Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Wells Fargo Championship Tips 2024

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The PGA Tour travels to Quail Hollow Club for the Wells Fargo Championship. One of the biggest PGA Tour ‘domestic’ tournaments of the year, 2024 sees it rightfully having Signature event status, guaranteeing the strongest field at a wonderful golf course the week before the PGA Championship at Valhalla. Scottie Scheffler is giving the rest of the PGA Tour the chance of a win this week as he and his wife Meredith are due to become parents for the first time any day now.

Before we go into the detail surrounding the Wells Fargo Championship, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System. Welcome 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, +6,300 strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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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 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 course 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 Congaree (2021 Palmetto Championship & 2022 CJ Cup), the Country Club of Jackson (Sanderson Farms Championship), Sedgefield Country Club (Wyndham Championship), TPC Southwind (WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational & FedEx St Jude Championship), Trinity Forest (2018 + 2019 HP Byron Nelson) and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (Barbasol Championship 2015 through 2017). The 2011 PGA Championship hosted at Atlanta Athletic Club 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, Carolina, Long; Par: 71; Length: 7,558 yards; Holes with Water Hazards In-Play: 7; Number of Sand Bunkers: 61; Acres of Fairway: 26; Fairways: 419 Bermudagrass overseeded with Perennial Ryegrass; Rough: 419 Bermudagrass overseeded with Perennial Ryegrass 2”; Greens: 6,578 sq.ft average featuring G12 Champion Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis; Tournament Stimp: 12ft.

Course Scoring Average:

  • 2023: 71.23 (+0.23), Difficulty Rank 14 of 49 courses.
  • 2021: 72.26 (+1.26), Difficulty Rank 5 of 51 courses.
  • 2019: 71.76 (+0.76), Difficulty Rank 8 of 49 courses.
  • 2018: 72.13 (+1.13), Difficulty Rank 5 of 51 courses.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Quail Hollow and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:

  • Quail Hollow: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:32; 300:31; 325:30; 350:29.
  • 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.
  • Memorial Park: 30–40 yards at 300 yards.
  • Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
  • 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.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • Pete Dye 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 – Turning Stone Championship 2007-10.
  • Caves Valley GC – BMW Championship 2021.
  • Congaree GC – Palmetto Championship 2021 + CJ Cup 2022.
  • Conway Farms GC – BMW Championship 2013, 2015, 2017.
  • Corales GC – Corales Championship
  • Eagle Point – Wells Fargo Championship 2017.
  • Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – Fry’ Open 2008/09.
  • Shadow Creek GC – CJ Cup 2020.
  • The Summit Club – CJ Cup 2021.

Fazio has also had renovation input into:

  • Riviera Country Club – Genesis Invitational.
  • 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 Country Club and even the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook which despite being in Florida has the real 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 7,558 yards this week and that is 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 was used to lengthen the 1st) and a new 184 yard par-3, namely the 4th hole, was been built to replace it. As a consequence the 5th has now been shortened from a 570 yard par-5 to a 449 yard par-4. At the 11th hole a 100% new green complex was built 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 Wyndham Clark, Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Jason Day and Justin Thomas who have won at Quail since the re-design:

  • Wyndham Clark: -3 (par-3), -6 (par-4), -10 (par-5), total -19/265.
  • Rory McIlroy: +1 (par-3), -5 (par-4), -6 (par-5), total -10/274.
  • 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 76 yards having been knocked off the scorecard, so Quail Hollow will play as a 7,558 yard, Par 71 for the tournament this week – up 20 yards from last year – with the start of the Green Mile, the par-4 16th, extended to 529 yards.

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Quail Hollow Winners inc 2017 PGA Championship: 2023: Wyndham Clark (-19); 2021: Rory McIlroy (-10); 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).

  • 2023: Wyndham Clark 67-67-63-68 -19/265
  • 2021: Rory McIlroy 72-66-68-68 -10/274
  • 2019: Max Homa 69-63-70-67 -15/269
  • 2018: Jason Day 69-67-67-69 -12/272

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

  • 2023 – Wyndham Clark: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2021 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 73rd, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2019 – Max Homa: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2018 – Jason Day: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 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 From the Lead: Below are Wells Fargo Championship winners here at Quail Hollow and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

    • 2023 – Wyndham Clark: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 2 ahead.
    • 2021 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 8 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 2 back.
    • 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.
    • 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.

