We are now in the major season in the golfing calendar and the PGA Tour heads to a major venue this week when the Wells Fargo Championship takes place for the first time in two years after the pandemic put paid to the event last year.
That all means that Max Homa will finally get to defend the title he won in 2019 and he’ll defend it against an excellent field who will all be looking to put their USPGA Championship preparations to bed over the four days.
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
2010 – Rory McIlroy
Quail Hollow is the venue this week. It is one of the best stops on the Tour so this should be a great week. The Charlotte based track is now a par 71 but has shortened slightly since the 2019 version. It now measures 7,521 so it is a pretty long walk and it is a course where length tends to be rewarded, as you can see looking at the previous winners. The 2017 event was staged elsewhere as Quail Hollow staged the USPGA that year, an event which another big hitter in Justin Thomas won.
The other statistic that tends to be important here is scrambling as these aren’t the easiest greens to find. It might just be that the last two winners were excellent putters or their putter was hot in that particular week but they both ranked well for that discipline as well. There are plenty of hazards on this course though so I would be very surprised if someone whose game isn’t how they would want it were to find some form here so I’m looking for big hitting form players who scramble well.
There is a very good field teeing it up this week, indeed this could very well be the USPGA Championship such is the quality in the field. Max Homa is the defending champion and the Riviera winner will be looking to keep hold of his crown but he has some decent talent opposing him, including former winners here in Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau is also in the field this week.
The European charge is led by Jon Rahm with Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry and Tommy Fleetwood all looking to show their talents here too. There are star American names in the field as well such as Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, the home hero Webb Simpson and the rising star Will Zalatoris, who went so close to landing The Masters last month. Corey Conners, Abraham Ancer and Sungjae Im head the international challenge.
Jon Rahm is an 11/1 favourite to win the tournament this week. He has become a top 10 machine over recent times but he has never played this event on this course which is a concern. He never really featured in the USPGA Championship that was held here in 2017 so although he is playing well I do think a lack of experience around here might be telling. He is a little short for me in any case but I’m happier than usual to leave him out of the staking plan here.
Justin Thomas is the other 11/1 favourite to win here. He has the 2017 USPGA title to his name on this track but he comes here after a very weird week last week. He led the field in nearly every ball striking statistic going but he was almost dead last in strokes gained putting. The latter is pretty important here. If he hits the ball like he did last week and is even just normal for him on the greens you’ve got to think he is a worthy favourite but putting can take a while to come back so he isn’t for me either.
Bryson DeChambeau comes next in the betting at 14/1. He is a very interesting case. He has a top 5 finish here in the past and he is a much longer hitter now so in theory he should go very well. The question mark comes in his touch and whether he has lost that. All will be revealed over the four days here but while I respect him and wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him go well, I’d need confirmation that he can handle the greens and surrounds if I’m betting at this price.
Rory McIlroy is 16/1 to win this week which looks way too short when you consider how badly he has been playing in recent times. On the flip side of that though he has won twice around here and loves it here so his supporters will hope that a return to a track he loves will inspire his best form. I think his game will come back between now and Whistling Straits but I don’t think it will be purely a return to a comfortable place that will inspire it. There was a price which would have tempted me to back McIlroy here. 16/1 isn’t it.
I’ll go with a couple of main bets this week with the first of those being the young gun who almost shocked the world at The Masters in Will Zalatoris. The youngster showed at Augusta that there isn’t a weakness in his game and his only issue here is inexperience but I’m sure he will soon pick up where to go here because he is playing all these courses for the first time and he already has six top 10s this season. Zalatoris drives it brilliantly and looks to have an excellent short game. He is going to go in soon and I’ll pay to see if this is his week.
Joaquin Niemann caught my eye at Copperhead last week and I think he can build on that with an equally impressive effort this week too. He finished in the top 10 last week despite stalling in the final round and he gained over 5.5 strokes to the field on the greens and almost two shots on it around them too. He ranked fourth for scrambling and ninth in putting and we know he can get the ball out there so the Chilean looks to be coming into form again. He has been hitting the ball well for a while now without getting the rewards for it on the greens. With his putter starting to heat up this could be the week he adds to his Greenbrier title from last season.
Stewart Cink came good for me at The Heritage a couple of weeks ago and although his price has shrunk for this week I’m going to give him another go purely on how well he hit the ball at Harbour Town. His ball striking was pinpoint and he blazed a trail away from the field that week. This will be a tougher test for him because he isn’t the longest in the field but there looks to be no part of his game that wasn’t in good order in winning The Heritage. He is a major champion who went well at Augusta before winning The Heritage so a tough course doesn’t worry him. I’ll pay to see if he can win on successive starts here.
Lucas Glover has been doing everything but hole putts in recent times and at some point he will sort out that issue as well. When he putted well in the Texas Open and The Honda Classic before it, he finished 19-4 for that two week period. To be fair to him he was going along ok last week until he had a mare of a third round which came out of nowhere but I sense his game will be put together as one soon and where better than on a course he has already won on? He has also been runner up here too and has three other top 10 finishes. At a decent price I’ll happily pay to see if it all comes together here.
Jhonattan Vegas was in the top 10 here two weeks ago and while he hasn’t done a whole lot since then, he was second in the Puerto Rico Open a couple of months ago which tells us that when he gets conditions in his favour he can still score pretty well. Only once in his last eight cuts made has Vegas not been in the top 15 for driving distance so we know he can get it out there. His scrambling starts are pretty good in the main as well. He just needs the putter to start cooperating and if this is the week it does that then he can at least replicate that top 10 finish if not significantly improve on it.
Back W.Zalatoris to win Wells Fargo Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back L.Glover to win Wells Fargo Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 71.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back J.Niemann to win Wells Fargo Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 31.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back S.Cink to win Wells Fargo Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back J.Vegas to win Wells Fargo Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back him here: