Out of the Rough: Wells Fargo Championship (2023)
The PGA Tour faces yet another elevated event in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina this week.
Although in what will be the best Wells Fargo Championship field in tournament history, it will be the weakest field of any elevated event we’ve seen this season.
Primed between two “negotiable” events in last week’s Mexico Open and next week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, some of the world’s best are still forgoing this week for “load management”
Quail Hollow plays host to this year’s Wells Fargo Championship for the fourth time since 2016.
It was designed by George Cobb in 1959 and has seen a rich history over its 64 years. It has seen renovations from Tom Fazio in 1997, 2003 and 2016 to adapt to the increased length of Tour pros and continuing to be a quintessential fit for Majors.
Quail Hollow is a highly sought after championship venue that has hosted some of the game’s biggest events including the PGA Championship and Presidents Cup.
This track first hosted the PGA Tour’s Kemper Open in 1969 through 1979 prior to the event switching to the Congressional. From there, Quail Hollow has hosted the World Seniors Invitational before becoming the more stable host to the Wells Fargo Championship in 2023.
We last saw Quail Hollow just a mere seven months ago when it played host to the Presidents Cup. Although the routing and format are not what we’ll see this week, many golfers in this week’s field had very strong showings back in September.
It last hosted a major in 2017 where Justin Thomas claimed the first Major title of his career. We’ll see Quail Hollow back on the Major circuit in just two years as it is set to host the 2025 PGA Championship.
Like most Major-quality courses, this week’s track rewards the longest players off the tee and requires a very well-rounded game from tee-to-green.
Quail Hollow is not necessarily a bomber’s paradise like we saw a week ago at Vidanta Vallarta, but it is an advantage to get off the tee with length. We have seen in recent outings that fairway finders are able to compete but the leaderboard is often littered with the longest drivers.
Distance off the tee is important, but so isn’t finding the fairway.
With the course set up for a non-major, with wider fairways and shorter roughs, it helps those who lack distance off the tee compete.
Long iron play too will be crucial as a large number of approach shots will be taken from 175-plus yards this week.
Golfers will be required to scramble for pars this week as a winning score has not surpassed 12-under par just once over the last six years.
The greens this week are Bermuda and boy are they fast. Those competent with the flat stick on Bermuda greens will have a big advantage as three-putting can derail anyone’s round.
With the fast greens and long approach shots, getting the ball to stick will be tricky. Therefore those with competent around-the-green skill sets too will see an advantage this week.
In these low scoring affairs, taking advantage of the par fives are a must. That is where the majority of scoring will be done.
In all, it takes a lot to claim victory at Quail Hollow.
We’re starting to see fatigue on the PGA Tour as this week’s field for the elevated event includes only 21 of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) top 30 golfers.
This still will be the best field the Wells Fargo Championship has ever seen with the $20 million purse, but it will be the least top-heavy of all of the elevated events thus far. It’s becoming clear that even a large purse can’t keep everyone committed every single week.
Notable names not in attendance this week include Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Billy Horschel, Tom Hoge, Russell Henley and Justin Rose due to “load managements.”
Additionally, Hideki Matsuyama and Will Zalatoris are out due to injury to make up those in the OWGR top 30 not playing this week.
It is odd to see that an event such as the Wells Fargo Championship is drawing a weaker field than what the RBC Heritage did two weeks back.
Quail Hollow is an iconic venue on the PGA Tour and the event is sandwiched between two “negotiable” events in the Mexico Open and AT&T Byron Nelson.
It’s not a good look for the PGA Tour to not have its two highest rated golfers skipping this elevated event.
With no Rahm or Scheffler, Rory McIlroy will regain the spotlight this week. Rory won this event (at Quail Hollow) in 2021.
This will be McIlroy’s first appearance on the PGA Tour after his disappointing early exit at The Masters.
Joining McIlroy as past champions of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow are Max Homa, Jason Day, James Hahn, Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes, and Lucas Glover.
Thomas is also in this week’s field and although he’s not a previous champion of this event, he won the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow back in 2017.
