west this weekend and could produce scattered showers and thunderstorms from Saturday evening through Sunday. The best chance of rain looks to occur Saturday night. Temperatures will cool a bit on Sunday behind the front as winds shift to the northeast.”
For the latest weather news from Charlotte, North Carolina, check out PGATOUR.COM’s Weather Hub.
SOUND CHECKThey're not terribly dissimilar. They both require you to drive it pretty well. Big, undulated greens. This course has kind of lent itself to the longer hitter, but creativity and good putting take you a long way here.
BY THE NUMBERS
69.70 – Rory McIlroy’s stroke average at Quail Hollow. Since 2010, he’s the only player with a sub-70 scoring average at the course (minimum 10 rounds).
133.46 – Strokes gained: putting total by defending Wells Fargo champ Brian Harman since the start of the 2014-15 season. No player on TOUR has gained more strokes against the field with his putter in that span.
14 under – Rickie Fowler’s results on the par 5s when he won at Quail Hollow in 2012. That’s the best at Quail Hollow in the ShotLink era (2003-current).
8 – Top-5 finishes by Phil Mickelson in 18 starts in the state of North Carolina. That’s the most of any player since 1999.
Phil Mickelson has made 14 starts at the Wells Fargo Championship without a win. The tournament is one of eight that Mickelson has played at least 10 times without a victory (the most on that list is his 26 appearances at the U.S. Open). On the flip side, Mickelson has played well in this event -- he’s never missed a cut and has finished in the top-10 eight times.
Brian Harman called it “odd” to defend his title on a different course than the one he won on. But he isn’t dismissing his chance to repeat, noting that he did finish T-10 at Quail Hollow in 2013 and also played well here last year at the PGA Championship when he finished T-13 in a pack that also included big hitters Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka. “I like this golf course a lot,” Harman said. “It suits me and it's always been one of my favorite tournaments, so I'm thrilled to be back.”
Speaking of Koepka, he’s making his tournament debut this week. It’s the 35th time he’s played a PGA TOUR event for the first time. He has five top10 finishes in his tournament debuts, including a win at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Nine players who finished T-10 or better at last year’s PGA Championship played at Quail Hollow are in this week’s field, led by winner Justin Thomas and runners-up Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen and Francesco Molinari.