Forelinx Fantasy Golf Preview ⏤ Wells Fargo Championship

Fantasy Golf

Quail Hollow4

One of the most popular courses on the PGA TOUR takes center stage this week with the playing of the Wells Fargo Championship at the beautiful Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, NC. The event will be the first one contested at Quail Hollow since the COVID-19 pandemic as the tournament was cancelled in full last year without the opportunity for rescheduling. This means that, technically, Max Homa will be defending the title he won here back in 2019 by three shots over Joel Dahmen.

While PGA TOUR competition at Quail Hollow is still relatively new compared to most PGA TOUR events (the first competition here was in 2003), Homa nonetheless joined what has quickly become a quality list of past conquerers of the George Cobb/Tom Fazio design. David Toms won the first event here in 2003, but in subsequent years other major champions like Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy (twice), Lucas Glover and Jason Day have all bagged titles at Quail Hollow. Perhaps the greatest event staged at the facility thus far was the 2017 PGA Championship that Justin Thomas claimed by two shots over Patrick Reed. The facility was also supposed to host the President's Cup this year, but with the rescheduling of the 2020 Ryder Cup to this year that event will take place in 2022.

The Field and the Favorites

As is commonplace on the PGA TOUR, a quality venue attracts quality competitors and this year's playing of the Wells Fargo Championship is no exception. While world number one Dustin Johnson is absent from the field, the rest of the top five players in the world are all on site to compete at Quail Hollow. Predictably, those players make up four of the top five on the board of betting favorites going into the event. Justin Thomas (+1100) and Jon Rahm (+1100) are tied atop the board of odds-on favorites, but we'd have to give the edge here to JT. But for a poor week with the flatstick, he would have been among the contenders last week at Innisbrook and Jon Rahm is a newfound father who we imagine has been light on sleep and time for practice lately. Thomas also carries with him great memories from his lone major championship conquest here at the 2017 PGA Championship.

Bryson Dechambeau comes into the week as the third-favorite at a price of +1400 and is always a reasonable threat to win almost any week that he tees it up. While he had a disappointing Masters Tournament a few weeks ago, his ability to return to the greens books that he so heavily relies on will help shore up the uncooperative putter we saw for most of the week at Augusta. His length will certainly pay dividends around Quail Hollow and he should be able to cut a few of the corners around this tree-lined layout. 

The next favorite is something of a surprise as Rory McIlroy (+1800) has been lost of late and has fallen all the way to 15th in the Official World Golf Ranking. This marks the lowest World Ranking that Rory has held in over ten years and he comes into the week on the heels of two missed cuts at two major league events. He shot 79-75 to miss the cut by a wide margin at the Players Championship and then came to Augusta and opened with rounds of 76-74 to comfortably miss the cut there as well. He also missed the cut at the Genesis Invitational, which adds up to a total of three missed cuts in his last five events. That having been said, those missed cuts bookend two top-ten finishes and Rory always seems like a threat to come out of left field and put up a great number. His shocking position on the board of betting favorites is likely owed to his being the only two-time winner of the Wells Fargo Championship.

This field isn't just top-heavy as it has some quality players among the next tier of contenders as well. Tony Finau (+2800) has quieted down a bit from his run of top-five finishes earlier in the year, but his game seems like a great fit for a big ballpark like Quail Hollow. Xander Schauffele can't be ignored (+2000) and if the conditions are tough we expect him to factor over the course of the weekend. Webb Simpson (+2200) seems to do damage anytime he's in the state of North Carolina and Jason Day (+5000) has bagged a win at this event in the past. Patrick Reed (+3000) finished second to Justin Thomas when the PGA was played here and he deserves some attention as well.

The Golf Course

Quail Hollow is extremely well-liked among the PGA TOUR players and for good reason. It's as honest a golf course as there is with very little by way of gimmicks or tricks. It's a big ballpark and it features five four-par holes that exceed a total of 480 yards in addition to the monster par-three sixth hole at 249 yards. Length is a requirement here and (with the exception of Jim Furyk) is a recurring theme among the winners at this golf course. The greens are generally firm and fast and it's critical to get scoring clubs in your hands in order to access some of the more difficult hole locations on the longer holes.

Moreover, length is a huge factor in so far as it makes the scoring holes a lot more accessible to the player as well. The par-five seventh is reachable for all at 546 yards, but the tenth measures 592 yards and the fifteenth measures 577 yards. Both of those other two par-five holes will likely only be reachable for the longer hitters depending on the wind conditions. Similarly, the fourteenth is drivable at 344 yards for the longer hitters but the shorter players will have to play the shortest four-par on the property as a standard drive and wedge two-shot hole.

The closing stretch at Quail Hollow is known as "The Green Mile" and it will play a major role as the players this week look to close out their rounds. It begins with the par-four sixteenth hole that demands a lot from tee-to-green. The player must find the fairway on a difficult driving hole that doglegs to the right around a bunker on its inside corner. Even if that mission is accomplished, the player is then faced with a mid-iron or more into a green situated adjacent to a large lake that awaits the pulled iron shot. We wouldn't expect to see a ton of birdies here throughout the course of the week and I think every player would happily take four pars here across the four tournament days.

The course doesn't let up as the next leg of the Green Mile is the terrifying one-shot seventeenth. It plays 190 yards almost entirely over water to a peninsula green that juts out into the very same lake the players faced on the previous hole. Hole locations over the weekend will most likely find their way on the dangerous left half of the green and big numbers are there to be had for any player who misjudges or misplays their mid-iron into this relatively small green. There is a little bit of room to bailout high and right of the green, but even that safety play leaves a tricky pitch downhill towards the water that lurks beyond.

The home hole plays on a recurring theme at Quail Hollow as the last test the players will face on the property is another near-500 yard par four. Perhaps the biggest challenge here is the tee shot as it must be squeezed between a fairway bunker that looms large on the right side and a creek that extends down the entire left side of the hole all the way from the beginning of the fairway up to the left side of the green. Even if the player finds the fairway, he'll face a lengthy approach into the green fortified on the one side by the creek and on the other side by a pair of deep bunkers. Any player who can finish this three hole stretch at even par will be thrilled.