Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Wells Fargo Championship Tips 2021

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Congratulations if you were on board Sam Burns at pre-event prices of up to 80/1. He’s a prodigious talent and as I have always said and plays his very best golf on Bermudagrass greens. Burns took advantage of a leaderboard where his nearest challenger was Keegan Bradley, with Abraham Ancer and Cameron Tringale in relatively close attendance. All are playing great golf right now, but aren’t exactly ‘clutch’ when it comes to picking up the win!

The PGA Tour travels to Quail Hollow Club for the Wells Fargo Championship. One of the biggest PGA Tour ‘domestic’ tournaments of the year, the Wells Fargo finds itself in a stronger schedule position these days and it’s fantastic to see a strong field in North Carolina 2 weeks before the PGA Championship.

A field that boasts Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Sungjae Im from the World’s top 20 players says everything about Quail Hollow and the high regard the course is held in. It’s the perfect warm-up for the second Major of 2021 in 2 weeks at Kiawah Island.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Wells Fargo Championship, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System, with the PGA Championship only a few weeks away. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,900+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: The Wells Fargo Championship is now back at its spiritual home at Quail Hollow. After its 2016 Tom Fazio re-design prior to the 2017 PGA Championship, the basic layout of Quail Hollow has changed from a scoreable Par 72 to a toughened Par 71 format, with the front of the golf course substantially ‘beefed-up’. Effectively though the course, despite only being built by George Cobb in 1961, is very much an old-style, classical golf layout which has always received excellent reviews from the world’s best players.

From a detail perspective, it’s important to note that a significant part of the re-design saw the greens changed from MiniVerde Bermudagrass to Champion Bermudagrass – they are also overseeded with Poa Trivialis for the Wells Fargo. Similar Champion Bermudagrass greens can be found across PGA Tour stop-offs at Sedgefield Country Club (Wyndham Championship), TPC Southwind (WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational), the Country Club of Jackson (Sandersons Farms Championship) and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (Barbasol Championship 2015 through 2017). The 2011 PGA Championship hosted at Atlanta Athletic Cub and won by Keegan Bradley also featured Champion Bermudagrass putting surfaces.

Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte, North Carolina: Designer: George Cobb with 2013 & 2016 Tom Fazio re-design; Course Type: Classical; Par: 71; Length: 7,521 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 7; Fairways 419 Bermudagrass; Rough: 419 Bermudagrass overseeded with Perennial Ryegrass 2”; Greens: 6,578 sq.ft average featuring G12 Champion Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis; Tournament Stimp: 12.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 71.84 (-0.16), Difficulty Rank 25 of 49 courses. 2013: 73.04 (+1.04), Difficulty Rank 10 of 43 courses. 2014: 72.55 (+0.55), Rank 13 of 48 courses. 2015: 71.92 (-0.08), Difficulty Rank of 20 of 52 courses. 2016: 72.95 (+0.95), Rank 9 of 50 courses. 2017: PGA Championship 73.47 (+2.47), Rank 1 of 50 courses. 2018: 72.13 (+1.13), Rank 5 of 51 courses. 2019: 71.76 (+0.76), Rank 8 of 49 courses.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Quail Hollow, and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:

  • Quail Hollow: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:32; 300:31; 325:30; 350:29.
  • Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
  • Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:26; 300:22; 325:26; 350:22.
  • Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:29; 325:27; 350:26.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
  • TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:32; 300:30; 325:28 350:20.
  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:33; 325:39 350:29.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Tom Fazio designs include:

  • Atunyote GC – 2007-10 Turning Stone Championship.
  • Conway Farms GC – 2013, 2015, 2017 BMW Championship.
  • Corales GC – Corales Championship
  • Eagle Point – 2017 Wells Fargo Championship
  • Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – 2008/09 Fry’ Open.
  • Shadow Creek Golf Course – 2020 CJ Cup.

Fazio has also had re-design input into:

  • Merion – 2013 U.S. Open.
  • Oakmont – 2016 U.S. Open.
  • Seaside Course at Sea Island – RSM Classic.

Course Overview: Quail Hollow is very much a classical golf course with Carolina connotations. When I say Carolina think Pinehurst Number 2, Harbour Town Golf Links, Sedgefield and even last week’s PGA Tour host course, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook which despite being in Florida has the feel of a Carolina golf course – so traditionally tree-lined, with narrow sight lines from the tee and plenty of dog-legs.

