This week the PGA Tour returns to Quail Hollow, last year’s PGA Championship host venue and regular spot for the Wells Fargo Championship.
Eagle Point GC played host last year, as Quail Hollow prepared to host the PGA Championship for the first time in the course’s history. It is also due to host the 2021 President’s Cup, as it continues to be one the more popular stops on the PGA Tour.
A stellar field has assembled this week, including the most recent winner at this course; Justin Thomas, who emerged victorious at the 2017 PGA Championship, as well as former Wells Fargo champions, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy. Masters champion, Patrick Reed will also play this week, months after finishing tied 2nd behind Thomas at the PGA Championship, whilst Brooks Koepka will be making his first solo start following a 15-week absence. Koepka and partner Marc Turnesa missed the cut at the Zurich Classic last week, due to second-round 78.
Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood ensure there are 9 of the top-15 players in the World Rankings teeing it up here, in what is sure to be an interesting spectacle this week.
The Course and what it will take to win
Quail Hollow, 7,554 yards, Par 71, Bermudagrass Greens, (Ranked 1/50 in terms of difficulty at the 2017 PGA Championship)
The putting surfaces were changed here from Bentgrass to Bermuda following criticism of the greens during the 2013 renewal. The greens were also updated again, ahead of the PGA Championship last year, and are now Ultradwarf Bermudgrass, which is meant to be as pure as any putting surface available.
Ahead of this year’s renewal they have over-seeded the greens with Poa, which means we won’t see the rapid speeds of the PGA Championship greens, but more like 12 on the stimpmeter, which to be fair is still fast by Tour standards.
Much of the course layout has remained the same, particularly as Hole 1 has now reverted back to a 495-yard hole, after being changed to a 524-yard par-4 for the PGA Championship. Previous course form should not be discounted, but the form since 2014, when the green surfaces were changed to Bermuda is perhaps the most relevant.
Given the length required off the tee, Strokes-Gained: Off-the-Tee will be a vital area to look at this week, as well as Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green, given the all round game required to win here. If greens are missed, you will need to have your scrambling boots on to compensate, so those are three key areas to bear in mind when contending at Quail Hollow.
Rory McIlroy (8/1)
Justin Thomas (11/1)
Rickie Fowler (12/1)
Patrick Reed (20/1)
Jason Day (22/1)
Patrick Reed (22/1)
Ryan Moore 50/1 (General) 1pt e/w:
Ryan Moore has found some form in recent weeks, finishing no worse than 28th in his last four starts, accruing two top-7 finishes in that time also.
Moore has a decent record at Quail Hollow, including top-6 finishes in 2012 and 2013. Since the changes to the course were made in 2014, Moore hasn’t been as steady here, however a T18 finish in 2014 and a T13 finish at last year’s PGA Championship suggest he can contend here, even with the course changes taken into account.
Despite a mixed start to the season, Moore has still managed to climb the rankings in both SG: Tee-to-Green (27th) and SG: Off-the-Tee (48th) and those numbers will likely continue to rise over the next few weeks, should his form continue.
Moore is in the sort of form that suggests another win is on the horizon, which will be his sixth on the PGA Tour.
At 50/1, I am happy to chance a player who has proven on numerous occasions that he is every bit good enough to beat strong fields, and should it all click on any given week, he could well be good enough to win a major championship, as well as top-level regular events such as the one in front of him this week.
Brooks Koepka 60/1 (888Sport and Unibet) 1pt e/w:
Brooks Koepka is making his first solo start since January this week and whilst he failed to make the cut last week, the blame cannot be attributed to him alone and he will now get the chance to prove he’s ready to contend once again.
He finished T13 last year at the 2017 PGA Championship but led the field tee-to-green and also ranked 2nd in SG: Off-the-tee, in his first start at this course.
In this recent interview with Golf.com, Koepka is very bullish about his career, and is clear he is in it to win it every time he tees it up, a very important attitude.
When asked “I’m sure you’re eager to get back on Tour. Have your expectations changed at all in the past year?” Koepka reaffirmed how positive he is about his game and what we should expect going forward. “Just to win next time I tee it up. Now, the goal is to win multiple times every year, and to win a major every year. Once you win one, you get a little bit of a taste for it. Plus you’ve got the confidence of having done it; having finished it: Hey I’ve got something you guys don’t.
