This week we are at the Wells Fargo Championship, and this is the start of a long stretch of fine golf tournaments leading up to the second major of the year, the U.S Open which starts on the 13th of June. Last week we saw another 1st time winner, although this time it didn’t come as such a surprise as Billy Horschel took home the Zurich Classic, after placing in the top 10 in his three previous tournaments, with finishes of T9, T3, T2, so he was certainly due his first win and that should only spur him on to bigger and better things. He is not in the field this week, but minus his absence we have yet another strong field on the PGA Tour, including Rory Mcilroy who is a past champion here in 2010, when the tournament was known by it’s former name of the Quail Hollow Championship and he comes in this week as the market leader at 9/1 best price at Ladbrokes. Other than Rory we have fan favourite Phil Mickelson and England’s Lee Westwood who make up the top three of the betting, coming in at 20/1 & 18/1 top price for each at StanJames respectively.
So what can expect at the Wells Fargo this time around. Well one thing we do know is that there has not been a multiple champion, let alone a defending one, in the tournaments 10 year history, something that does not bode well for defending champion Rickie Fowler. The last three players that have played the year after winning are Lucas Glover (2011) who missed the cut with rounds of 76, 72 in 2012, Rory Mcilory (2010) who too went on to miss the cut in 2011 with opening rounds of 75 and 72 and the third and final example is Sean O’Hair (2009) who again missed the cut with what were similar rounds but in reverse order of 77,72, based on this it’s fair to say that defending champions don’t tend to excel in recent times at this course, something that may be quite surprising to some. This being said you cannot rule out someone of Rickie Fowler’s quality ever, but at 25/1 (General) it may make you think twice on what seems to be a decent price for not just the previous winner but someone of Fowler’s ability. With all this being said both Glover and have done well with a year gap in between, to explain better, Lucas Glover came T2 in 2009 and then won in 2011 and Rory Mcilroy won in 2010 and then lost in a play off last year, so that may be another pattern to consider when looking at bets this week. Another thing to take into account is that the 54-hole leader has only gone on to win 3 times in 10 attempts so if you have a player in mind that likes to shoot their lowest score in the final round, this may be the week to be on them. On to what you need to know about both the course and the defending champion.
The Course: Quail Hollow Club, Par 72, 7,492 yards. Quail Hollow was ranked 25th in the toughest golf courses of 2012, measured by the average score relative to par, the average score last year being 71.844. The last three holes on the course are known as the “Green Mile” and are considered one of the toughest stretches on Tour, and Phil Mickelson is one player who admits he’s not a fan of the greens in particular when he was quoted saying “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. Not something you want to hear from a 20/1 2nd favourite, however with Mickelson never winning this event you may feel he is a bit biased as he has finished 2nd in 2010 and T5 in 2009 so he certainly can make his way round “the worst greens on Tour”. With this in mind, putting should be as important as ever and with the course being fairly long players with distanced off the tee will certainly look to gain an advantage from that.
Defending Champion: Rickie Fowler. Rickie won the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship and it his first and only win on the PGA Tour in his short career, with a performance which would of fitted the headline “coming of age” pretty well. He won the event by beating both D.A Points and Rory Mcilroy in a play off, both who had wins under their belt before coming into the event and therefore possibly considered the more likely winners in a pressured situation. However Rickie made one of only 5 birdies on the 18th hole that day with a superb wedge shot giving him the putt to win. With Rickie winning the event last year at the age of 23 last year, he became the third winner in the five years to be under the age of 24, as Anthony Kim was 22 in 2008 and Rory Mcilroy just 20 in 2010, so a young player looking for their first Tour win will take great confidence in that and maybe it may be the time for some of the Tour rookies to step up and get a win under their belt, or players with previous experience who are still yet to win on tour to get their first. This has been a good course for first time winners, with Rory Mcilroy and Fowler both getting their 1st here and have gone on to be fantastic players.
So with everything previously mentioned and the market value taken into account I will try to build on past success and get a third win this season. Everyone’s price will be slightly inflated due to Rory’s involvement as well as the other leading candidates and hopefully that value can be exposed in the hunt for another good week of betting. Here are my selections for the Wells Fargo Championship.
Webb Simpson 20/1 (888Sport) 18/1 (General) 3pts win: One link that I have found is that players that have done well here, especially previous winners with the possible exception of Rickie Fowler, have either had past or future success in the U.S Open before or after this event, Rory Mcilroy won the U.S Open a year after his win here at Quail Hollow, Lucas Glover won here two years after his 2009 U.S Open win and was actually T2 here in the same year, leading up to to that U.S Open win. Other than these two examples Anthony Kim finished T16 in the 2009 U.S Open, the year after winning this event so it seems that this could be a course that suits players who do well in U.S Opens. Although this does ring true in Webb Simpson’s case as he came 4th here in 2012 before going on to win the U.S Open, it is no means a definite link and that’s not the definitive reason for me picking him this week. My reasons being are that not only did Webb Simpson finish 4th here last year after holding the 54 hole-lead, but he has also just missed out on his 4th title two weeks ago in a play off to Graeme McDowell on his last time out. Webb shot +1 in his final round here last year to miss out on the play off by one shot and that might just be the final push he needs to getting his first win of 2013. Including that 2nd place two weeks ago he has three top 10s finishing T6 in the Northern Trust Open and T5 in the WGC Match-Play event so he has had a pretty decent start to the season and he will look to further improve it ahead of his U.S Open defence. At a course just down the road from his home and somewhere he has shown decent form, 4th and T21 in his last two starts, this may just be one of Webb’s best chances of a win all season and that’s why I’m happy to have him on side even at 20/1. He will certainly need to be on form with his putter and hopefully he will be on course to another victory in his short career so far.
Bill Haas 30/1 (Bet365) 1pt e/w: Haas is in fantastic form this season, and a player who certainly knows how to win. Not only has Haas won 4 PGA Tour events, but he also won the FedEx Cup in 2011 which rewarded him with a healthy $1o million bonus so Haas seems a fairly reliable player to back. After backing him at the same price in the Northern Trust Open where he came T3, Haas has added two further top 10’s and a T20 at the Masters, where he hasn’t had the best of times in the past. He now has 5 top 10 finishes and ranks 1st in that category. Other categories that he places highly in that may be of interest are 8th in Greens in Regulation and 2nd in Par 4 performance, which is key when trying to put together a good round of golf. Apart from his 4th here in 2011 his course form doesn’t set the world alight, and he also missed the cut last year but Haas has made a point of posting his best finishes at particular tournaments this season most notably the Masters and the Shell Houston Open and hopefully he can build on his 4th in 2011 and add to that list. At 30/1 I want Haas on board and I can see him posting yet another good finish this week, and hopefully go one better and get his 1st win of the year.
Jordan Spieth 100/1 (Coral) 1pt e/w: With the stat in mind of players under 24 winning, at just 19 years old Jordan Spieth certainly fits the bill for that category. The only player other than Tiger Woods to win the U.S Junior Amateur on multiple occasions and after just securing special temporary membership on Tour for the remainder of the season he should be brimming with confidence. Now that he can accept unlimited invites he can go into each week knowing that he has every chance of playing the following week, which might be enough to relax him if he’s in a big situation. Earlier in the year Spieth could be found at odds of around the 30 and 40/1 mark, and at 100/1 I decided I’d take a chance. He clearly has the skill set to go on to bigger things, and will take heart from Billy Horschel’s win at the Zurich Classic and should believe he can get a win before the end of the year. He’s 15th and 31st in Round 3 and Round 4 scoring respectively so when he gets to the weekend he seems to be playing pretty well, he is also 26th in Driving Accuracy and 46th in Greens in Regulation so he is striking the ball particularly well and hopefully he can build on that here. If he can find his putting this week I think he has an excellent chance of going well. One final note, Spieth finished T21 in last year’s U.S Open and was the Low Amateur so he really can get it done and this may be a good course for him.
Sean O’Hair 150/1 (StanJames) 1pt e/w: Sean O’Hair is a previous winner of this event, winning the title in 2009, beating both Bubba Watson and Lucas Glover by a shot. Since then O’Hair has one more win to his name, the RBC Canadian Open in 2011, being his 4th and last win on tour. So why have I gone for him here this week? This week I am looking at Sean O’Hair due to a couple of reasons, one main one being his 4 under par rounds at the Zurich Classic last week. Although he only finished T46, O’Hair did shoot -7, with three rounds of 70 and a round of 71, even though this was nowhere near enough to challenge, it really is a positive step for a proven winner on top of coming into a course he knows he can play well and this can only add to his confidence ahead of this week. He is also 14th in Driving Distance, and if he can find the rest of his game, that has knows he has he should look to contend here once again. His last 3 attempts at this golf course are a T15 (2012), missed cut (2010) and his win in 2009, so at 150/1 I think there’s some value. He has had two top-25 finishes elsewhere this season, a T16 at Pebble Beach and T18 at the Honda Classic, two difficult tournaments, so hopefully he can build on those results and go even better here!
PGA Tour points staked: 9
Total Points staked (inc European Tour): TBC
Profit/Loss for 2013: +56
After a fantastic week on the European Tour last week where I tipped the winner Brett Rumford at 80/1, 2nd place Marcus Fraser at 40/1 and finally 4th place Romain Wattel at 100/1 the profit/loss figures are finally back into positive numbers for the year. However after Boo Weekley only managed 6th place last week in the Zurich Classic, I’m still going through a dry spell on the PGA Tour and hopefully this week that can be rectified and luck can be carried over from last week. Hope you enjoy this article and be sure to check out tips for the Volvo China Open, which will be posted soon. Any questions get in contact @TomJacobs8 on Twitter. Thanks for reading.