The PGA Tour heads back to America after moving across the border last week and it does so with the Wells Fargo Championship, an event which usually gets the pulses racing as it is played at Quail Hollow but that isn’t the case this year with that track getting ready to host the Presidents Cup later in the year.
That means that Rory McIlroy will defend the title he won last year on a different course but with the second major of the year just a fortnight away the aim will be the same – win and boost confidence heading into the USPGA.
2021 – Rory McIlroy
2019 – Max Homa
2018 – Jason Day
2017 – Brian Harman
2016 – James Hahn
2015 – Rory McIlroy
2014 – JB Holmes
2013 – Derek Ernst
2012 – Rickie Fowler
2011 – Lucas Glover
The track which is hosting the tournament this week is TPC Potomac, the track which most recently hosted the Quicken Loans National in 2017 and 2018. This is a tough golf course so it should be a decent alternative to Quail Hollow which is equally as tough. Potomac is a par 70 which stretches to 7,124 yards which might not sound like it is a long course but with two par fives which aren’t reachable in two for many, scoring has a natural protection.
There is expected to be rain around in the middle two rounds this week which is going to make the course play fairly long so while I wouldn’t want to surrender accuracy with my picks, especially with the rough here significant enough to cause trouble, I would like the accurate longer hitters over the shorter ones. The greens here are pretty small and guarded well so scrambling is important too because nobody will hit all 72 greens in regulation.
There isn’t any hiding away from the fact that for the second year in succession the Wells Fargo Championship hasn’t got a great field. It isn’t a surprise necessarily with the attention of many big names already turning to Southern Hills and the USPGA Championship in a couple of weeks. One man who has honoured his commitment to appear is the defending champion Rory McIlroy, who is hugely the highest profile player on show.
He isn’t the only major champion who is on show though because Gary Woodland and Keegan Bradley are among the others who will be teeing it up. Ryder Cup star Matthew Fitzpatrick is also here as is the international star Corey Conners. Tony Finau flew home in Mexico last week and will hope to hit the ground running as a result. Abraham Ancer, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Tyrrell Hatton and Marc Leishman are some other household names who are teeing it up this week.
Rory McIlroy is the 9/1 favourite to retain his title this week. Regular readers will know I am not someone who backs defending champions as a rule because the restrictions on their time with promoting the event and everything takes its toll. We’ve seen that with a lot of the media quotes attributed to the Northern Irishman already this week. It is also the first time he has played competitively here and unlike Quail Hollow which plays to his strengths, this one may not suit him as much.
Corey Conners is a bit of a surprise 20/1 second favourite this week although he certainly has the tee to green accuracy to justify that position in the market. Conners has been in good form recently and he has the advantage on some of his opposition here in the fact that he has played a tournament here in the past. He made the cut but finished way down the field. He’s a better player now but I just wonder if the rain that is forecast might make the course a little too long for him.
Matthew Fitzpatrick comes third in the betting at 22/1 which looks a decent price when you consider the form he has shown stateside so far this season even allowing for his missed cut at The Heritage last time out. He is an accurate sort for whom the test would be perfect but like Conners he isn’t the longest in the world and I wonder if the rain is too much of a negative. He also hasn’t played this course before which isn’t ideal.
Tony Finau is the other man in the betting who is shorter than 30/1. He can be backed at 28/1 this week and if he continues in the vein he finished last week then he is a chance. He certainly won’t be inconvenienced by the rain, in fact he might benefit from it as it will make the landing zones that little bit wider. The amazing thing about him finishing second last week was that he lost strokes on the field with the putter which shows how well he hit the ball from tee to green. A repeat of that and he should go close again.
I can’t say I’m a massive Tony Finau fan but there is no doubting how well he was hitting the ball last week and the rain that is scheduled to arrive this week which will make the test a long one should play into his hands. He is someone who should have the length to challenge the longer holes around here without losing too much accuracy. There is no hiding the fact that his putting is a huge concern but with only a select portion of the field having played competitively around here that might not be the issue it usually is. At 28/1 in this company I think the price is just about high enough to take a chance on.
Gary Woodland might be wondering how he hasn’t won this season because around the Florida Swing he was in good form with successive top five finishes at The Honda Classic and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That shows that he has lost none of his ball striking ability and now he just needs consistency for four rounds and a bit of extra quality with the putter. There is nothing wrong with that club other than he lacks consistency with it. The rest of his game is in good order and much like Finau, Woodland has the class and the length to cope with the rain. He should go well here.
Brendan Steele had a decent run with Keegan Bradley at the Zurich Classic recently and that should serve him well for a spin around here. Steele is a very good player from tee to green and like my two main bets he is that little longer than some of the more accurate hitters which should help when this course starts playing long. Although it wasn’t massively successful, Steele did play the Quicken Loans National here in 2017 so he knows what to expect and with his long game in decent touch if he can get to grips with these greens quickly he should go well too.
I’ve been waiting a while for Cameron Davis to come good again. When he won the Rocket Mortgage Classic last season I thought that would open the floodgates but it hasn’t really happened like that. Since then, prior to The Heritage last time out, his only top 10 was at the Tournament of Champions. He then finished in a tie for third at The Heritage where he flew home with a 63 on the final day to suggest his form might be coming back. He is a long hitter so the rain will help him and if he can replicate his tee to green game from The Heritage where he gained 8.415 strokes on the field then he could do some damage here.
Back T.Finau to win Wells Fargo Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back G.Woodland to win Wells Fargo Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 36.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back B.Steele to win Wells Fargo Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back C.Davis to win Wells Fargo Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back them here: