The PGA Tour returns to its usual stroke-play format after the players paired up for a team event at the Zurich Classic last week.
In 2017 Quail Hollow played host to the PGA Championship but it’s otherwise been the venue for the Wells Fargo Championship since its inception in 2003. Back then it was known as the Wachovia Championship and has also been known as simply the Quail Hollow Championship” before going by its current name in 2011 and beyond.
This event is normally a close affair, with the winner coming via playoff in four of the last eight renewals and by just one stroke two more times.
The only player to win by more than two strokes since 2011 is this week’s favourite and two-time champion, Rory McIlroy. He won the 2015 renewal by an unbelievable seven (!!) strokes and that came five years after winning the event by four, so it’s clear he can pull away from the field when on form. Despite a disappointing run at the Masters, where he was one of the favourites to grab his first Green Jacket and the coveted Grand Slam, McIlroy is still an obvious choice this week. He finished 21st at Augusta despite never being in the running to win, but he can bounce back to winning ways here. Since the start of 2019, McIlroy has finished 21st or better in all seven stroke-play events, with six of them being finishes of 6th or better, including his Players Championship victory. It may be that he’s done his winning for a while now, but with two wins and four more top-10’s here since making his debut in 2010, it seems foolish to write him off.
Defending champion, Jason Day has been in some decent form of his own in 2019 despite the lack of a trophy to prove it. Four top-8 finishes in his eight stroke-play starts since the start of the year, it seems Day is close to the winning formula once again. 12 months ago he showed that winning touch here, holding off inspired efforts from Nick Watney and Aaron Wise, thanks to his fourth straight rounds in the 60s on Sunday. It was a complete performance from Day who stayed in contention throughout the week and he can do so again here, despite a missed cut with partner, Adam Scott last week in Zurich. Thanks to the pairs’ individual efforts at Augusta three weeks ago, much was expected when they teamed up last week, but Day could not carry the team over the cut line, despite coming in off the back of a T5 finish at the Masters. There were some injury woes for Day during Masters week, which seems to be a recurring theme for the Aussie, but if he’s fit this week he can certainly back up his win from a year ago. 22-9-1 in this event his record has consistently improved and his 9th place finish at the 2017 PGA Championship was further evidence that this test suits his game. A great short game and a long driver of the ball, this is the perfect course for him.
Justin Rose will certainly feel like he has a lot to prove this week, after an early exit from the Match Play was compounded by a missed cut at Augusta, where he was considered one of the favourites. It’s been a mixed bag of form since the turn of the year, with a victory at Torrey Pines and an 8th place finish at the Players countered my missed cuts in Saudi Arabia and Augusta as well as a poor effort at Bay Hill (T63). He will be keen to steady the ship this week and he’s taken some time off since the Masters to work on his game. Rose will hope to see any work he’s done come to fruition at this course, and it’s not out of the question when looking at course form. A bit like his year so far, he has an up and down record here, with a missed cut in 2009 followed by the same fate at the PGA Championship two years ago, but he’s also finished 28th, 5th and 3rd in three starts between 2011 and 2016. Something is not quite right with Rose right now, but he’s had some time to work with coach, Sean Foley over the past fortnight or so and he doesn’t tend to stay in a slump for too long. A bounce-back performance is certainly expected here.
Rickie Fowler got his first PGA Tour win here seven years ago and he’ll be looking to add a second win, not only at this event but in 2019. A winner at the Phoenix Open in February, Fowler has had a largely positive season and that continued at Augusta, where he finished in a tie for 9th. Since finishing 6th on debut in 2010, Fowler has missed just one cut at this course and has a win and two top-5’s to his name including the 2017 PGA Championship. Now of course changes were made to the course ahead of the PGA Championship, so form that week could be considered a slight outlier due to the difference in test but Fowler has been solid enough in this event since his victory and given his form this season, it’s easy to see him contending again here.
Paul Casey suffered what was nothing short of a disastrous couple of rounds at Augusta en-route to a missed cut, but he can bounce back this week at a ball strikers course. We know how well Casey hits the ball, but his putting often coming under scrutiny. Even when winning the Valspar last month Casey ranked 64th in the field in SG:Putting, despite appearing to hole the all important putts on Sunday. If he can improve his short game this week you would have to believe this is a course that suits Casey’s skillset, with his 5th place finish here last year confirming that. Casey couldn’t quite go low enough 12 months ago, finishing five shots adrift of Day, but he shot four under-par rounds and he will be hoping for similar this week. He was 13th at the PGA Championship here two years ago and it was only a shocking Sunday 77 that cost him a top-20 finish in 2016, so he can certainly score here should he return to his pre-Masters form. A short memory is required but if he is over his poor Masters effort, expect Casey to feature at the top of the leaderboard.