Quail Hollow will play to 7,521 yards this week and that’s an incredibly long Par 71. Purely from a PGA Tour Par 71 perspective, only Bethpage Black (2016 Barclays) and the Blue Course at Congressional (AT&T National 2012-14 & Quicken Loans National 2016) have played anywhere near this length in modern times.

After James Hahn won the 2016 Wells Fargo Championship, Tom Fazio-inspired work started on the course with a 90-day window allowing significant changes to the very start of the front 9. The 1st is now a 495 yard dog-leg right par-4, which was previously a sub-420 yard birdie opportunity. The 178 yard par-3 2nd hole is no more (it’s been used to lengthen the 1st) and a new 167 yard par-3, namely the 4th hole, has been built to replace it. As a consequence the 5th has now been shortened from a 570 yard par-5 to a 450 yard par-4. A 100% new green complex was built at the 11th and the par-4 has been lengthened by 35 yards, which now plays 462 yards.

Below I’ve listed the par-3, par-4 and par-5 scoring splits of both Max Homa, Jason Day and Justin Thomas who have won at Quail since the re-design:

  • Max Homa: Even (par-3), -6 (par-4), -9 (par-5), total -15/269.
  • Jason Day: Even (par-3), -3 (par-4), -9 (par-5), total -12/272.
  • Justin Thomas: +1 (par-3), -2 (par-4), -7 (par-5), total -8/276.

And here’s the breakdown of Wells Fargo Championship winners here since 2014 when the course received its first Tom Fazio re-design and Bermudagrass greens:

  • James Hahn: +5 (par-3), -5 (par-4), -9 (par-5), total -9/279.
  • Rory McIlroy: +3, -11, -13, total -21/267. (McIlroy won by 7 shots)
  • B. Holmes: -2, -2, -10, total -14/274.

The key to winning at Quail Hollow has always been to score heavily on the par-5s and play the other holes at around -3 to -4 or slightly better. So to contend this week a player will need to master the 7th, 10th and 15th holes. From the par-5s onwards the course naturally gets tougher. It’s worth pointing out that the course for the Wells Fargo plays slightly shorter than it did for the 2017 PGA Championship, with 96 yards having been knocked off the scorecard, so Quail Hollow will play as a 7,521 yard, Par 71 for the tournament this week.

wells fargo championship tips

Winners inc 2017 PGA Championship: 2019: Max Homa (-15); 2018: Jason Day (-12); 2017: Justin Thomas (-8); 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).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2019: Round 1 -5; Round 2 -11; Round 3 -11; Round 4 -15.
  • 2018: Round 1 -6; Round 2 -7; Round 3 -10; Round 4 -12.

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Joaquin Niemann, Brian Harman, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau and Patrick Reed.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to The Players Championship / Qatar Masters, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Brendon Todd; 2) Brice Garnett / Chez Reavie; 4) D.A. Points / Brian Stuard; 6) K.J. Choi; 4) Viktor Hovland; 8) Abraham Ancer; 9) David Hearn; 10) Ben Martin; 11) Corey Conners; 12) Brian Harman; 13) Emiliano Grillo; 14) Ryan Moore; 15) Ryan Armour; 16) Chase Seiffert / Cameron Tringale; 18) Jason Day / Webb Simpson; 20) Michael Thompson; 21) Kelly Kraft; 22) Lucas Glover; 23) Sungjae Im / Matthew NeSmith; 25) Satoshi Kodaira / Denny McCarthy / Henrik Norlander.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Emiliano Grillo; 3) Justin Thomas; 4) Shane Lowry; 5) Webb Simpson / Bubba Watson; 7) Corey Conners; 8) Phil Mickelson / Matt Wallace; 10) Cameron Tringale; 11) Hank Lebioda / Will Zalatoris; 13) Abraham Ancer / Matthew NeSmith; 15) Will Gordon / Xander Schauffele / Harold Varner III; 18) Erik van Rooyen; 19) Stewart Cink / Harris English / Joaquin Niemann / Pat Perez; 23) Keegan Bradley; 24) Bryson DeChambeau / Patton Kizzire.
  • Scrambling: 1) Abraham Ancer; 2) Brian Harman; 3) Joel Dahmen / Bryson DeChambeau / Johnson Wagner; 6) Webb Simpson; 7) Jon Rahm; 8) Viktor Hovland; 9) Xander Schauffele; 10) Denny McCarthy / Tyler McCumber; 12) Corey Conners / Robert Streb; 14) Michael Thompson; 15) Lucas Glover / Nate Lashley; 17) Ben Martin / Brendon Todd; 19) Rickie Fowler / Sungjae Im / Shane Lowry /  Sebastian Munoz; 23) Lanto Griffin / Zach Johnson / Joaquin Niemann / Matt Wallace.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Akshay Bhatia; 2) Johnson Wagner; 3) Seung-yul Noh; 4) Bryson DeChambeau; 5) Brian Harman; 6) Matt Jones; 7) Will Zalatoris; 8) Sebastian Munoz; 9) Corey Conners; 10) Justin Thomas; 11) Mackenzie Hughes / Harry Higgs; 13) Tommy Fleetwood / J.T. Poston / Brendon Todd; 16) Stewart Cink; 17) Lucas Glover; 18) Ian Poulter; 19 Keegan Bradley / Patrick Reed / Brendan Steele; 22) Viktor Hovland / Tyler McCumber; 24) Adam Hadwin; 25) Tom Hoge / Joaquin Niemann.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to The Players Championship / Qatar Masters, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Corey Conners / Viktor Hovland; 3) Abraham Ancer; 4) Bryson DeChambeau; 5) Will Gordon / Brian Harman; 7) Justin Thomas; 8) Jon Rahm; 9) Jason Day; 10) Cameron Davis; 11) Sungjae Im; 12) Kevin Streelman; 13) K.H. Lee / Bubba Watson; 15) Cameron Tringale; 16) Michael Thompson; 17) Keith Mitchell / Ryan Moore / Harold Varner III; 20) Stewart Cink / Aaron Wise; 22) Luke List / Sepp Straka / Jhonattan Vegas; 25) Satoshi Kodaira / Ben Martin.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Corey Conners; 2) Bryson DeChambeau; 3) Justin Thomas; 4) Shane Lowry / Will Zalatoris; 6) Jon Rahm; 7) Stewart Cink; 8) Keegan Bradley / Phil Mickelson; 10) Tom Hoge; 11) Talor Gooch / Tyler McCumber; 13) Matt Wallace; 14) Max Homa / Camilo Villegas; 16) Bill Haas; 17) Ben Martin; 18) Abraham Ancer / Francesco Molinari; 20) Emiliano Grillo / Adam Schenk; 22) Tony Finau / Russell Knox; 24) Kevin Tway; 25) Matthew NeSmith / Scott Stallings.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Justin Thomas; 2) Xander Schauffele; 3) Keegan Bradley / Brendon Todd; 5) Rickie Fowler; 6) Matt Wallace; 7) Jason Day; 8) Joseph Bramlett / Matt Jones; 10) Brian Harman / Shane Lowry; 12) Cameron Tringale; 13) Brandon Hagy; 14) Michael Kim; 15) John Huh; 16) Bronson Burgoon / David Hearn / D.J. Trahan; 19) Wyndham Clark / Lucas Glover / Mark Hubbard; 22) Jon Rahm; 23) Luke Donald / Tony Finau / Troy Merritt.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Justin Thomas; 2) Jon Rahm; 3) Corey Conners; 4) Keegan Bradley / Shane Lowry; 6) Stewart Cink; 7) Bryson DeChambeau /  Cameron Tringale; 9) Abraham Ancer; 10) Brian Harman; 11) Matt Wallace; 12) Emiliano Grillo; 13) Tyler McCumber; 14) Max Homa; 15) Joseph Bramlett / Sungjae Im / K.H. Lee; 18) Jason Day / Lucas Glover / Harold Varner III / Will Zalatoris; 22) Camilo Villegas; 23) Xander Schauffele; 24) Viktor Hovland / Patrick Reed.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Brian Harman; 2) Joaquin Niemann; 3) Denny McCarthy; 4) Brendan Steele; 5) Seung-yul Noh / Jon Rahm / Vincent Whaley; 8) Michael Thompson; 9) Matt Jones / J.T. Poston; 11) Patton Kizzire / Will Zalatoris; 13) Zach Johnson / Brendon Todd; 15) Ian Poulter; 16) Sebastian Munoz;  17) Jimmy Walker; 18) Bryson DeChambeau / Viktor Hovland / Mackenzie Hughes; 21) Webb Simpson / Bubba Watson; 23) Nate Lashley / Patrick Rodgers; 25) Vaughn Taylor.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Brian Harman; 3) Corey Conners; 4) Justin Thomas; 5) Abraham Ancer / Shane Lowry; 7) Keegan Bradley; 8) Will Zalatoris; 9) Bryson DeChambeau / Joaquin Niemann; 11) Tyler McCumber / Cameron Tringale; 13) Patrick Reed; 14) Stewart Cink / Lucas Glover / Sungjae Im / Webb Simpson; 18) Viktor Hovland / Matt Jones / Denny McCarthy; 21) Matt Wallace / Vincent Whaley; 23) Michael Thompson / Bubba Watson; 25) Emiliano Grillo.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Homa 500/1; 2018: Day 20/1; 2017: Harman 80/1; 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.  Past 6 Renewals Average: 294/1. Overall Average: 190/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 86. Wind SSW 7-14 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy. High of 85. Wind SSW 7-14 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. High of 84. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Play was suspended at 3:37 p.m. ET due to thunderstorms and resumed at 4:48 p.m., a delay of one hour, 11 minutes. A second weather delay began at 5:18 p.m. and lasted one hour, six minutes before play resumed at 6:24 p.m. Sunday: Mostly cloudy and rainy. High of 80. Wind WNW 10-20 mph. Due to inclement weather, play was suspended from 5:09 p.m. to 6:11 p.m., a delay of 62 minutes.
  • 2018: Thursday: Sunny with a high of 86. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Friday: Sunny with a high of 87. Wind SSW 10-18 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 83. Wind S 6-12 mph. Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of 84. Wind WNW 12-22 mph.
  • 2017: Played at Eagle Point.
  • 2016: Thursday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 63. Wind NW at 10-15 with gusts up to 25 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 63 degrees. Wind NW at 15-25 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 78 degrees. Wind WSW at 10-15 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 85 degrees. Wind W at 10-15 mph.
  • 2015: Thursday: Sunny, with a high of 79 degrees. Winds variable 6-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 79 degrees. Winds variable 6-12 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 85 degrees. Winds S/SW 7-12 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 86 degrees. Winds SW 6-12 mph.

Weather Forecast: Latest weather forecast for Charlotte, North Carolina, is here.

We may see some cooler weather than we’re used to in Charlotte this week, at a venue which is renowned for being hot and humid. 20 degrees Celsius is nothing untoward, but the thermometer looks to hit 30 degrees only on Sunday. 19mm of rain pre-tournament week should set the course up to be pretty perfect, and Sub-Air gives tournament organisers total control with Quail usually playing on the fast side, as it should. A forecast 15 – 20 mph north-westerly on Friday will keep them honest, with Sunday potentially wind affected as well.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 3 winners here since the course re-design was introduced in 2017 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this classical test:

  • 2019, Max Homa (-15). 313 yards (21st), 55.4% fairways (45th), 68.1% greens in regulation (17th), 37’10” proximity to hole (14th), 78.3 % scrambling (2nd), 1.61 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2018, Jason Day (-12). 326 yards (14th), 48.2% fairways (49th), 56.9% greens in regulation (69th), 44’2″ proximity to hole (58th), 77.4 % scrambling (2nd), 1.59 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2017, Justin Thomas (-8). 328 yards (1st), 50.0% fairways (62nd), 62.5% greens in regulation (17th), 42’4″ proximity to hole (29th), 55.6 % scrambling (30th), 1.60 putts per GIR (2nd).

Tournament Skill Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 12th, Driving Accuracy: 52nd, Greens in Regulation: 34th, Proximity to Hole: 34th, Scrambling: 11th, Putting Average 1st.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2019, Max Homa (-15). SG Off the Tee: 18th, SG Approach: 12th, SG Around the Green: 41st, SG Tee to Green: 12th, SG Putting: 1st.
  • 2018, Jason Day (-12). SG Off the Tee: 19th, SG Approach: 50th, SG Around the Green: 1st, SG Tee to Green: 9th, SG Putting: 2nd.
  • 2017, Justin Thomas (-8). SG Off the Tee: 23rd, SG Approach: 15th, SG Around the Green: 22nd, SG Tee to Green: 11th, SG Putting: 4th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 20th, SG Approach: 26th, SG Around the Green: 15th, SG Tee to Green: 11th, SG Putting: 2nd.

