Expert Picks for Wells Fargo Championship
In terms of PGA Tour history, Quail Hollow is an infant. This course has not been in the Tour rotation for any length of time, these links have a relatively short history when compared to the historic venues of professional golf, and we find a severe lack of depth in analysis of historic leaderboards as a result. However, a quick dive into this week's field of competitors indicates the respect for Quail Hollow is as strong as any of the non-major hosts on the schedule. The game's elite appreciate this course as it demands a complete performance from the victor. It is a venue that, much more often than not, allows the most talented golfers in the world to shine. Quail Hollow may not be steeped in historic allure, but the best in the game are more than happy to include this event on their annual itineraries, indicating this tourney will be as entertaining and competitive as any we may witness this season. The golf course officially opened on June 3, 1961, but the official clubhouse would not open for six more years. Shortly after the completion of all facilities, the club lured and became the host for the PGA's Kemper Open Invitational, and it has been a staple in the PGA schedule ever since. The course underwent a dramatic reconstruction in 1997 under the watchful guidance of Tom Fazio, a renowned golf architect who has helped formulate some of the world's most famous course layouts (he was the guide for the most recent renovations at Augusta National, home of The Masters, and also developed designs used at Jupiter Hills in Florida, Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, Barton Creek in Texas, and the multitude of course at the Pinehurst facility), developments that led the Tour to mark Quail Creek as the point of desire for annual visits. As a result, the club has been serving as the host for the Wachovia Championship since 2003, and the design of Fazio still stands as one of the pristine mixtures of challenge and beauty on the Tour today. This season's field may be the most competitive we've seen in some time. Tiger Woods was scheduled to appear but injury has forced early withdrawal. However, he is one of few from the game's elite class taking a pass. Defending champ Rory McIlroy will be on hand to defend his title against the bulk of the world's top-ranked duffers, including Martin Kaymer, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson, last week's winner Bubba Watson, and more. The list of recent winners indicates this course could serve as a stepping stone for another member of the game's up-and-coming superstars, and more than a few are taking part. The ability to hit long is an obvious thread of comparison between those winners, but you'll also find some of the game's long-established greats near the top of those final leaderboards, indicating skills in putting and accuracy can be just as influential in achieving success at Quail Hollow.
Rory McIlroy [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #10
The kid was in charge at The Masters and imploded. This week he returns to the course he used to solidify his respect last season and you can bet he'll be firing at the pin once again. There aren't many courses we wouldn't bet on McIlroy at and Quail Hollow might be the perfect match.
Phil Mickelson [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #8
Mickelson may have slipped in the World Golf Rankings but there are more than a few reasons to believe he will be aiming for the win on Sunday at Quail Hollow. He has tremendous history at this track, he has played well against similar fields this season, and, as always, he's still Phil Mickelson.
Martin Kaymer [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #61
Kaymer has struggled a bit in attempts to maintain rank as the top golfer in the world and he doesn't own much experience at Quail Hollow, but if there is a desire to bet on talent (a desire that has proven fruitful over recent seasons), Kaymer is too tempting to ignore.
Jim Furyk [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #21
He doesn't own a Quail Hollow win, but he's been in the mix for several over recent seasons. Furyk is the exception to the rule at this course where his lack of distance seems to fade based on his ability to take advantage of Quail Hollow angles. He's been good here, there, and everywhere.
Kim has crystal on the mantle from Quail Hollow and he used this course again in 2010 to bring fantasy owners back his way, and that short-term history of performance at this track brings us back for Round 3. There's risk associated, but Kim can play with the best on this particular course.
Paul Casey [Yahoo Class C] - World Ranking: #100
Casey hasn't played enough this season to garner unquestioned faith, but we know he has the skill to put the long distance available at Quail Hollow to use. It seems this course is as good a fit as Casey will find on the Tour and we expect he'll make this week's top ten as a result.
Dustin Johnson [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #13
Like Casey, we wish we were seeing DJ competing more often, but when he gets on the links he tends to throw down with low scores. His skills are in tune with others who have won at this track in recent seasons and Johnson's history suggests he'll bring his best against the best.
Angel Cabrera [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #85 - Not Entered
If you are a regular visitor you may have noted a growing sense of faith in Cabrera. As he gets older his consistency seems to improve and we've seen him compete on the links of Quail Hollow in the past. Over the last two years Cabrera has been rewarding and we expect that to continue this week.
Hunter Mahan [Yahoo Class B] - World Ranking: #34
Mahan has been one of the best golfers on the Tour this season, with his stock on the rise, he hits up an event that appears to offer all of the conditions he prefers for low scores. He can go long, he is motivated by the strength of the field, and he can putt.
Rickie Fowler [Yahoo Class A] - World Ranking: #35
Fowler is young. Young men have won at this course over recent seasons. Fowler goes long. Those who go long have won at this course throughout. Fowler played well here last season. Those who destroy Quail Hollow once often do so again. What else do you need to know?
Allenby has been on the hunt for a win this season and his work has been rewarding thus far. His history at Quail Hollow is as deep as any other golfer in the field, but it is a bit mixed in terms of results.
Villegas… we tend to rip on his stature versus value, and we have worries this week based on erratic performance this season. However, Villegas has gone low at Quail Hollow in the past and he may be due for a rise on a final leaderboard. He's too talented to go very long without a surge.