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Wells Fargo Championship Preview

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We stay in Carolina this week, this time in Charlotte, for the Wells Fargo Championship, at Quail Hollow. This year is the 12th edition of this event, which has previously been know as, the Wachovia Championship, between its inaugural staging in 2003 and 2008, and also simply the Quail Hollow Championship in 2009 and 2010.

This event has been a youngsters paradise over the last few years, with Derek Ernst (2013), Rickie Fowler (2012), Rory McIlroy (2011) and Anthony Kim (2008) all getting their first PGA Tour win here, at a young age. This shall give non-winners, and younger players alike, confidence going into this week, despite the World #9, #10 and #11 all being in the field this week.

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Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy will be teeing it up this week in what looks to be a decent field this year, and once again this event is sold out. Both fans and players will be treated to a different, Quail Hollow Club this year, as all greens have been replaced with Bermuda grass, and the course has been lengthened to, 7,562 yards.

Driving Distance has always been considered a factor here, but with the additional length added here, due to the changes, it may well be more important this time around. Good, Greens in Regulation numbers will be as helpful as ever, and if a player insists on making it harder for themselves, they will need to scramble well to get the job done here.

Holes 16,17 and 18 are grouped together, and known as the ‘Green Mile’, one of the toughest closing stretches on the PGA Tour, and will certainly be a factor this week.

The changes of surface on the greens could be a major factor in the outcome this week, and I am sure more player than not, will be in favour of the change. One player in particular will be happy with this change, and that is Phil Mickelson. Phil has been quoted in the past saying this, and whilst it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it certainly highlights his frustration about the greens before. “For as beautifully designed as this golf course is tee to green, the greens are by far the worst designed greens we play on TOUR. Even though they’re in immaculate shape, I would say that 18 would be the worst green that we have on TOUR, except that it’s not even the worst on this golf course; 12 is”

The course should only improve from the change in greens, and it may cause a shift in form for some players, here at Quail Hollow. Those who excel on the Bermuda surfaces may well improve their form here, if not good already and the new-look greens may also attract other players, who may of shied away from the event in the past.

With all this in mind, here are my picks for the 2014 Wells Fargo Championship.

Webb Simpson 50/1 (General) 2pts e/w: Webb Simpson, is a Carolina resident, a Quail Hollow Club member and also a proven PGA Tour winner, so at 50/1 I am happy to get him on board.

He was my headline selection at this event last year, at a much shorter price (20/1) and although he was in better form last time around (finished 2nd two starts before), I still rate his chances highly once again.

Simpson says that Quail Hollow, along with Pinehurst (this year’s U.S Open host) feels like home, so he will be looking to turn his current form around. Simpson has missed two of his last three cuts, including another missed cut at Augusta, and he  is fully aware of his current bad run.

What he has also said, is that he is confident of a turnaround, and his caddy, Paul Tesori has been reassuring him that it’s not all bad. “As bad as I feel like I’ve played the last month and a half, my caddie Paul [Tesori] texted me Sunday night that I’m 11th on the FedEx Cup and 11th on the money list,” Simpson said. “That’s a positive. I always try to look for the positives.

This was taken from an interview on www.golfchannel.com, and this is the link if you wish to read the rest of the post – http://www.golfchannel.com/news/golf-central-blog/quail-hollow-pinehurst-home-simpson/

Simpson, like many others shouldn’t mind the changes made to the greens this year, as two of his four PGA Tour wins have come on Bermuda Grass. His most recent win, at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open came at TPC Summerlin which has Bermuda Grass, so he knows how to get the ball rolling on these surfaces.

His course form here, has been average-to-good, with two missed cuts in his first two start, a 21st and 32nd place finish, as well as his best finish of 4th here, in 2012. He has made three straight cuts here, and although he only managed T32 here in 2013, I am confident he can play well here again, just like he did in 2012.

He is, as aforementioned, still 11th in the FedEx Cup rankings and on the Money List, so he has played some good stuff in this wrap-around season, and I am sure he can find something again. I like the idea of backing him at his home course, in his home town, and at an event he’s finished 4th in before.

For those who are looking for something positive, statistically, he is 8th in Strokes Gained-Putting, 30th in Ball Striking, 31st in Scrambling and 40th in Greens in Regulation, some pretty solid numbers.

Yes he is out of form, and not quite as consistent as he has been in previous years, but at 50/1, I am happy to find out if he can reverse his fortunes this week.

Russell Henley 100/1 (Boylesports, SpreadEx) 1pt e/w: Russell Henley won his 2nd PGA Tour event a few weeks ago, at the Honda Classic, and has already been tipped by me since, but not at three-figure odds.

As I have admitted previously, I have been wrong on him twice in the past. When he won the Sony Open, on his first start on the PGA Tour, I thought he was going to be a total stud, and saw him winning again in 2013, even at the U.S Open, oh how wrong I was! The tail-end of last year changed my opinion of him drastically, and I wasn’t sure if he had peaked too soon.

I was fortunately proved wrong, as he won again this year, keeping up the one win a year ratio. I am hoping he can make it two wins this year, at a course, that with the changes I believe could really suit him.

Both of Henley’s wins have come on Bermuda grass, so like Simpson he should be a fan of this year’s renovations, and hopefully that’s one factor, in him improving on last year’s 43rd place finish.

He should benefit from his experience last year, and hopefully he can put his missed cut, on his last start, two weeks ago behind him.

Henley will also have the helping hand of Charles Frost, his instructor who coincidentally is a pro, here at Quail Hollow. This can only aid his chances in my opinion, and that may be another positive that works in the youngster’s favour. Henley certainly fits the bill, of a young winner, but despite only being 24, he does have two wins to his name, two wins more than Anthony Kim, Derek Ernst, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy had before winning here.

Despite being inconsistent as such, since his win at the Honda, Henley did make the weekend at Augusta, after a 7th place finish at the Shell Houston Open. A lot of players, including Kim, Mickelson and D.A Points have all played well at both events, and let’s hope Henley can do the same.

He is not a stranger to winning in North Carolina, he did it when winning the Chiquita Classic in 2012, when still on the Web.com Tour, and at 100/1, it’s worth chancing he has another happy return to the state.

Bud Cauley 175/1 (SkyBet) 1pt e/w: Bud Cauley had a torrid time on the PGA Tour in 2013, but he is finally starting to shown signs of a turnaround, highlighted by his T11 finish last week.

That finish last week, was his best since his 3rd at the Wyndham Championship in 2012, and also his first top-25, since June last year, so he’s trending in the right direction. He’s now finish T11 and T29 in last two stroke-play events, and if he can keep up this form, the buzz around him, when he first burst onto the scene may return.

Cauley’s performances last season shocked a lot of people, myself included, as it looked inevitable that he would win, and be the next best young player on the PGA Tour. He was expected to be in the same category as Harris English, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, and he is still young enough (24) to join them.

He finished 38th here last year, on his one and only appearance at this course and he will be looking to build on that, as he is in better form heading into the week, this time around. He had missed the cut on his last start prior to this event last year, and with a good showing at the Zurich now under his belt, he will be looking to take inspiration from the other young winners of this event, en-route to his own win, this week.

Despite bursting onto the scene, Cauley has failed to establish himself fully on Tour, and that will be why he is 175/1. He won’t stay such a big price for long, if he continues to string performances together, and I am hoping to catch him at the right time, at the right price.

Total Points Staked this week: 8

Profit/Loss for 2014: + 117.91

No picks for me on the European Tour this week, and only three picks primarily in the Wells Fargo. I have only picked three, as I could make a case for at least 2o players, and you cannot include them all. Look out on my Twitter @TJacobsGolf, before the off on Thursday, as I make look to add one or two more selections.