Another European looking for a big week here will be Spaniard, Sergio Garcia. Garcia teamed up with Ryder cup teammate, Tommy Fleetwood last week at the Zurich Classic as the pair finished second behind Garcia’s compatriot Jon Rahm and partner, Ryan Palmer. Other than a missed cut at Augusta, where even when considering his 2017 victory he has his demons, Garcia has been in fine form in 2019. A T6 finish at the WGC Mexico, in addition to top-9 finishes at the; Dubai Desert Classic (T3), Hong Kong Open (T6) Singapore Open (T7) and Honda Classic (T9) suggests he’s playing some good golf. This week his returns to a course where he has a runner-up finish at (T2 in 2005) but more recently has struggled with. In four appearances since 2009, Garcia has missed two cuts on this course, both in 2009 at this event and at the PGA in 2017 and only managed T16 and T28 finishes in the event in between. Given his form and the suitability to this test he’s one you can’t discount easily but at the odds available there are probably better options.
Phil Mickelson enjoyed a decent run at the Masters last time out finishing in a tie for 18th but he couldn’t bounce back enough from his second round 73 to really contend. This week though he is playing at a course and an event he clearly loves and should really have a victory at. Since making his debut in 2004, Mickelson has only missed one cut on this course and that came at the 2017 PGA, but in this event he is a top-10 machine. Since 2004 he played this event fourteen times and finished outside the top-10 just four times and on two of those occasions he finished inside the top-12! His best result came when 2nd behind McIlroy in 2010 but it was 2013 when he should really have got the job done. After shooting 68-67 over the first two days, he shot a pair of 73’s over the weekend to miss out on a play-off spot by one stroke. That play-off was contested by 500/1 shot and eventual winner, Derek Ernst and Englishman, David Lynn. He was 5th again here 12 months ago and he’s already proved with victory at Pebble Beach earlier this season, that there’s enough in tank to win if the event suits, which this does. Whilst perhaps a bit shorter in the betting than some would like, Mickelson looks a decent option this week, despite some lacklustre form since that aforementioned victory at Pebble.
Aaron Wise put in a steady performance on his Masters debut and it wasn’t miles away from being a lot better. If someone had told Wise on the Wednesday before the Masters he was going to finish 17th he’d have probably been fairly content, but after bouncing back from an opening-round 75 to shoot 71-68-67 he will be disappointed it wasn’t better. Scoring was fairly good in round one so a 71/72 really wasn’t out of the question and a 71 on day one would have seen him finish in a tie for 5th. All ifs and buts and you don’t know what his mindset would have been like on the weekend if he was closer to the lead, but it just goes to show the fine margins involved in golf. On to why he’s got a chance this week. Not only did Wise show form at Augusta last time out but the reigning Rookie of the Year finished 2nd here 12 months ago, despite making his course debut. His form has been up and down this season but he was putting together some decent finishes earlier in the season, with top-15 finishes at the Shriners and Mayakoba and with top-20 finishes at the WGC Mexico and The Masters now under his belt he can kick on and get his second PGA Tour win here. A winner at the Byron Nelson last year and on the Web.com in 2017 the former NCAA individual winner (2016) has spent the last three years winning at every level and he’ll be keen to continue that. He only finished two shots shy of Day last year, thanks to three rounds of 68 and a round of 70 and a similar week this time round could see him get the victory.
A very steady player since he came on the PGA Tour, Joel Dahmen will be looking to take the next step and get a win at this level. Twice a winner on the Canadian Tour in 2014, Dahmen has not won since, and that will be something he’s keen to change and fast. Consistency hasn’t been a problem of late, with Dahmen finishing inside the top-16 three times during this run of five straight made cuts and last week he and partner Brandon Harkins combined for two rounds of 63. He was so impressive when T12 at the PLAYERS Championship and he backed that up with an impressive T16 finish at the Heritage. 16th was the same position he finished in at this event 12 months ago, after shooting four under-par rounds. Only two shots outside the top-10, Dahmen’s problem last year was he didn’t break 70, something I fully expect he will do this week.
Phil Mickelson to win (each way) @ 30/1
Joel Dahmen to finish inside the top-10 @ 8/1