I do not think Koepka would come back before he was ready, otherwise he would have done so at the Masters, so he should be in a good place to contend regularly again, especially at Quail Hollow where his distance off the tee will be a huge asset.
Doubts about his fitness have been taken into account and then some with this price in my opinion, and 60/1 about one of the best players in golf in recent years looks good value, even if still not quite 100% just yet.
Should he even finish inside the top-20 or so this week, it is very unlikely we will see such a generous price about Koepka, who has not missed a cut in a major since the 2013 Open Championship Ten top-15 finishes in that time, including his 2017 U.S. Open win suggest he’s playing at a very elite level, even if he has just two PGA Tour titles to his name so far.
Bryson DeChambeau 60/1 (888Sport, SportingBet and Unibet) 1pt e/w:
In fear of following him off a cliff this season, I was a bit unsure whether to go again with DeChambeau this week, but even after seeing his price drop from 70/1 to 60/1, I still believe he represents some value.
Bryson ranks in the top-14 in both SG: Tee-to-Green (12th) and 14th in SG: Off-the-Tee, which has led to strong results of late.
In his last three starts, DeChambeau has a 2nd and a 3rd either side of his T38 showing at Augusta.
His form here so far has been far from spectacular, missing his cut on debut and finishing T33 at least year’s, PGA Championship but he has the right game to contend here, should the stars align as they have threatened to in recent weeks.
A triple-bogey 8 on his second hole of round-three, at the RBC Heritage cost him the chance to win his second PGA Tour event, as he finished just one shot shy of the Satoshi Kodaira/Si-Woo Kim play-off. He bounced back admirably from a third-round 75 with a 66 in round four and will look to go one better on his next start.
I had him in mind for The Players, as I believe TPC Sawgrass will suit his game very well, but I also like his game here at Quail Hollow and he looks a good price to contend once again this week.
Joaquin Niemann 150/1 (BetVictor & SportingBet) 0.5 pt e/w:
Joaquin Niemann was 225/1 at the start of the day, and whilst that price is now long gone, at 150/1 I still think it’s worth throwing some loose change at the Chilean sensation.
Niemann played for the first time as a pro at the Valero Texas Open, which was a tough test and managed to finish in 6th place.
Whilst he got the week off a relatively slow start, shooting 72-70 over the first two days, Niemann came alive over the weekend, shooting a pair of 67’s to climb the leaderboard.
He should take a great deal of confidence from his weekend play in Texas and that result clearly vindicates his decision to turn pro at just 19.
Now feeling a sense of belonging so early in his career, Niemann will look to kick on and take advantage of that good form last time out.
Niemann has played in two regular PGA Tour events, finishing 6th at the Valero Texas Open and T29 at last year’s Greenbrier Classic, so he is clearly already comfortable mixing it at this level. He did miss the cut in his two major starts (2017 U.S. Open, 2018 Masters), but those events come with pressure like no other and I am happy to ignore them.
A player with the world currently at his feet, a win here would prove to everyone, including himself that the hype is real surrounding this young man, who spent 48 weeks atop the World Amateur rankings.
Keith Mitchell 250/1 (General) 0.5pt e/w:
Keith Mitchell is a player who is very impressive off the tee, and should the putter warm up, he will surely win his first PGA Tour event sooner rather later.
Mitchell currently ranks T10 in SG: Off-the-Tee on Tour and whilst he only ranks 93rd in SG: Tee-to-Green, he has been excellent in that department in recent starts.
When finishing T26 at the Valero Texas Open, Mitchell ranked 3rd in SG: Off-the-Tee and 5th SG: Tee-to-Green, whilst at the Houston Open he ranked 13th in both, ended the week in 6th place.
A third round 75 at the Corales Puntacana cost him a chance to grab his first victory, as he finished in 2nd place, four shots shy of Brice Garnett. Strokes Gained stats were unavailable that week, but he clearly played extremely well again, and his game looks in very solid shape in recent weeks.
Despite a slow start to his season, Mitchell has really found some form in recent weeks and that confidence could well lead to him contending here, at a course and event that has yielded surprise winners in the past. His strengths off the tee should serve him well at this course and it will certainly be interesting to see how he gets on during his course debut.
Total Points Staked this week: 8
Profit/Loss for 2018: -61.4