    OWGR of Quail Hollow Wells Fargo Championship Winners: 2023: Clark 80; 2022: Homa 38; 2021: McIlroy 15; 2019: Homa 413; 2018: Day 14.

    Quail Hollow Cut Line: 2023: +1; 2021: +2; 2019: -1; 2018: +3.

    Quail Hollow Lead Score Progression:

    • 2023: Round 1 -6; Round 2 -8; Round 3 -16; Round 4 -19.
    • 2021: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -6; Round 3 -9; Round 4 -10.
    • 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.

    My published predictor is available here. Top 10 of my published predictor are: Rory McIlroy, Wyndham Clark, Byeong Hun An, Xander Schauffele, Taylor Pendrith, Corey Conners, Sahith Theegala, Alex Noren, Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel.

    Wells Fargo Championship Winners & Prices: 2023: Clark 80/1; 2022: Homa 40/1; 2021: McIlroy 18/1; 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 5 Renewals Average: 132/1; Average: 156/1.

    Historical Weather:

    • 2023: Thursday: Sunny. High of 72. Wind NW 5-10 mph. Friday: Partly Cloudy. High of 75. Wind ENE 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly Cloudy. High of 75. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy and breezy. High of 83. Wind WSW 10-15 mph.
    • 2022: Played at TPC Potomac.
    • 2021: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 71. Wind NNW 5-10 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. High of 69. Wind NW 12-18 mph, gusting to 30 mph. Saturday: Partly sunny and breezy. High of 74. Wind W 10-15 mph, gusting to 25 mph. Sunday: Partly Cloudy. High of 81. Wind SSW 12-15 mph with gusts of 30 mph.
    • 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: The latest weather forecast for Charlotte, North Carolina is here.

    We may see some cooler weather than we are used to in Charlotte this week, at a venue which is renowned for being hot and humid. Friday to Sunday temperatures of 19-22 degrees Celsius (66-72 Fahrenheit) is nothing untoward, but is relatively cool for here. 46mm of rain Saturday and Sunday is quite a lot, but course Sub-Air gives tournament organisers total control, with Quail usually playing on the fast side, as it should. The wind forecast looks calm, although Thursday deserves a special mention at is looks totally different to the rest of the tournament. 28 degrees Celsius (82 Fahrenheit) will be considerably warmer, but forecasts suggest south-westerly winds of gusting 35mph, which will keep this elite field more than honest around this Major Championship venue.

    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 which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events, where recorded. Player rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

    • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Sungjae Im; 2) Wyndham Clark; 3) Tommy Fleetwood / Kurt Kitayama; 5) Collin Morikawa; 6) Hideki Matsuyama; 7) Chris Kirk / Sepp Straka; 9) Shane Lowry; 10) Sahith Theegala; 11) Si Woo Kim / Xander Schauffele; 13) Jordan Spieth; 14) Austin Eckroat / Stephan Jaeger / Adam Schenk; 17) Lee Hodges; 18) Rory McIlroy; 19) Matthieu Pavon / Cameron Young; 21) Akshay Bhatia / Patrick Cantlay / Alex Noren; 24) Taylor Moore; 25) Byeong Hun An / Viktor Hovland / Adam Scott.
    • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Shane Lowry; 2) Corey Conners / Will Zalatoris; 4) Sahith Theegala; 5) Xander Schauffele; 6) Tom Hoge; 7) Rory McIlroy / Justin Thomas; 9) Cameron Young; 10) Keegan Bradley / Hideki Matsuyama; 12) Lucas Glover; 13) Akshay Bhatia / Kurt Kitayama; 15) Jake Knapp; 16) Si Woo Kim; 17) Max Homa; 18) Andrew Putnam; 19) Chris Kirk; 20) Adam Svensson; 21) Russell Henley; 22) Austin Eckroat / Grayson Murray; 24) Byeong Hun An / Alex Noren.
    • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Rickie Fowler; 2) Hideki Matsuyama; 3) Stephan Jaeger / Taylor Moore; 5) Patrick Cantlay; 6) J.T. Poston; 7) Chris Kirk; 8) Si Woo Kim; 9) Collin Morikawa / Webb Simpson; 11) Tommy Fleetwood / Mackenzie Hughes / Alex Noren; 14) Harris English; 15) Denny McCarthy; 16) Xander Schauffele; 17) Adam Hadwin; 18) Andrew Putnam; 19) Eric Cole; 20) Adam Schenk / Kevin Tway; 22) Sam Burns / Wyndham Clark; 24) Brendon Todd; 25) Justin Thomas.
    • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Si Woo Kim / Shane Lowry; 3) Alex Noren; 4) Hideki Matsuyama; 5) Xander Schauffele, 6) Chris Kirk; 7) Taylor Moore; 8) Kurt Kitayama; 9) Wyndham Clark / Rory McIlroy; 11) Lucas Glover; 12) Akshay Bhatia / Adam Schenk; 14) Sahith Theegala / Cameron Young; 16) Austin Eckroat / Collin Morikawa / Justin Thomas; 19) Stephan Jaeger; 20) Tommy Fleetwood; 21) Corey Conners; 22) J.T. Poston; 23) Keegan Bradley / Patrick Cantlay, 25) Andrew Putnam.
    • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 2) Denny McCarthy; 3) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Xander Schauffele; 5) Brian Harman; 6) Jason Day; 7) Matt Kuchar; 8) Justin Rose; 9) Wyndham Clark / Peter Malnati / Rory McIlroy; 12) Taylor Pendrith / J.T. Poston / Sahith Theegala; 15) Mackenzie Hughes / Tom Kim / Adam Scott; 18) Tom Hoge; 19) Adam Hadwin / Kevin Tway; 21) Max Homa; 22) Akshay Bhatia / Chris Kirk; 24) Sepp Straka; 25) Harris English.
    • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Xander Schauffele; 2) Alex Noren; 3) Christiaan Bezuidenhout / Matthew Fitzpatrick; 5) Si Woo Kim / Hideki Matsuyama; 7) Chris Kirk; 8) Rory McIlroy; 9) Sahith Theegala; 10) Adam Schenk; 11) Akshay Bhatia / Wyndham Clark; 13) Tommy Fleetwood; 14) Mackenzie Hughes / Taylor Moore; 16) Denny McCarthy / J.T. Poston; 18) Adam Scott; 19) Lucas Glover; 20) Corey Conners; 21) Kurt Kitayama / Sepp Straka; 23) Kevin Tway; 24) Tom Hoge / Stephan Jaeger / Cameron Young.

    For a summary of the Strokes Gained Performances from this week’s field here at Quail Hollow click here.

    Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the Strokes Gained Stats of the Wells Fargo Championship winners here at Quail Hollow since 2018 (course re-design) gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this classical test:

    • 2023, Wyndham Clark (-19). SG Off the Tee: 20th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 39th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 3rd.
    • 2021, Rory McIlroy (-10). SG Off the Tee: 18th, SG Approach: 10th, SG Around the Green: 41st, SG Tee to Green: 9th, SG Putting: 3rd.
    • 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.

    Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

    • SG Off the Tee: 19th, SG Approach: 18th, SG Around the Green: 31st, SG Tee to Green: 8th, SG Putting: 2nd.

    Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of Wells Fargo Championship winners here since 2021 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

    • 2023, Wyndham Clark (-19). 321 yards (20th), 41.1% fairways (63rd), 80.6% greens in regulation (1st), 36’8 ” proximity to hole (2nd), 71 .4 % scrambling (2nd), 1.69 putts per GIR (8th).
    • 2021, Rory McIlroy (-10). 324 yards (2nd), 33.9% fairways (76th), 75.0% greens in regulation (3rd), 40’6″ proximity to hole (12th), 77 .8 % scrambling (1st), 1.74 putts per GIR (20th).
    • 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).

    Tournament Skill Averages:

    • Driving Distance: 14th, Driving Accuracy: 58th, Greens in Regulation: 23rd, Proximity to Hole: 22nd, Scrambling: 2nd, Putting Average 8th.

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

    Wyndham Clark (2023): “Very patient. I started out, I had a short birdie putt on 11, which was my second hole, about seven, eight feet. It broke 10 inches, but I missed that, and then missed a birdie putt on the drivable and three-putted the par 5. So I was even through my first seven holes, I felt like I should be a couple under. Then birdied 17 and 18 which kind of got the round going, which felt like it rewarded my patience in not getting frustrated. Yeah, definitely patient out there. Then I got into a nice groove on the back nine, a lot of fairways and greens and gave myself some looks.

    It’s such a tough golf course, there’s stretches, there’s like a few holes where it’s really tough and then you are given some birdie holes. Every hole, if you don’t hit it in position off the tee, it’s hard regardless of distance or par 5 or whatnot.

    Yeah, I would say I felt pretty comfortable once I kind of hit the green on hole 6 and then hit in the fairway on 7, because those are two kind of tough pivotal holes where you can easily make a bogey on 6 or hit a foul ball on 7 and something crazy can happen. I felt like when I kind of got those in play and put myself in position, I was like, all right, we’re in this thing, calm down, relax. Obviously I would have liked to have made that putt on 7, but following up with a great pitch on 8 and making birdie on that hole, that’s when I really loosened up. And then yeah, I think when he bogeyed 9 and then I birdied 10 and then he bogeyed 11, I was like, all right, this is — let’s not let him back into this tournament. My caddie, John, and I made sure that we were pretty conservative into certain holes and then other ones be aggressive. For instance, like on 14 we laid up again and, you know, people might question that play with my distance, but I hit a cut and the wind is off the left and I felt like it’s either going to go way right or I have to start it over the lake and I can bring in a bogey. Things like that where we were conservative, but then I took advantage and hit great shots and I made birdie on that hole and then the par 5. So I didn’t let Xander get back into it to the best of my ability.”

    Rory McIlroy (2021): “Yeah, I’ve putted well all week. Historically I’ve putted these greens well and I just, though they’ve changed from bent greens when I first came here to Bermudagrass, I’ve always been able to see the lines. So I’ve been comfortable with that. Then it’s just a matter of trusting that I’m putting good strokes on them. I think more than anything today, my speed was good and that was, you know, when the greens get tricky and there’s wind and there’s tough reads, speed’s almost more important than anything else. My speed was good today  and probably part of the reason why I was able to hole a few.”

    Keith Mitchell (2021): “My driver feels great, and around this place you’ve really got to drive it well, so I’m sure the stats would say that. Really all of it feels good right now. Really just trying to keep the ball in front of me right now and see what we can do tomorrow. This is a Major championship test when you put yourself out of position and it turns almost impossible. You’ve really got to pick and choose to the flags necessarily. They can put them right on the grain changes and put them right on the edges and sometimes your good shot’s 25 feet from the hole and some holes you can go for birdie. That’s really why it feels that way, because it’s not like every hole you can attack. You have to be very precise.”

    “Really tough golf courses demand every part of your game. I’ve definitely played poorly on tough golf courses, but my best weeks have been at the tough ones, Bay Hill, Honda, here. You just, when you hit a bad shot you get penalized and when you hit a good shot you get rewarded. Some golf courses on the PGA Tour where you can hit bad shots, get away with it and still try to make birdie. You can’t do that here. I think that’s a true test of golf. I don’t think golf would be fun if every course was like this. I just feel more comfortable around a tougher course.”

    Viktor Hovland (2021): Yeah, it was weird, and sometimes you would feel a gust of 15 miles an hour and then it would just be dead quiet 15 seconds later. So it was strange. But this place is so big that, even though you’re in between decisions, you kind of have a bigger area you can kind of err towards. So if it would have been another place where the greens are smaller, it would have been I think a little tougher, but it definitely doesn’t make it easy when you’re hitting shots from 225 yards into par 4s. Yeah, it didn’t make it easier.”

    “There’s one thing I feel like, not to say anything bad about this place, but I think this place is more of kind of a driving range golf course. The fairways are, they’re not narrow and they’re not wide, but it’s what you see, what you get. And the greens are pretty big. It’s all about just can you hit it in the centre of the face or are you hitting it in bunkers and rough and you’re going to have a tough day. I appreciate the more strategic places, but obviously if you come to this place and don’t like it, there’s something wrong with you.”

    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.

    Incoming Form of Wells Fargo Championship winners since 2010:

    • Wyndham Clark: 24th Mexico/3rd New Orleans/29th Heritage / 6th Corales.
    • Max Homa: 48th Augusta/35th World MP/13th TPC Sawgrass/17th Bay Hill.
    • Rory McIlroy: MC Augusta/28th World MP/MC TPC Sawgrass/10th Bay Hill.
    • 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.

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

    • 2023 – Fleetwood PM -6/65 – 60/1.
    • 2021 – Mickelson PM -7/66 – 125/1.
    • 2019 – Dahmen/Straka Both AM -5/66 – 100/1 & 250/1.
    • 2018 – Peterson – PM -6/65 – 250/1.

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

    • 9 – Rory McIlroy.
    • 6 – Justin Thomas.
    • 5 – Jordan Spieth.
    • 4 – Sam Burns, Jason Day, Billy Horschel, Chris Kirk, Si Woo Kim.
    • 3 – Matt Kuchar, Xander Schauffele.
    • 2 – Patrick Cantlay, Harris English, Rickie Fowler, Lucas Glover, Russell Henley, Mackenzie Hughes, Grayson Murray, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Nick Taylor.
    • 1 – Akshay Bhatia, Keegan Bradley, Wyndham Clark, Corey Conners, Nick Dunlap, Austin Eckroat, Tony Finau, Matt Fitzpatrick, Adam Hadwin, Max Homa, Stephan Jaeger, Sungjae Im, Tom Kim, Kurt Kitayama, Shane Lowry, Peter Malnati, Taylor Moore, Collin Morikawa, J.T. Poston, Seamus Power, Sepp Straka, Adam Svensson, Brendon Todd, Gary Woodland, Will Zalatoris.

    Quail Hollow is undoubtedly a Major Championship difficult venue, on the basis we are 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 pretty much as firm as they want.

    We should see a stretching enough, mid-score (circa -13/-17) 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 shot 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 defending champion Wyndham Clark topping leaderboards.

    My Final Wells Fargo Championship Tips Are As Follows:

    Ludvig Aberg – WD PRE-EVENT

    Anthony Kim, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Max Homa have all had breakthrough wins here at Quail Hollow, and I know that Ludvig Aberg has already won on the PGA Tour, but a second win in a Signature-level PGA Tour event at a Major Championship venue that’s sure to suit does feel an extremely compelling proposition. It’s not only logical, but Aberg is going to win lots of huge tournaments in the future and the Wells Fargo Championship,  as we’ve seen in the past, has seen young, hungry talents triumph at what at the time was the biggest tournament win of their young careers to date.

    Long and straight off the tee, Aberg has a high ball flight and has been able to play brilliantly on debut visits to a number of classical golf courses already. 9th at Torrey Pines, 2nd at Pebble Beach, 2nd at Augusta National – Major Championship venues all – and fascinatingly for the task that lies ahead he can be devastating as well with the flat stick.

    4th for Stokes Gained Putting (1.6 strokes gained per round) at Sea Island when winning the RSM Classic, he was 6th for Strokes Gained Putting at Bay Hill in March and 1st for the same metric at Augusta National. That’s incredible when you constantly hear it takes years to learn the nuances of Augusta’s green complexes and also when you realise he gained almost 2 strokes per round versus the field at The Masters.

    10th last time out, again on course debut at Harbour Town where he was 5th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, Ludvig is ready to win and I can see him doing it in North Carolina this week. WD Pre-Event

    Wyndham Clark 3pts EW 16/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

    If it’s not Aberg capturing the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday, you have to say that Rory McIlroy, who is a 3-times Quail Hollow victor, is the rightful favourite, especially with Scottie Scheffler’s absence and the fact that Rory is arriving off the back of a Zurich Classic of New Orleans victory with Shane Lowry. But at around double the odds of McIlroy I’m drawn to defending champion Wyndham Clark.