At the time of writing this, precipitation is only forecasted for one day this week. Saturday is calling for a 50-percent chance of precipitation. Highs are set to range from the low 70’s from Thursday through Saturday and get into the high 70s on Sunday. Wind shouldn’t be a factor this week as it’s currently set to peak at seven miles-per-hour.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Driving Accuracy Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda (SG: PUTT Bermuda)
Average Driving Distance
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Approach Shots from 175-plus Yards
Par 5 Performance
Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green (SG: ATG)
Birdie or Better Percentage
My overall favorite this week per my model can be found in this top price range in Patirck Cantlay ($10,500.) Cantlay is currently second on Tour in birdie or better percentage, fifth in GIR%, eighth in bogey avoidance, 16th in driving accuracy, 20th in par five performance, 26th in average driving distance, 27th in SG: APP, 35th in scrambling, 53rd in approach shots from 175-plus yards, 96th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 103rd in SG: ATG and 131st in three-putt avoidance. Cantlay has played this event once prior, in 2021 here he did miss the cut. That event was held at Quail Hollow as well. Cantlay is one of the hottest golfers on all of the PGA Tour heading into this event however. In his last outing he placed T4th at the Zurich Classic. Prior to that he placed third at the RBC Heritage, T14th at The Masters, T9th at the World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play, T19th at THE PLAYERS, T4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and third at The Genesis Invitational. It’s a matter of time before he gets his first win of the 2022-2023 season. At +1200 to win, he’ll be receiving a few dollars on my behalf this week. Also consider Tony Finau ($10,200.) Finau is fresh off a victory last week at the Mexico Open where he held off Jon Rahm. Finau is currently the Tour’s best approach player, ranking first in SG: APP. He is also fourth in birdie or better percentage, 11th in par five performance, 18th in bogey avoidance, 22nd in GIR%, 39th in approach shots from 175-plus yards, 42nd in scrambling, 48th in SG: PUTT, 67th in driving accuracy, 74th in average driving distance, 75th in three putt avoidance and 78th in SG: ATG. Finau is above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. Finau has played this tournament six times in the last seven years. He has made the cut in all nine tournaments he’s played this season. Like Cantlay, he is one of the hottest golfers on Tour. To go along with the victory he is fresh off, he has seven top 25s, three top 15s and two top tens. Fatigue may come into play for Finau here but you can’t deny the form that he is in.
If we’re talking about value, we have to talk about Jason Day ($9,000.) At the bottom of this price range, you’re getting one of the hottest golfers on Tour. The last time we saw Day he went T39 at The Masters. Prior to that, his worst finish in six other tournaments on the calendar year was T19th at THE PLAYERS. He has six top 20’s, four top tens and a top five. He’s knocking on the door of returning to the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon. Day has played in this tournament the past four seasons, winning it in 2018. The 2018 tournament was played at Quail Hollow as well. Day has proven success at this course. He is also currently second on Tour in both scrambling and bogey avoidance, 20th in SG: APP, 22nd in SG: ATG, 23rd in birdie or better percentage, 25th in both SG: PUTT Bermuda and GIR%, 44th in driving accuracy, 60th in average driving distance, 64th in three-putt avoidance, 79th in par five performance and 137th in approach shots from 175-plus yards. At +2500 I will have a couple shares on him. Also consider another past winner of this event, Max Homa ($9,400.) Homa is actually a two time winner of this event, winning in 2022 and 2020. The 2022 victory came when the event was played at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm but the 2020 victory came at Quail Hollow. Homa isn’t in the best of form heading into this event, missing the cut in his last two outings at the Zurich Classic and RBC Heritage. Prior to that however he had a run of placing T3rd at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, he won the Farmers Insurance Open, placed T39th at the WM Phoenix Open, second at the Genesis Invitational, T14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T6th at THE PLAYERS and T9th at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. He is also currently seventh on Tour in birdie or better percentage, ninth in SG: APP, 20th in both scrambling and bogey avoidance, 30th in SG: ATG, 46th in approach shots from 175-plus yards, 56th in driving accuracy, 58th in three-putt avoidance, 65th in GIR%, 74th in average driving distance, 79th in par five performance and 94th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. Like Finau, Homa is above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. For a two time winner of this event, being priced at $9,400 is ideal. He is also at +2500 and will be receiving a few dollars on my behalf this week.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Out of the Rough article if I didn’t talk about Tom Kim ($8,400.) Kim did place T9th at the Zurich Classic but prior to that missed the cut at the RBC Heritage. He quietly placed T16th in his debut at The Masters however. On top of that he has results on the season such as a T6th at The American Express. This will be Kim’s debut at the Wells Fargo Championship as well but his game lines up with Quail Hollow. He’s currently second on Tour in driving accuracy, fourth in bogey avoidance, sixth in scrambling, ninth in GIR%, 16th in SG: APP, 38th in SG: ATG, 43rd in three-putt avoidance, 48th in birdie or better percentage, 62nd in par five performance, 98th in approach shots from 175-plus yards, 121st in average driving distance and 152nd in SG: PUTT Bermuda. As always, he’ll need to hit a few more putts than usual but in a somewhat depleted elevated event field, this could be his time. He’s currently at +3500 to win and I will be placing at least an unit on him this week. Also consider Rickie Fowler ($8,800.) Fowler has also been one of the hottest golfers on Tour and is very fairly priced here in this middle price range. He is fresh off a T15th at the RBC Heritage and prior to that placed T10th at the Valero Texas Open. Dating back to the Farmers Insurance Open, Fowler has not missed a cut. He has six top 20s and two top tens. Fowler has played this tournament ten-of-the-last-12 years. He won the tournament back in 2012. He also placed T4th in both 2016 and 2019. He also placed sixth in 2010. He knows his way around this course and in this current revamped stage of his career, he could find himself back at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon. Fowler is currently eighth on Tour in SG: APP, tenth in birdie or better percentage, 18th in GIR%, 21st in bogey avoidance, 38th in three-putt avoidance, 40th in average driving distance, 51st in par five performance, 60th in scrambling, 83rd in SG: ATG, 109th in both driving accuracy and SG: PUTT Bermuda and 124th in approach shots from 175-plus yards.