Let’s take a view from players as to how Quail Hollow sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Max Homa (2019): ” Honestly, if you look deep in the stats, which nobody does for me, but it’s been really good. I’ve been driving it great. That’s usually kind of my hiccup. I’ve been driving it pretty far and very straight. I just haven’t been chipping well and haven’t really made the putts to keep the round going and I did that really well yesterday. I thought it was pretty hard yesterday. Did that really well yesterday and just kept it going today. I usually hit the ball pretty well. A course like this sets up great for me, a lot of 7-irons, 8-irons in, drive it in the fairway. So I’m not really that surprised. Everybody else probably will be, but I was kind of waiting for this to happen.”

Jason Day (2018): Yeah, obviously we had Bermudagrass last August at the PGA, and this is, I think, definitely an easier grass to play on (overseeded with Poa Trivialis). I think Bermuda, coming out of the rough, you have more chances of having big flyers. The biggest thing is there were a couple times when I was in the rough and I really catch a flyer, and you know that when you’re in Bermudagrass, you’ve got to catch it. And if you’re in the rough and you’re trying to land it on these greens, which are bouncing five to 10 paces with a wedge, that makes it difficult to hold greens. I think this is definitely an easier grass, but also still playing difficult because it’s obviously the scores reflect how the course is.

Yeah, I know that I’ve had some decent finishes here, but the PGA definitely kind of tipped it over the edge. I know that I can play well here because of how difficult the golf course is. When I realized last week, you know, we’re coming into a week like this where it’s 80 to 85 degrees, hot. They had some good rain the week prior to that, the course is going to be in perfect condition how the grass has come in. You’ve just got to come out and try and get yourself — plot yourself around the golf course. For me, I’m able to take some advantage with my driving. And it was good to be able to come to a golf course like this where I know it’s very difficult. I think everyone else is obviously having a tough time with it, too. It’s a major championship golf course so you’ve got to come out and be patient with yourself and take your chances when you get them.”

Justin Thomas (2017): “Yesterday I was playing really well, hitting great shots. When you have 4, 5, 6-irons in your hand, you need to be defensive. For the most part, I had some not aggressive but more aggressive than normal lines just because I felt good about my golf swing and what I was doing with my ball. If I have a longer club in my hand, I’m just trying to get it on the green and get out with a par and move on.

Any time you can get softer conditions, the golf course is going to be easier. Doesn’t matter what course it is. I mean, look at years at Augusta, the scores have been really low. I know there’s SubAir and they can get them firmer, but at the end of the day, when there’s no rain and the greens are really firm, it’s really difficult. And when the greens are softer, we’re pretty good at golf. So it’s a lot easier when the ball isn’t going to go as far as when it lands because we feel like we have more control over it. When you get as tough of greens and around the greens as it is out here, softness is going to allow us to hit more greens and get it closer to where we want. I would say that had pretty much all to do with it.

Jimmy Walker: “We’re used to playing it with rye grass everywhere. It has a potential, with the pure Bermudagrass layout, to play really firm and really fast. That’s when golf gets really hard, when you start losing control of the golf ball. Bermuda rough tends to fly a lot, or it could come out where you get some horrendous lies. Guys are going to have to deal with that: ‘Am I going to get the big jumper?’ Or ‘Will I get the really soft shot that comes out?’ “Even around the greens, Bermuda rough is very hard to chip out of. The greens ought to be fast, and that’s the biggest variable, I would think.

I thought the new holes were great. The 1st has got a beautiful look to it. It’s reminiscent of the original tee shot and it opens up nice down there to the right, and the green, you can see the entire green. I love being able to see kind of where you’re going. All the new green complexes are very nice. They are not too tricky. They have got a lot of flat spots. They have got some movement in them but they have got flat spots where you like to put the pins and there’s plenty of room. Just I thought it looked really good. It’s going to be fun playing with all Bermuda. It will be a completely different test.

