A championship style golf course awaits a championship level field this week at the Wells Fargo Championship! Ten of the top fifteen in the Official World Golf Ranking will tee it up in this loaded, top-heavy field. Quail Hollow Golf Club was the host of the 2017 PGA Championship which is a testament to the quality of this course. This classical, Carolina-style course will challenge golfers to execute at all levels of their game.
Quail Hollow is a long Par 71 that measures over 7,550 yards which is incredibly long for a Par 71. This immediately gives an advantage to the long bombers, but it’s worth noting that the rough is very penal. Distance gives golfers an edge, but controlled distance is the real key to success. Spraying the ball off the tee will lead to long, difficult approach shots with golfers struggling to control spin. The narrow, tree-lined fairways will be hard to hit, and the greens normally run fast. There is the possibility of rainy weather early in the week which could soften up the golf course. The closing stretch of holes, nicknamed the Green Mile, will lead to an exciting finish. The Green Mile is a three-hole stretch that features two 500-yard Par 4s and a long, 225-yard Par 3. Capitalizing on the three Par 5s will be imperative. The Par 4s are scoreable, but there are plenty of bogeys that will be awaiting golfers on these holes this week. The performance on the Par 3s will likely be the determining factor for deciding a winner. The Par 3s are absolutely brutal, and golfers should take Par as a good score on these four holes. A complete performance will be required in order to win this week, which means I will be targeting golfers who have shown a good combination of both ball-striking and short-game.
My handicapping process for the week began by reviewing the scorecards of former winners to search for key stats to value for this course. Recent winners on this course are: Max Homa, Jason Day, Justin Thomas (2017 PGA), James Hahn, and Rory McIlroy. McIlroy had an outlier performance back in 2015 where he shot -21. The last four winners on this course have all shot -15 or worse. The majority of the scoring has come on the Par 5s. The last five winners have faced 64 total Par 5s and have scored a birdie or better on 47 of them (73.44%). While the Par 5s have presented themselves as great scoring opportunities, the Par 3s have been the polar opposite. The last five winners have faced a combined 80 Par 3s and have scored a birdie or better on only 8 of them (10%)! These five golfers have an average score of +1.8 relative to Par on the Par 3s. Even in the year that McIlroy shot his impressive -21, he was still +3 for the tournament on the Par 3s. The last five winners have all ranked inside the Top 15 of Tee-to-Green during the week they won, and the last four winners were all inside the Top 10 of Putting during the week they won. This week I will be targeting longer hitters who are good from 200+ yards on approaches. Avoiding 3-Putts will be crucial so Putting Average is a factor for me this week. Birdie-makers, especially on Par 4 and Par 5s, will be valuable this week, while I have placed an added emphasis on Par 3 Scoring Average.
Correlated courses I looked at were mainly the tougher, non-major tracks that golfers face every year. Riviera (Genesis Invitational), Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open), and Club de Golf Chapultepec (WGC Mexico) are all courses that require golfers to put together a complete performance. The scoring at these events are reflective of the projected scoring conditions for Quail Hollow.
Key Stats: Distance, Tee-to-Green, GIR Gained, Proximity 200+, Around-the-Green, Putting Average
Scoring Upside: Par 3 Scoring Average, Par 4 BoB, Par 5 BoB, Par 4 Efficiency 450-500 yards, Birdie-to-Bogey Ratio, Bogey Avoidance
Wells Fargo Championship Betting Tips
Rory McIlroy 20-1 (BetMGM)
Rory McIlroy has spoken candidly about his recent struggles with his golf game both mentally and physically. However, the four-time Major champion returns to a course where he recorded a seven shot victory back in 2015. McIlroy has played this course ten times in his career. He has made nine cuts, he’s won twice, and has seven Top 10 Finishes. If there was ever a course that could right the ship for Rory it’s this one. McIlroy has played very well on tough courses in the past, in particular at Torrey Pines where he has recent finishes of 16th, 3rd, and 5th. Torrey Pines is a good comp for Quail Hollow because it is a long course where distance is an advantage. Among all 2021 PGA Tour golfers, McIlroy is ranked third in Driving Distance, and fifth Off-the-Tee.
Over the last 36 rounds, in this field McIlroy ranks: eighth in Driving Distance, eighth in Strokes Gained on Par 5s, tenth in Proximity from 200+ yards, and 25th in Tee-to-Green. The 32-year-old Irishmen has been much better than his recent finishes would indicate, which speaks to the mental struggles of his game. Coming back to this course should help instill confidence in McIlroy and let him trust his game. Rory’s Official World Golf Ranking is at its lowest level in over a decade, and I am buying low on a premier golfer who never touches this outright number.
Tony Finau 31-1 (Fanduel)
Tony Finau is an elite player who does everything except win. He lives at the top of leaderboards and had consecutive runners-up finishes at the Genesis Invitational and Farmers Insurance Open. Those were two events that featured tough scoring conditions and required golfers to put together a complete, all-around performance in order to contend. Finau’s ability to contend every single week makes him an attractive bet because it’s only a matter of time before he breaks through with a victory. Finau has played on this course five times and has never missed a cut.
Using 2021 ShotLink data, in this field Finau ranks: fourth in Putting Average, sixth in Tee-to-Green, 15th in Proximity from 200+ yards, 17th Around-the-Green, and 20th in Driving Distance. Finau’s scoring stats are just as impressive as his strokes gained data. In this field, Finau ranks: fourth in Par 3 Scoring Average, 13th in Par 5 Birdie-or-Better, 13th in Par 4 Birdie-or-Better, 17th in Birdie-to-Bogey ratio, and 23rd in Bogey Avoidance. Finau’s combination of birdie-making upside while being able to avoid mistakes will be crucial this week. I particularly like his ability to make Pars or better on Par 3s, which I believe will be the determining factor in deciding a winner this week. The balance in Finau’s game allows him to contend, especially when scoring conditions are tougher. A win this week, in this loaded field, would change the narrative surrounding Finau.
Will Zalatoris 33-1 (DraftKings)
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Zalatoris on these betting previews, and it won’t be the last time either. Zalatoris has had a meteoric rise up the Official World Golf Rankings and continues to shine on the PGA Tour. Zalatoris is a ball-striking, tee-to-green machine who contends on tough tracks because of his ability to limit mistakes. The 24-year-old Wake Forest product has been amazingly consistent on the PGA Tour, recording eleven Top 25 finishes in his last 16 starts. Following his runner-up finish at the Masters, Zalatoris spoke about the confidence he has in himself to win at this level.
Using 2021 ShotLink data, in this field Zalatoris ranks: fifth in Tee-to-Green, fifth in GIRs Gained, 12th in Driving Distance, 12th in Bogey Avoidance, and 16th in Proximity from 200+ yards. Additionally, Zalatoris is the fourth ranked Approach player among all PGA Tour players in 2021. He is a ball-striking extraordinaire and has shown an ability to contend amongst the toughest fields, on the toughest courses. While some might be scared off by his relatively short outright number, it’s short for a reason. Sportsbooks are expecting a big week from Zalatoris, and so is the majority of the golf community.
Sungjae Im 45-1 (DraftKings)
Sungjae Im’s biggest concern has been his lackluster Approach play. However, he has two good recent finishes with a T8th at the Honda Classic, and a T13th at the RBC Heritage which is an encouraging sign that he might be finding form. Im has been stellar with the flatstick as he is gaining .80 strokes per round over his last 32 rounds. The former winners have combined great Tee-to-Green weeks with great Putting weeks. Im has one part of the puzzle, and will need to be consistent with his ball-striking. While he is not a bomber by any means, Im is ranked seventh in Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee among all 2021 PGA Tour players. Im’s ability to gain strokes Off-the-Tee without being a long hitter indicates that he has been able to find fairways. Staying on the short grass will be crucial this week, as the rough is penal and leads to missed greens.
Using 2021 ShotLink data, in this field Im ranks: fourth in Bogey Avoidance, 13th in Par 3 Scoring Average, 14th in Par 5 Birdie-or-Better, 14th in Par 4 Efficiency from 450-500 yards, 15th in Birdie-to-Bogey ratio, 23rd in Par 4 Birdie-or-Better, 23rd in Tee-to-Green, and 24th in GIRs Gained. Im’s productivity on Par 5s and longer Par 4s is tied directly to his approach game. While his overall iron-play has been sub-par, the one area he has been strong in is Proximity from 200+ yards. In 2021, Im is ranked second in Proximity from this distance, which tells me that when his irons are clicking, he’s scoring. I like the upside that Im brings to the table, and given a relatively weak middle of the betting board I like this number for Im.
Matt Wallace 80-1 (Fanduel)
Wallace is not a regular on the PGA Tour, but when he has played stateside, he has shown some upside. Wallace has made five straight cuts on the PGA Tour and his worst finish during that span was a T34 at the Masters. Wallace is a great approach player, ranking 8th amongst all PGA Tour players in that category this season. Additionally, Wallace is a great putter, ranking 17th amongst all PGA Tour players this season. I love the idea of Wallace being able to combine his two strengths this week into his first PGA Tour victory. As previously mentioned, Quail Hollow is long. There are eight Par 4s that measure over 450 yards, and the good news for Wallace is that in this field he is ranked first in Par 4 Efficiency from 450-500 yards. Wallace has been great on long Par 4s and he will see a lot of them this week. Additionally, Wallace is ranked third in Par 5 Birdie-or-Better. The majority of the scoring from previous winners has been on the Par 5s, with birdies mixed in on the Par 4s. This course profiles perfectly for Wallace’s strengths, but he will need to avoid mistakes on the dangerous Par 3s in order to contend this week.