As Michael Scott once said, “No question about it. I am ready to get hurt again.” For the third straight week, I’m suggesting Wyndham Clark ($7,800.) Clark is currently second in all of the PGA Tour in par five performance. He is also 11th in average driving distance, 28th in bogey avoidance, 33rd in birdie or better percentage, 37th in SG: APP, 47th in scrambling, 51st in three-putt avoidance, 58th in GIR%, 66th in SG: ATG, 71st in approach shots from 175-pus yards, 77th in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 163rd in driving accuracy. Clark has had a pretty decent go of things as of late. He underperformed a week ago in Mexico, finishing T24th but prior to that placed third at the Zurich Classic. He also placed fifth at the Valspar Championship and sixth at the Corales Puntacana Championship in March. He also has had some quality performances at elevated events as well this season. He placed T10th at the WM Phoenix Open, T33rd at the Genesis Invitational, T34th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T27th at THE PLAYERS and T29th at the RBC Heritage. Clark has played this event prior, placing T43rd in 2021 and missing the cut in 2019. At least he’s made the cut at this event and this course previously. At +6000 to win, Clark will get what seems like my weekly donation. Also consider Matt Kuchar ($7,900.) Kuchar is the best on the PGA Tour when it comes to scrambling. There is no one better than Kuchar when it comes to saving par. He’s also fifth in bogey avoidance, sixth in SG: ATG, 38th in SG: APP, 44th in GIR%, 45th in three-putt avoidance, 49th in driving accuracy, 69th in par five performance, 79th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 84th in birdie or better percentage, 135th in average driving distance and 168th in approach shots from 175-plus yards. Kuchar is currently on a decent run of results headings into this week. Last time we saw him at the RBC Heritage where he placed T19th. He placed T3rd two weeks prior at the Valero Texas Open. He also placed eighth at the Genesis Invitational on the season and T7th at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Kuchar played this event a year ago where he made the cut.
I’m decently high on Dylan Wu ($6,700) this week. Wu is fresh off a T15th finish a week ago at The Mexico Open. He did miss the cut the week prior at the Zurich Classic but went on a run of making the cut in seven consecutive events, highlighted by a T10th at The Honda Classic prior. Wu played in this event a year ago where he also made the cut. He is currently 19th on Tour in GIR%, 26th in bogey avoidance, 29th in par five performance, 33rd in approach shots from 175-plus yards, 64th in driving accuracy, 65th in scrambling, 66th in three-putt avoidance and SG: APP, 67th in birdie or better percentage, 69th in SG: ATG, 129th in SG: PUTT and 137th in average driving distance. He’s a rather well rounded golfer, especially in this price range and I’ll be placing a few dollars on him to win at +30000. I played Robby Shelton ($6,800) a week ago and he missed the cut. Will that stop me from playing him? No. He missed the cut in four-of-the-last-five events that he played. In the one event he made the cut he placed T15th at the Valero Texas Open. He had a T6th earlier this season at The American Express as well. Shelton has played the Wells Fargo twice in the last four iterations, making the cut in one of them. He is currently 14th on Tour in SG: ATG, 34th in SG: APP, 38th in par five performance, 46th in approach shots from 175-plus yards, 47th in three-putt avoidance, 67th in bogey avoidance, 73rd in both scrambling and birdie or better percentage, 95th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 105th in GIR%, 111th in driving accuracy and 161st in average driving distance.
Patrick Cantlay (+1200) - 3u
Max Homa (+2500) - 2u
Jason Day (+2500) - 2u
Tom Kim (+3500) - 1u
Wyndham Clark (+6000) - 1u
Dylan Wu (+30000) - 0.5u