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Congratulations to our European Tour tipster Paul Williams who delivered a nice 25/1 winner with Alex Levy obliging via a play-off last week in China - a well-deserved result for Paul after consecutive close calls at the Hassan II and Shenzhen tournaments with Paul Dunne and George Coetzee respectively. With the 'GolfSixes' launching this weekend on the European Tour, we're focussing 100% Stateside this week as the PGA Tour travels to a new host course with the Wells Fargo Championship moving to Eagle Point Golf Club for 2017 only while Quail Hollow continues its preparations for this season's PGA Championship. Once one of the biggest PGA Tour 'domestic' tournaments of the year, the Wells Fargo finds itself in a difficult schedule position these days and it has to be said that this week's field strength, one week prior to The Players Championship, is the weakest I can remember.
Course Guide: Eagle Point Golf Club, in Wilmington, North Carolina is a completely new venue for the PGA Tour. Located within a mile of the Atlantic coast, Eagle Point is a Tom Fazio design and the private members club was opened in 2000. Set in 230 acres of rolling North Carolina countryside, Eagle Point Golf Club is now one of the top golf courses in the state. Fazio moved over 2 million cubic yards of earth to make the course undulating and, in typical Carolina golf course style, fairways were lined with a mixture of oak trees and pine trees as part of the build process. The course also features plenty of water with 8 holes featuring hazards. 500 yards of length have been added to the course to make it a PGA Tour-level test, especially as the course will play as a Par 72 this week at circa 7,400 yards. The track features pure A4 Bentgrass greens with Tifsport Bermudagrass fairways and rough, which has been overseeded with Perennial Ryegrass for the tournament, to up the difficulty factor for the professionals.
Eagle Point Golf Course, Wilmington, North Carolina: Designer: Tom Fazio 2000; Course Type: Carolina; Par: 72; Length: 7,396 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 8; Fairways: TifSport Bermudagrass, overseeded with Rye; Rough: TifSport Bermudagrass, overseeded with Rye 3"; Greens: A4 Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 12ft.
Course Overview: A new course always provides a greater challenge for punters. Key aspects of Eagle Point Golf Club are that the course is set within a mile of the Atlantic coast, but it's by no means a links course as only the 9th and the 10th feature marshland. Instead it's a typical Carolina design with fairways being very much tree-lined and there's plenty of undulation. In modern day terms, the length of 7,396 yards isn't overly long for a Par 72 and on inspection the course looks quite wide from off the tee. A full flyover of the course with commentary from Billy Anderson, Director of Golf at Eagle Point, is here.
Other points to note are that the course features only one dogleg hole, the 11th - long and straight driving can only help here. The opening 3 holes offer birdie opportunities including the 386 yard par-4 3rd hole and, in general, the par-4s across the property are short by PGA Tour standards. 3 of the 4 par-5s also look vulnerable to an average length driver and with relatively low rough in play this week, I think Eagle Point will be attackable. A4 Bentgrass greens look extremely pure and it has been said by many that there's an Augusta National type feel to the set-up here.
Event Winners (Quail Hollow): 2016: James Hahn (-9); 2015: Rory McIlroy (-21); 2014: J.B. Holmes (-14); 2013: Derek Ernst (-8); 2012: Rickie Fowler (-14); 2011: Lucas Glover (-15); 2010: Rory McIlroy (-15).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally the tournament visits a new course this week, but these statistics help to shape a view on players who have an affinity with this week's event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published Wells Fargo Championship predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 5 of the predictor are Dustin Johnson (No.1), Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner, Brian Harman and William McGirt.
DraftKings Predictor Model: For those of you who play DraftKings there's now a dedicated predictor model available here.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Genesis Open and includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2016: Hahn 500/1; 2015: Rory McIlroy 7/2; 2014: Holmes 66/1; 2013: Ernst 500/1; 2012: Fowler 50/1; 2011: Glover 110/1; 2010: McIlroy 66/1. Average: 185/1.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Wilmington, North Carolina is here. The local area has received plenty of rain in the build-up, with the course also receiving precipitation (107mm) between Sunday and Tuesday of last week. This Fazio design is built on sand, so the course drains well, but expect lush conditions. Rain overnight on Thursday could again soften the track for Friday.
Wind will be a factor across the opening 54 holes of the tournament. A prevailing south-easterly - the course was built with this in mind - will gust up to 20 mph on Thursday, with the early starters potentially getting an advantage. Friday sees the wind pick up in intensity (up to 25mph gusts) and change to a south-westerly which should play as a challenging cross-wind on the majority of holes across both Friday and Saturday. Sunday should be more tranquil, but the breeze will still be a factor.
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 7 winners of this event:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
For research purposes, other Tom Fazio designs include:
Fazio has also had re-design input into:
For the record, here's the breakdown of Bentgrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
The Wells Fargo Championship's move to Eagle Point Golf Club for 2017 undoubtedly makes this week a real challenge. Its traditional home at Quail Hollow - which this year hosts the US PGA Championship in August - is all about power bombing, but Eagle Point will offer up a slightly different challenge. The track, which features Bentgrass greens, looks pristine and plenty of early arrivals at the course feel it has notes of Augusta National to it with plenty of holes featuring pine trees, pine straw, uneven undulating fairways and creeks. However where Eagle Point and Augusta National will undoubtedly differ will be across greens speeds and course length, with Eagle Point playing far shorter and slower. Strong breeze across the opening 54 holes could also make this a test where a high element of strategy is required.
What else do we know? Well you don't have to research too deeply before any search engine highlights that Carl Pettersson and Webb Simpson are both members of the very selective and private Eagle Point Golf Club. The amiable Swede even holds the course record. Fellow Carolina natives Bill Haas and Johnson Wagner have also visited the course a number of times. The course has no meaningful competition leads either on the basis that it has only held an AJGA Junior Matchplay tournament once - the 2011 Wyndham Cup - and an annual Carolina-level Amateur Invitational.
The Wells Fargo Championship since 2010 has held this same schedule slot - 4 weeks after The Masters and 1 week prior to The Players Championship - only 3 times in 2011, 2012 and 2016. Lucas Glover in 2011 had missed the cut at both Augusta and Harbour Town and had a best finish of 20th (at Copperhead) before winning the title at 110/1. Rickie Fowler in 2012 had finished 27th at Augusta, missed the cut at Harbour Town and finished 10th the week before at TPC Louisiana before capturing his maiden PGA Tour title at 50/1 (we were on board that week). Last year James Hahn had a season's-best finish of 17th at TPC Scottsdale before embarking on a journey of 8 straight missed cuts including Harbour Town, TPC San Antonio and TPC Louisiana before capturing this title at a massive 500/1.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
William McGirt was brought up within 90 miles of Eagle Point Golf Club in Fairmont, North Carolina. He was one the very first players to commit to the Wells Fargo Championship and naturally a win in his home state would be fantastic for the World Number 45. The winner of the Invitational-status Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village last year, William's rise into the World's Top 50 has been phenomenal with top 10 finishes across the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship (his first Major top-10) also helping him reach his first Tour Championship. 2017 has also been impressive enough with a strong top 10 at Kapalua then being followed by a last-16 appearance at the World Matchplay, 22nd on debut at Augusta (he was 5th after 36 holes) and 3rd last time out in Carolina at the RBC Heritage played at Harbour Town. 9th at Harbour Town and 8th at Sedgefield, both in 2014, also highlight that McGirt plays well on Carolina-style courses and the move away from Quail Hollow to a sub 7,400 yard Par 72 can only help his chances to capture what would be a huge title for him. McGirt has never played Eagle Point prior to this point (he's been invited twice but both occasions were rained off) but his strong wind play, allied to his liking for lush course conditions, can only play to his strengths. 8th in par-4 Scoring Average, 31st in Scoring Average and 25th in Bogey Avoidance are season-long statistics that highlight a player who's primed for a big performance on the right course.
Getting Webb Simpson on board this week seems like an absolute no-brainer. A club member who has diligently promoted this move to Eagle Point, Simpson's formative years were spent at neighbouring Country Club of Landfall. Eagle Point opened when Simpson was 15 years old and from that point onwards Webb viewed the course as his 'Augusta National'. It's worth remembering that the 2012 U.S. Open champion has always viewed the Wells Fargo Championship as a personal Major and his association with the tournament is pretty unique as he lives at Quail Hollow. At 7,600 yards his home course is always likely to be a challenge too far - despite finishing 2nd (2015) and 4th (2012) at Quail - but Eagle Point is undoubtedly in his wheelhouse with his course knowledge only being matched by course record holder Carl Pettersson.
Webb's 4 PGA Tour victories have all been on pure Bentgrass greens and despite not winning since autumn 2014, there are definite signs that he's progressing. 13th at Waialae, 2nd at TPC Scottsdale (lost in a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama) and 11th last time out at Harbour Town (he went out in the final group with Jason Dufner) show his game is competitive on the right track. With greens that he knows intimately, Simpson will for once have an advantage this week and, with wind a factor throughout, his course knowledge is worth tapping into this week.
Bud Cauley 1.5pts EW 50/1 - WD Pre-Event
We've seen a few PGA Tour maidens break through at the Wells Fargo Championship in recent times. Some have been insanely talented - the likes of Anthony Kim (2008), Rory McIlroy (2010) and Rickie Fowler (2012) - whereas Derek Ernst (2013), with respect, was a little more left-field. Patrick Rodgers had a great run (joint 2nd with Simpson) at this tournament in 2015 and last year Roberto Castro had the title in his hands before losing in a playoff to James Hahn. With a move to a shorter and more attackable golf course, I'm happy to play Floridian Bud Cauley this week who's playing some lovely stuff right now. His last visit to Carolina delivered 9th at Harbour Town with the 27 year-old leading after Round 1 (-8/63). Cauley was the 36 hole leader at TPC San Antonio a fortnight ago, eventually finishing 10th, and last week he partnered university of Alabama friend Justin Thomas to 5th place at TPC Louisiana. Cauley delivered 37 birdies across 2 tricky tests at Harbour Town and TPC San Antonio (26% birdie or better conversion) and it was intriguing to see him convincingly outperform Thomas across 36 holes of best-ball golf in New Orleans last week. 12 birdies across 36 holes was excellent and it was Thomas who actually held the partnership back.
I can see Eagle Point being a positive course for Cauley as he's ranked 11th and 1st for Total Driving in his last 2 solo PGA Tour appearances and his visits to Carolina in the past have yielded 3rd at Sedgefield in 2012, 10th there last year and the aforementioned 9th at Harbour Town 3 weeks ago. A winner on Bentgrass greens on the 7,360 yard, Par 72 at Sycamore Hills GC in the 2014 web.com Playoffs, Bud is undoubtedly becoming more comfortable with being at the top of PGA Tour leaderboards. While his putter's hot, I'm going to run with him this week. WD Pre-Event
An Eagle Point member and course record holder (62), it would be remiss of me not to include Carl Pettersson who lives at nearby Raleigh. The 39 year-old has been suffering with poor form for a stretch of time, but lo and behold he found some game at TPC San Antonio on his last solo appearance. Going into the final round in 4th spot, Pettersson eventually finished 16th - his best finish since a 6th in North Carolina at Sedgefield back in 2015. A look at his CV tells you that when he finds something in his game and some confidence he's one to follow, so it makes perfect sense to follow him this week on home soil at a huge price.
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel