WELLS FARGO: After a couple of low-key weeks by PGA Tour standards the stars have returned for one of the most popular events on the schedule, the Wells Fargo Championship, where enthusiastic fans, a major championship-level course, and a $20 million purse await a field that is headlined by names like McIlroy, Cantlay, Morikawa, Schauffele, and Spieth.

You’ll notice that two names are conspicuously absent from that list: Rahm and Scheffler, the top two players in the current World Golf Rankings. They have both elected to use their one allowed “skip” for Designated Events this week (were they to miss another they could be fined millions, a la Rory McIlroy), but even without their presence the anticipation seems to be high for this tournament. A lot of it has to do with the venue, Quail Hollow Club, which has played host to this event in 16 of the past 18 stagings, missing only 2017, due to hosting the U.S. Open, and last year, due to preparations for September’s President’s Cup. Quail Hollow is simply one of the best courses in North America, and after extensive renovations over the past decade it now measures nearly 7,500 yards, making it one of the longest par-71s in professional golf.

Above all, there’s no faking it at Quail Hollow– it’s a ball-striker’s layout that harshly penalizes mistakes, with thick rough, firm and fast greens, and water hazards that come into play on several holes. The daunting three-hole finishing stretch, which consists of a long, scary par-3 sandwiched between two difficult par-4s, is commonly known as the Green Mile, and you can be sure that it will be the final resting place of many promising rounds this week. It’s a finish that’s high stress for the players and high entertainment for the fans.

So… what does all that mean for us as we look to handicap the field this week? We have plenty of course history to go on at Quail Hollow, and we know that it’s a track that favors the longer players, as the “bomb and gouge” strategy is very much in play at a place where the fairways are difficult to find even for the shorter guys. Comfort on Bermuda greens is also important, as is mid-to-long iron play. This course has produced some top-flight champions over the years, and with a field like the one we have this week there are plenty of players who fit that description. Here’s what I’m thinking:


Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Viktor Hovland (13.5)– Hovland is right up at the top of the market this week, with only McIlroy (6.5) currently saddled with shorter odds. This is quite understandable when you consider his recent form, which includes six top-10s and a victory this season, including a T7 at the Masters last month, and the fact that he finished T3 here in 2021, the only time he’s played this tournament when Quail Hollow was the host. Hovland is a ball-striking machine, ranking 7th on Tour in strokes gained off the tee and 14th in strokes gained on approach, so it’s no surprise that he excels at Quail Hollow, and he’s been sniffing around the lead just about every time he’s teed it up lately… the API (10th), the Players (3rd), the Masters (7th)… so I fully expect him to contend at a place that sets up perfectly for him. This price won’t feel so short once the weekend rolls around.

Emiliano Grillo (42.0)- To be honest, I’m not sure Grillo will be able to putt well enough to win this week, though Bermuda is his best surface. That said, he sure hits the ball well enough to contend at Quail Hollow, and he’s proven that in his last two appearances here, finishing T14 in 2021 and T9 in 2018. He currently ranks in the top-35 on Tour in both total driving and GIR percentage, a pretty deadly combination, and he’s playing his best golf of the season right now, having finished T7 at the RBC Heritage and T5 at the Mexico Open in his last two starts. His name may not be on the tip of many tongues this week, but he’s definitely one to keep an eye on because he could absolutely win if his putter heats up. At better than 40/1, I’m willing to take a chance.

Seamus Power (134.0)- Power’s missed cut at the RBC Heritage last time out was only his second MC in his past 13 tournaments, and it wasn’t so long ago that he was playing some tremendous golf, racking up seven consecutive top-25 finishes, including three top-5s and a victory, in one stretch from October of last year to February of this year. He’s been solid if unspectacular since then, playing well at the Masters until a Sunday 77 left him in a tie for 46th, and now he gets the opportunity to rev things up again at a place that suits his style of play, Quail Hollow. Though he’s not particularly long off the tee, Power has shown that he knows his way around this course, making the cut in all three of his appearances here and finishing T13 in 2019. He’s an excellent putter who played his collegiate golf about 150 miles from this week’s tournament, so he’ll be very comfortable on the Bermuda greens and should be able to make some birdies. Whether it’ll be enough to contend remains to be seen, but Power is definitely my favorite triple-digit longshot on the board this week.

THE STRIKER Sat: Premier League Preview
DAQMAN Thurs: Newmarket NAP
DAQSTATS Thurs: Newmarket NAP
2023 Ryder Cup preview
THE ULTRA Thurs: Serie A and La Liga Preview
THE ULTRA Fri: Bundesliga and La Liga Preview
PAT HEALY: Recapping a brilliant week in Listowel
WEEK AHEAD: It’s Ryder Cup week!
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