Wells Fargo Championship Betting Preview
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Last time out with the coupon
Before we head into the Wells Fargo Championship Betting Preview, a quick recap from Mexico.
The Mexico Open, much like the RBC Heritage was a “nearly week”. We turn a small 2u profit on the tournament following a place from Kitayama at 125/1, finishing 1 shot back from winner Jon Rahm. This is the 2nd time I’ve placed with Kitty this year, following his 400/1 place at The Honda Classic.
Long flirted with the places but a poor back 9 on Sunday stopped all proceedings.
This ends what really has been a poor month (-28u) following a hot start to the year. A long way to go and it’s a swingy game we play! I will always be honest with my readers and track all P/L (+14u) on the website. Long-term followers will know I provide the data and my approach in my articles. I believe they will assist in decision making and I hope continue to be entertaining!
On to this week!
Wells Fargo Championship
After an incredible final round at the 2022 Masters, Rory McIlroy is back to headline the field at the Wells Fargo Championship, played at TPC Potomac, just outside the US capital.
In similar fashion to Jon Rahm at last weeks Mexico Open, Rory will be wanting to stamp some authority on the tour and collect his 21’st win. Rory won’t have the same perceived advantage as Rahm last week, but following “that Masters round”, I am expecting punters to track and back him heavily.
Due to the President’s Cup taking centre stage at Quail Hollow, the Wells Fargo Championship has been moved to the north to TPC Potomac, a venue we have seen before on tour.
Therefore, unlike last week, we do have some course data that we can analyse. The PGA Tour came to the venue most recently in 2017 and 2018 for the Quicken Loans National (which was replaced by the Rocket Mortgage Classic in 2019).
The course was seen on tour in the 90s and naughtiest but wasn’t much of a favourite of the players. This was due to poor drainage and flooding issues which messed with tournament conditions. With a name like “The Booz Allen Classic”, it’s hard to wonder why it didn’t have much sex appeal.
However, after a face-lift we saw the Quicken Loans National take its place on tour and the course reputation improved. In 2018 Francesco Molinari got the dub and in 2017 Kyle Stanley beat Charles Howell to win in a play-off. It was a week where Stanley won despite having negative stroke gained putting. Something to note for later in the article.
As an Englishman from Buckinghamshire, I love the look of this course. It looks like a Berkshire/ Buckinghamshire type of Parkland course. The fairways twist and turn through tree-lined fairways, towards greens that are slightly elevated and protected by some large Scottish or heathland-style bunkers. In 2017 Justin Thomas said to the media he believed this course could hold a US Open. High praise.
Occasional water does come into play, for example, holes 7, 14 17. Also “Rock Run Creek” snakes its way through 5 of the holes including the drivable par 4 14th which gave players an Eagles opportunity, which was snatched at 15 times in 2018. However, the water does come into play. Something Ricky Fowler knows all too well, having drove into the water here on Sunday in 2017 when in contention.
The course is a par 70 made up of 7,139 yards that 156 players will do battle over the $9m purse. A complete key change from last weeks tournament which did end up a bomber fest, despite my thought’s accuracy, could take charge.
The course features Bentgrass greens, tees and fairways with subtle elevation changes and distinctive Mid-Atlantic and Scottish-style bunkering.
Despite being made of mostly Par4’s (2 par 5’s and 4 par 3’s) there is still plenty of variety for the players to contend with. Early on- the course demands correct placement on the fairway but offers some birdie opportunity
North-eastern bent grass courses that can correlate are hard to come by. Winged Foot for example and The Congressional next door is a little too longer than the positional play that golfers will face this week. Therefore, looking specifically at course correlation and picking players that like the course design or match statistics that did well here in 2017 & 2018 (to come later in the article) is not going to be a line I base my selections on. I do however think players that played the Quicken Loans, have some advantage from a ball position off the tee perspective.
According to weather.com it appears that Thursday afternoon and Friday will see some showers and thunderstorms. I know things can change quickly, so will be keeping tabs on the draw and the weather.
Key Stats Analysed
We have some good data from PGATour.com initially where we can analyse the recipe to Molinari’s success. I am a little dubious to look capture Kyle Stanley’s data because the winning score was -7. Which was 14 shots worse the Molinari’s win at -21.
It’s also to note that Molinari’s performance in 2018 was an anomaly. This is because at the time it was one of the best performances in stroke gained since ShotLink data was captured in 2003. He gained 20.5 shots on the field! In total 84% of his total shots gained in that winning week were gained tee-to-green.
However, this does paint somewhat of a picture. TPC Potomac ranks 1st in Driving Accuracy importance. It also ranks 5th in Strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained tee-to green.
In contrast, TPC Potmac ranks 33rd on SG putting. (All data from rickrungood.com).
Let’s take a look at some examples. In 2018 this was the Top 12.(I added Ricky just because)
Firstly, shout out to Tiger. Secondly, 4 of the Top 12 feature inside the top 12 players that gained strokes putting on the week. 9 of those players feature inside the top 12 players that gained strokes tee-to-green and 6 for putting.
Now that isn’t uncommon but for context in Mexico last week, inside the top 12 you would find 6 players that lead the field in strokes gained tee-to-green. This course and tournament feel closer to an RBC Heritage of 2 weeks ago. By this I mean I am leaning towards accurate iron players again, rather than bombers and putters.