Rory McIlroy: “The changes are good. It definitely makes the start of the golf course more challenging. The first hole, now instead of it being 3 wood and a wedge, it’s a driver and a good mid iron. I think you won’t really see guys getting off to the hot starts that they used to. You see guys maybe, especially those first six holes, you’d see guys 3 or 4 under par. I don’t think that’s going to happen now. And then the rest of the golf course is pretty much the same. Obviously they have lengthened 11 a little bit. But what they have done on 16, 17 and 18 over the years has stayed pretty much the same. I like the changes. I mean, I obviously like the golf course the way it was before. My record around there is pretty good. I fancy my chances around there. But it’s always been, I guess, a modern player’s golf course. You’ve got to, if you can drive it a long way, there’s an advantage there, especially coming in with the driveable par-4, 14th and in; the par-5 15 and the long holes coming in. So yeah, I think people will really enjoy it this year. It’s a great venue for a tournament and it will be a great venue for a Major, as well.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the winners of the Wells Fargo Championship since 2010:

  • 2019 – Max Homa: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2018 – Jason Day: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Brian Harman: Round 1: 31st, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2016 – James Hahn: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 13th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2015 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 30th, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2014 – J.B. Holmes: Round 1: 16th, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2013 – Derek Ernst: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2012 – Rickie Fowler: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 13th, Round 3: 6th.
  • 2011 – Lucas Glover: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2010 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 44th, Round 2: 48th; Round 3: 7th.

Shots Off the Lead: Below are the shots from the lead during the tournament of the Wells Fargo Championship winners since 2010:

  • 2019 – Max Homa: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: level.
  • 2018 – Jason Day: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2017 – Brian Harman: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2016 – James Hahn: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2015 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 4 ahead.
  • 2014 – J.B. Holmes: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2013 – Derek Ernst: Round 1: Level, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2012 – Rickie Fowler: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2011 – Lucas Glover: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2010 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 9 back, Round 3: 4 back.

Incoming Form of winners since 2010:

  • Max Homa: MC New Orleans/42nd San Antonio/52nd Corales/MC Copperhead.
  • Jason Day: 34th New Orleans/20th Augusta/36th World MP/22nd Bay Hill.
  • Brian Harman: 14th New Orleans /9th Heritage/MC Houston/13th Bay Hill.
  • James Hahn: MC New Orleans/MC San Antonio/MC Heritage/MC Houston.
  • Rory McIlroy: 8th Sawgrass/1st World MP/4th Augusta/11th Bay Hill.
  • B. Holmes: 11th New Orleans/18th Heritage/12th Houston/64th San Antonio.
  • Derek Ernst: 47th New Orleans/MC San Antonio/MC Louisiana Open/MC Puerto.
  • Rickie Fowler: 10th New Orleans/MC Heritage/27th Masters/63rd Houston.
  • Lucas Glover: MC Heritage/MC Augusta/MC Houston/20th Copperhead.
  • Rory McIlroy: MC Masters/MC Houston/65th Doral/40th PGA National.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2019 – Dahmen / Straka – Both AM -5/66 100/1 & 250/1.
  • 2018 – Conners – AM -4/67 200/1.
  • 2017 – Herman – AM -9/61 125/1.
  • 2016 – Duke / Howell III – AM/PM Split -4/67.
  • 2015 – Davis – PM -6/65.
  • 2014 – Chalmers/Every/Perez – 1AM/2PM Split -3/68.
  • 2013 – Stefani – PM -5/66.
  • 2012 – Harrington – AM -10/61.
  • 2011 – Casey – AM -7/64.
  • 2010 – Willis – AM -6/65.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 6 – Justin Thomas.
  • 5 – Rory McIlroy.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed.
  • 2 – K.J. Choi, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Harris English, Rickie Fowler, Russell Henley, Phil Mickelson, Scott Piercy, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Robert Streb, Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson.
  • 1 – Ryan Armour, Jonas Blixt, Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Austin Cook, Bryson DeChambeau, Tyler Duncan, Lanto Griffin, James Hahn, Jim Herman, J.B. Holmes, Max Homa, Mackenzie Hughes, Sungjae Im, Matt Jones, Patton Kizzire, Satoshi Kodaira, Adam Long, Peter Malnati, Keith Mitchell, Francesco Molinari, Sebastian Munoz, Seung-yul Noh, Sean O’Hair, Carlos Ortiz, C.T. Pan, Pat Perez, J.T. Poston, Rory Sabbatini, Charl Schwartzel, Scott Stallings, Kevin Streelman, Brian Stuard, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson, Jhonattan Vegas, Johnson Wagner, Aaron Wise, Gary Woodland.

