WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP: The PGA Tour heads to Charlotte this week for the Wells Fargo Championship, a tournament that has become one of the most prestigious “regular” events on the schedule over the past decade, with fields and Sunday leaderboards that often feel WGC-esque, if not major-esque.
One of the primary reasons for this tournament’s enduring popularity and success is the golf course– Quail Hollow Club is as close to a universally-beloved course as you’ll find, a demanding tee-to-green challenge that measures nearly 7,500 yards, making it one of the longest par-71s in professional golf, and features small, undulating, fast greens. The course provides plenty of closing drama, too, as the final three holes are extremely demanding and have come to be known as the “Green Mile”.
There’s no faking it at Quail Hollow– it’s a ball-striker’s layout that harshly punishes mistakes. Scores have been high since the renovation prior to the PGA Championship a couple of years ago, with only three players reaching double-digit under par last year, and only twelve players finishing 5-under or better. Jason Day was the last man standing at 12-under, and I would expect the winning score to be somewhere in that neighborhood once again. Day is back to defend and is among the market leaders at BETDAQ (14.5), but the clear favorite this week is Rory McIlroy, who has won this tournament twice and set the scoring record in 2015. McIlroy is only a couple of starts removed from his victory at the Players Championship and had notched six top-6 finishes in 2019, so he should draw plenty of action, even at a price like 7.2.
We struck pay dirt last week Rahm/Palmer at 17/1… let’s see if we can keep the good times rolling with these three selections:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Justin Rose (17.5)- Rose was one of the favorites heading into the Masters, but he trunk-slammed it on Friday afternoon after disappointing rounds of 75-73. Still, he’s been playing some terrific golf in 2019, logging four top-10s– including a victory– in eight starts, and ranking 11th on Tour in the “total strokes gained” category. Someone with his length and ball-striking ability would seem like a perfect fit for Quail Hollow, and indeed Rose has produced some fantastic results here, finishing 5th in this event in 2014 and 3rd in his last appearance, back in 2016. He’s one of the clear favorites this week, and I expect him to get right back to business after the disappointment at Augusta. This tournament tends to produce big-name winners, and Rose certainly fits the bill. He’s worth a bet at better than 16/1.
Lucas Glover (52.0)- Many wrote Glover off after years of on-course struggles and an embarrassing off-course incident at The Players involving his wife (after all, it’s hard enough to play well when you have a loving, supportive wife!), but he’s proved the doubters wrong by clawing his way back into the top-100 in the world rankings, and now all he needs is a victory to truly be “back”. He’s certainly been moving in the right direction, finding the top-15 in 9 of his last 13 PGA Tour starts, and Quail Hollow is one of his favorite stops on the schedule, as he’s recorded five top-10s in this event over the course of his career, including a win back in 2011. A victory for Glover this week would truly be a “full circle” moment, and it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility. I’m happy to hop aboard at a price like 52.0.
Sam Burns (102.0)- Burns has really come on after a slow start to the year, finding the top-25 in each of his last three “individual” starts (he and partner Cameron Champ missed the cut in last week’s team event), including a season-best T9 at the RBC Heritage two weeks ago. A Louisiana native who played collegiately at LSU, Burns has unsurprisingly produced some great results on bermuda grass over the course of his brief career, so Quail Hollow’s firm, fast bermuda greens should be right up his alley. He played this tournament last year as a 21-year old rookie and made the cut, and I have a feeling that bigger and better things are ahead for Burns here, possibly starting this week. He’s terrific value at better than 100/1.