Where I am a little surprised from the Quicken Loans in only 2 of these players feature inside the top 12 from 150 – 175 yards (Tiger and Anomilari). I would have thought there would be a higher value placed on short iron play (wedge – 8iron). Also considering that stroke gained in approach ranks 7th in importance at TPC Potomac. I am now looking more within driving accuracy and total strokes gained tee to green.
A note on finding where statically these players are “hanging out” the margin between 10th and 20th is relatively small. However, my purpose is to build a picture of which golfers I believe will perform well and these exercises do often find patterns.
Let’s zoom out a little and simplify. What statistics appear most important at TPC Potomac. Firstly, there are 12 par 4s on the course, so I want to know who is playing them well. Secondly, tee to green and driving accuracy is of the upmost importance. Finally, as we saw with Finau, Woodland last week and a preference of mine is to ensure I am comfortable with their ability to put on the greens if I can.
- Par 4 performance
- Stroke gained Tee to Green
- Driving Accuracy
- Putting from inside 10 feet
Par 4 performance
Taking a look at the Par 4 leaders of 2022, who are playing this week.
|TOUR RANK||PLAYER NAME||ROUNDS||STATUS||PAR 4 AVG|
Stroke gained Tee to Green
A little more of a conventional list of players here and not many surprises. Analysing their last 6 competitive rounds the leader’s tee-to-green are.
Digging into the most accurate players of 2022 in totality. I am starting to see a few faces pop up again. Brian Harman who is a steady hand on the Par 4’s clearly achieves this by being in position. He isn’t a long hitter, so at 7100 yards, this course isn’t going to overpower him. The same can be said about Joel Dahmen.
|TOUR RANK||PLAYER NAME||ROUNDS||%||FAIRWAYS HIT|
Putting from inside 10 feet
Before looking at the best putters from 6 feet, I noticed that Matt Kuchar over his last 5 tournaments has gained 0.87 strokes in putting. A recipe that can be cooked up from the data is Matt is super steady on the par 4s (ranking 2nd on tour) but also is the 8th best putter over the last 5 tournaments played. But it’s 2022 and I can’t be betting Kuch? Can I?
After disappointing week last week, Abraham Ancer is another player who is putting well (1.05 strokes gained in the last 5 tournaments). He also is one of the most accurate players in the field.
Sepp Straka and Davis Riley are two of the few players that gain stokes off the tee and dominate with the flat stick. Davis played Mexico last week and this is a big key change in course and climate. I would lean towards Sepp personally.
Finally, Chase Seiffert has been an excellent par 4 player in 2022, ranking 27th. He is also gaining 0.48 shots in strokes gained putting over the last 5 tournaments and rolling the ball well. A potential EW bet as I would hope he has generous odds.
I went from inside 10 feet because out of my T2G specialists I will need some conversion. I won’t be placing too much weight on this statistic, as we have seen good performances can come with a cold wand. See Kyle Stanley for details. Again though, Matt Kuchar appears in 13th position in 2022 and Tyrrell Hatton remains one of the best putters, returning to the field this week.
I am going to commit to 3 today and long list who I will keep tabs on throughout the week. You can see my final picks by following me on Twitter or TikTok or other socials below;
The reason for this is, as I write, the stormy weather and the rain expected late on Thursday. If this changes throughout the week, comes earlier or not at all. This will affect certain sides of the draw. By this I mean those teeing off AM and PM. This is something that had an effect on the Mexico Open with the wind heavily blowing PM on the Thursday and almost killed Kevin Na!
Doesn’t need any introduction but I think The Sunday Masters was a turning point for Rory. His main competition on paper likely comes from Conners & Fitzpatrick and he must fancy that.
Finished T12 last time out at the RBC Heritage without making any ground on Sunday. If I am going to trust my process, then Joel & Brian are going to make my line ups. He is one of the most accurate players on tour and performs well on 4s throughout 2022. I dislike his hat, but certainly like his play from the tee.
I don’t love his price, because you could have picked Joel up much cheaper earlier in the season.
His best tour finish comes from Quail Hollow at this event in 2019 where he had much worse form heading in.
Brian made the cut at the RBC Heritage and didn’t play in Mexico. So, I am hoping he is fully rested and ready to battle. He has some good performances this year, playing well at The Valspar Championship (5th) and The American Express (3rd).
This course is built for steady Brian, and the lefty can plot his way through the trees and around the bunkers. I definitely want players that keep the ball straight and Brian is the 16th straightest on tour this year.
He gains marginally with the putter and off the tee, so I like this combination with this course. I suspect he will be heavily backed this week, so I will commit and try to fire in early for a good price.
PLAYERS I WILL CONSIDER (likely to pick 2, perhaps 3, closers to Thursday)
- Tony Finau (only player from Mexico considering)
- Matt Fitzpatrick
- Tyrrell Hatton
- Sepp Straka
- Russell Henley
- Matt Kuchar
- Joel Dahmen
- Chase Seiffert
- Matt Wallace
- Charl Schwartzel
I hope you enjoyed my thought process ahead of the Wells Fargo Championship. Always happy to have a discussion on Twitter if you wanted to reach out.
Good luck with your plays, and I look forward to seeing you soon on The Waggle Duff Podcast.