Quail Hollow used to reward attacking golf. Birdie or better hole conversion rates across 2010-15 were 35%, 32%, 32%, 25%, 32% and 38% respectively. The outlying 25% number was in 2013 when poor green conditions, combined with plenty of wind, turned the tournament into more of a grind. But the PGA of America demanded that the course be toughened for the 2017 PGA Championship, so Tom Fazio set to stiffening the test and undoubtedly his work has been successful.

Jason Day’s triumph in 2018 came with a birdie or better hole conversion rate of 25%. Max Homa’s shock 500/1 victory last time around came with a 28% birdie or better conversion. So it’s apparent that we’re now dealing with a very long golf course, with only 12 looks at par-5s. With a full SubAir system available as well, tournament organisers can make conditions as firm as they want.

We should see a stretching enough, mid-score (circa -13/-15) kind of test which will be all about making plenty of birdies on the shorter par-4s and the par-5s as bogeys really are unavoidable elsewhere. For me it’s all about powerful, high approach golf at the end of the day, similar to the skill sets required at Augusta. Hardly surprising therefore to see the amazing tournament records of Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson plus other strong classical golf course players like Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and J.B. Holmes topping leaderboards.

My final 2020 Wells Fargo Championship tips are as follows:

Justin Thomas 4pts Win 11/1 with bet365

World Number 2 Justin Thomas is my first bet this week.

The winner of the 2017 PGA Championship here, Thomas loves the Quail Hollow golf course and his game is well suited to the venue. A 6-time winner on Bermudagrass greens – the highest in this week’s field going back to 2008 – JT captured my interest last week with a formidable performance from Tee to Green at Copperhead. 1st for Off The Tee, 1st for Approach and 1st for Tee to Green – in old money that equated to 13th for Total Driving, 4th for Greens in Regulation and 3rd for Ball Striking. Naturally the putter was non-compliant, but despite that ice cold putter he still finished 13th.

Justin has always been the sort to blow hot and cold with the flat stick, but he’s also the sort who carries Tee to Green form onwards to the next tournament. Indeed his wins this year at The Players Championship, plus the 2019 CJ Cup and the 2019 BMW Championship, all came after a top 10 Tee to Green performance in his previous outing.

He’s ripe for his 15th PGA Tour victory, but he’s also the sort who has no qualms about winning ahead of a Major Championship. Indeed wins at the 2018 WGC Bridgestone Invitational and 2020 WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational both came the week before the PGA Championship. And from a motivation perspective he seemed focussed purely on Quail Hollow, rather than the PGA Championship, when asked at last week’s Valspar, “It’s hard to prep for Kiawah Island as I don’t know the course. I feel like once I get there I’ll be able to do that. But I have a tournament to finish up tomorrow and a course that I love next week in Charlotte. I’m still behind D.J. for No. 1 in the world and that’s what I’m chasing down right now.” RESULT: T26

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Will Zalatoris 1.5pts EW 28/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

High-profile, maiden winners has always been an angle at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Anthony Kim in 2008, Rory McIlroy in 2010 and Rickie Fowler in 2012 all captured their maiden PGA Tour titles here. So I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to see Will Zalatoris capture his first main Tour title this week at a long, classical course I think he will thrive on. Season-long numbers of 4th for Strokes Gained on Approach, 8th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 10th for Scoring Average tell you all you need to know about the rookie, who has been amazing in his debut season.

8th at the Corales Championship, 5th at the Shriners Open, 7th at the Farmers Insurance Open and 10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational offer up 4 top-10 finishes for the 24 year-old. But the true key to Zalatoris is that he’s genuinely flourished and put his best foot forward on the toughest, classical tests of the season to date. In September he was 6th at Winged Foot at the U.S. Open in his professional Major debut and just under a month ago he truly announced himself to the world when finishing 2nd at The Masters.

Naturally Augusta National is a phenomenally long and undulating old-style golf course and the Dallas, Texas resident unbelievably matched Jordan Spieth’s 2014 feat of finishing runner-up on course/tournament debut. Amazing stuff. Averaging 308 yards this season in terms of Driving Distance, which is good enough for top 20 on the PGA Tour, Will has the power off the tee required this week to be competitive around Quail Hollow and in my view he’s a must-back in North Carolina. RESULT: MC

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Max Homa 1.5pts EW 35/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Max Homa is playing the very best golf of his career and he now sits within the top 40 in the Official World Golf Rankings, plus he seems to have found a new level of performance and consistency.

The winner here last time out in 2019 at a whopping 500/1, 2 years on and the 30 year-old arrives in Charlotte with another huge Invitational-status win under his belt at Riviera Country Club, plus 3 additional top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour in 2021. This calendar year has produced 18th at Torrey Pines, 7th at Pebble Beach, 10th at Bay Hill and 6th at Copperhead on top of the win at Riviera and succinctly highlights that the Californian is happiest on classical, old-style courses.

And Quail suits the Scottsdale, Arizona resident who by his own volition hits the ball a mile and, when on form, has some of the sweetest approach shots in the game. From a Strokes Gained perspective, Homa was 17th for Off The Tee, 11th for Approach, 18th for Tee To Green and 11th for Putting last week at Copperhead on his way to 6th place and he must arrive in Charlotte in confident fashion. Yes he defends his first professional title this week and that’s a negative, but Homa across the likes of Torrey Pines, Pebble Beach and Riviera this year has shown the aptitude to ‘rinse and repeat’, delivering contending performances year-on-year. So I’m happy to back Max this week on a classical golf course where he knows he can thrive. RESULT: MC

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Bubba Watson 1pt EW 55/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Bubba Watson has shown signs of life recently and that makes a level of sense. Outside of the world’s top 50 players for the large proportion of 2021, at 58th in the Official World Golf Ranking Bubba needs to be in the top 60 come 24th May to qualify for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Having played in every Major since the 2010 Open Championship, such milestones are undoubtedly important to a 2-time Masters champion and 12-time PGA Tour winner. And Bubba is undoubtedly starting to play nicely as we arrive at a course where powerful driving is vital.

He qualified out of his Group at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play and was only beaten by an inspired Brian Harman in their last 16 match. 26th at The Masters was no disgrace and the 42 year-old was 8th at the Zurich Classic when teamed with Scottie Scheffler. 13th last week at the Valspar Championship was his best solo finish since 4th at the ZOZO Championship back in October.

Fascinatingly every Strokes Gained facet of his game last week was positive and across my 8 week trackers in this field he ranks 5th for Greens in Regulation, 13th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 21st for Strokes Gained Putting and 23rd for Strokes Gained Total. Across the season his Strokes Gained ranks are 14th for Off The Tee (he averages 304 yards off the tee), 8th for Approach and 14th for Tee to Green. And with flashes of heat from his putter, Bubba could be one to follow this week.

And Quail Hollow wouldn’t be a bad course for Watson to end his 3 year winless drought. 2nd here in 2009 behind Sean O’Hair, Watson has ranked 3rd, 5th and 14th here for Strokes Gained Tee to Green across 2009, 2010 and 2011. RESULT: T18

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Matt Wallace 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Quail Hollow undoubtedly favours strong drivers of the golf ball who have the ability to take advantage of their distance and score nicely on the par-5s. Golf Betting System regulars will know that both myself and European Tour expert Paul Williams hold Matt Wallace in high regard and I think he can go well this week on his Quail Hollow debut.

7th in Abu Dhabi, 18th at Bay Hill, 3rd at TPC San Antonio and 18th last time out at Harbour Town, Matt is undoubtedly playing well in 2021 and is settling down to full-time life on the PGA Tour. At 89th in the FedEx Cup standings, Matt’s playing privileges look assured for next season, but we know that the Hillingdon man will have far loftier targets.

Establishing himself back in the OWGR top 50 must be a short term goal for Matt who ranks 52nd right now and some high-profile results in the United States over the coming weeks and months could well see the 31 year-old in Europe’s Ryder Cup team.

Wallace’s last 3 U.S. appearances show development from where I’m sitting. 3rd at TPC San Antonio saw Matt play in the Sunday final group with Jordan Spieth. 34th at The Masters was decent enough and, last time out, the Englishman fired a couple of -6/65s to be in 4th spot at the RBC Heritage going into Sunday. He eventually finished 18th, but for me the 7,500+ yard setup this week at Quail Hollow will be more to the liking of a player who has already finished 6th at Bay Hill (2019), 3rd at Bethpage Black (2019) and 4th at Muirfield Village (2020) across a relatively short PGA Tour career. RESULT: T6

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:50BST 3.5.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.