PGA Tour Week 18

Wells Fargo Championship

The PGA Tour moves to North Carolina this week for the Wells Fargo Championship at The Quail Hollow Club – a course that has hosted this tournament since 2003.  It is a par 72 7,440 yard course with 4 testing par 5’s and the infamous final stretch of holes otherwise known as “The Green Mile”.  Obviously with the long yardage, there is the temptation to look at big hitters, but there are tight tree-lined fairways meaning there is a real importance on accuracy as well.  As always good GIR will be a necessity but it is on the greens where the winner will emerge.  Last year Rickie Fowler was super with his putter, as was Lucas Glover in 2011 and Rory McIlroy in 2010.  Over 60 bunkers and water comes into play over four holes, so scrambling could also be important.

The course has actually had a bit of an overhaul recently after officials re-seeded the 8th and 10th greens because of an apparent lack of adequate grass cover.  Therefore these two greens will be slightly unknown commodities for the golfers to attack.  And it will all change again next year as there are plans to rebuild the infamous 16th and redesign the 17th green.  Intriguing to say the least.

As for the field it is arguably a lot stronger than last week with 10 of the worlds top 25 players embark on the George Cobb designed course.  Rickie Fowler will be fighting to defend his only PGA title and expect him to be feisty, but all the cameras will be on the young Northern Irishman as he arrives to a place he has had mixed fortunes at, producing some of his best golf and missing cuts.  It is going to be a cracking week.

Rory McIlroy (10/1 Ladbrokes)

McIlroy winning here in 2010. More of that fist pumping this week please

McIlroy winning here in 2010. More of that fist pumping this week please

We never like seeing anyone tipping up the favourite in golf because it usually means either Tiger, Rory, Phil or someone who has somehow found their way into criminal odds. But this week we are sucking up our pride and rooting for the worlds number 2 golfer, Mr.McIlroy.

He is obviously very difficult to ignore and when we saw his price out at 10s from Ladbrokes (very crafty by the way, as most other odds are shorter than everywhere else) we thought we would take a punt for the Northern Irishman to win outright.  It is common knowledge that his form was deeper than below par at the beginning of the season, but there have been signs of the talent that propelled him to number 1 over recent weeks.

We have not seen him since The Masters 2 weeks ago where he ended T25 and considering he shot a 76 on Saturday it was a respectable finish.  He did end his 4 days at Augusta with a 69 which will give him confidence going into this week, especially as it is a course where he has shown sublime poise in the past.  He won it in 2010 after a record breaking 62 on the Sunday and was only defeated in a playoff last year by Rickie Fowler.  If we have still not persuaded you then we are sure his stats will sway you in his direction.  Averaging over 310 yards off the tee (5th in the rankings), 15th for GIR, 34th strokes gained putting, 17th scoring average, 7th birdie or better conversion rate and 5th GIR from 200+ yards. If that doesn’t make you think McIlroy is the perfect man for this tournament, we don’t know what will.

Nick Watney (33/1 Coral)

We hope to see Watney eying up more greens this week

We hope to see Watney eying up more greens this week

Watney has had a relatively consistent season to date but is yet to really excel and push himself for a potential title going into Sunday. But his recent form has started to excite after a T13 at Augusta and T15 last week in New Orleans.  In those collective 8 rounds, 6 of them were under 70 and at The Zurich Classic he shot 4 69s.  He will therefore be going into a tournament where he has only missed one cut and came 8th last year, with great confidence.  He was actually leading going into the weekend after a stunning –8 64, but trailed off with no round below par.  His game as a whole is looking great and he is averaging over 296 yards off the tee (36th on tour) meaning he can attack the yardage with ease. Whilst he was 48th for driving accuracy before the 1st round 78 at The Masters, which has now pushed him to 138th but he is well known as an accurate driver. His length and accuracy could be a powerful advantage.  He is also 8th in GIR proving how potent he could be tee to green.  It is on the greens where he will need to improve but he has already shown what he can do on this course and with the form he is showing it could be a great week for the American.

Lucas Glover (66/1 Coral)

Glover celebrating his win here in 2011 with his mother. A lovely mothers day present!

Glover celebrating his win here in 2011 with his mother. A lovely mothers day present!

Glover was leading going into the weekend last week after a 65 and a 67 but he was unable to shoot low enough again to compete with the scintillating Billy Horschel.  It was great to see the Carolina born golfer play well again after an inconsistent season by his high standards.  It ended as his 2nd T4 of the year, following on from The Honda Classic earlier in the season.  He will take that confidence into this week at an event he has had plenty of success at before.  He won here in 2011,2nd in 2009 and 4th in 2006.  When he claimed the title he had missed 3 cuts in a row before the tournament, so the fact he played FAR better this year, he could really attack the leaderboard once again.  He is 10th for total driving on tour (56th driving distance and 46th driving accuracy), which is a very deadly combination.  Whilst he is in the top 30 for all GIR stats from 200 yards + and due to the length of the course this is the sort of range he will be hitting into the greens. There is no reason Glover cant improve on last week and win in his home state once again.

Richard H Lee (125/1 PaddyPower)

All the talk has been about the young stars this year who have lit up the tour and excited the galleries.  Horschel, Russel Henley, Jordan Spieth, the list could go on.  But one name has crept under the radar in the last month or so and it may well be this week where he puts his name in the spotlight.

Richard H Lee has only been on the PGA Tour for 2 years after regaining his card via qualifying school last year.  Although he had a turbulent start to the season, withdrawing from The Sony Open and missing two cuts, he did record a T10 the Humana Challenge and a T12 at Pebble Beach.  But it the last 3 weeks where his finishes have been the most consistent of his career, proving how there could be a real charge in Carolina. 13th at the Valero Open, T9 at the RBC Heritage and T21 last week.  His confidence will be high especially as he finished 40th here last year when he was playing nowhere near as well as he is now.

He is currently 10th for driving accuracy and 19th for GIR, so from tee to green he has the abilities to play on any sort of course and he is now averaging over 286 yards which should be long enough to challenge this week.  The fact that he is 9th for total putting and 19th strokes gained putting is more than a bonus and of all our picks there is no one who is as consistent across the board as the American.  If he is in need to scramble a par, he is more than capable, lying in 36th for scrambling.  At such high odds, it seems foolish not to stake your hard earned cash, especially as our 4th placed picks have got us the most returns this year…

Martin Flores (250/1 Coral)

Big hitting Texan could prove value for money

Big hitting Texan could prove value for money

With McIlroy at such low odds, it seemed like fate that we stumbled across Texan stalwart Martin Flores.  His final round 68 at the Valero Texas Open was a joy to behold and it put him on our radar, eventually finishing T10. We know he missed the cut last week, but there has to be reasons why the bookmakers priced him at 250/1! He was T21 last year here and there should be confidence from that performance in Texas as he embarks upon Carolina.  He averages over 295 yards off the tee and lies in 16th for GIR 200-225 yards.  His GIR is incredibly consistent between 175-225 yards, so he could really attack the greens with his long hitting abilities. At this sort of price, a cheeky punt would certainly not hurt!