    I know masses of you, like me, are always dubious about backing defending champions, but of late there has been a new PGA Tour phenomenon of defending champions retaining their titles. Take K.H. Lee out of the equation and since November 2021 we’ve seen 12/1 (Hovland), 25/1 (Burns), 11/1 (McIlroy), 16/1 (Cantlay), 16/1 (Homa), 14/1 (Scheffler), 14/1 (Tom Kim) and 11/2 (Scheffler) price points go win/win. Not at all inspiring it has to be said, but it’s been happening regularly enough. More pointedly, like Wyndham Clark this week Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns, Scottie Scheffler and Tom Kim were making first ever PGA Tour defences when going back-to-back. It happens!

    Wyndham Clark for me has been the closest challenger on the PGA Tour to Scottie Scheffler in 2024. His 3rd career win at the Signature-level AT&T Pebble Beach in February preceded epic performances where only peak Scottie Scheffler stopped the 30 year-old World Number 3 from winning. 2nd at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and 2nd at the Players Championship, Clark looked the only real challenger to Scheffler last time out at the RBC Heritage, when Wyndham was 8-under par standing on the 12th tee box at Harbour Town, just a shot shy of the World Number 1. At that point Clark knew it was birdies or bust to set a challenging clubhouse lead for Scottie and an almost inevitable double-bogey on 12 pretty much handed the title to Scheffler, with the rest of the field floundering.

    But that in essence shows what Wyndham Clark is about – he wants to go head-to-head with the world’s very best and he’s in the kind of form where he could be winning far more on Tour. I’m sure that defending his first ever professional title at Quail Hollow this week will be a big deal for Wyndham, and I can see him putting in a great performance on a track which is pretty perfect for the Scottsdale, Arizona resident.

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    Sahith Theegala 2pts EW 25/1 with (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

    With Ludvig Aberg being a Monday WD due to a knee problem (worrying for his PGA Championship hopes next week), I will swap part of my stake plan to Sahith Theegala. Regulars will know I’ve been following him for much of 2024 and I feel that a break-out, high-status, second PGA Tour victory is due for the World Number 12.

    From a course correlation perspective, 4th at Torrey Pines (2023), 3rd (2022) & 5th (2023) at TPC Scottsdale, 6th at Riviera (2023), 6th at Bay Hill (2024), 9th at TPC Sawgrass (2024) and 5th (2022) at Muirfield Village, work perfectly with recent Quail winners Clark, McIlroy, Homa and Day plus I also like Theegala’s angle when it comes to success on Carolina-type golf courses. 7th at Copperhead in 2022 aligned with 5th (2023) and 2nd (2024) at Harbour Town, shows a real liking for golf courses where shaping of the ball and great approach play are critical.

    2024 has also seen Theegala feel comfortable at Signature-level PGA Tour events. 2nd at The Sentry, 6th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 9th at the Players Championship and 2nd at the RBC Heritage highlights a player who will be far from overawed this week at Quail Hollow.

    He has course experience – 56th last year after an opening round -4/67 – plus has the driving distance requirements to win here from a power perspective. He’s also been putting nicely of late arriving in Charlotte ranking in this field in the top 12 for Putting, as well as the top 10 for Off the Tee and Current Form plus the top 5 for Approach, across my 8-week Strokes Gained trackers.

    Digging down into his recent putting performances he was 1st for Strokes Gained Putting at TPC Sawgrass (2.1 strokes gained per round), which he backed up on the greens at Harbour Town ranking 6th for Putting (1.1 strokes gained per round). Both of those courses feature Bermudagrass greens overseeded with Poa Trivialis similar in agronomy to those at Quail Hollow.

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    Cameron Young 2pts EW 30/1 (8EW, 1/5) with bet365

    Cameron Young, like Aberg, is another who craves a career breakthrough win and after a successful Presidents Cup baptism here for Team USA in 2022, I expect him to be both highly motivated and confident yet again as he strives for his maiden PGA Tour victory. 4th at PGA National, 2nd at Copperhead and 9th at Augusta National, Cameron is playing some fantastic stuff right now and has the power game and high ball flight to be able to score well on Quail’s shorter par-4s and the critical par-5s this week.

    In my 8-week Strokes Gained trackers we find the World Number 16 in the top 20 for Off the Tee, top 15 for Tee to Green, and top 10 for Approach. Interestingly he was also 12th for Strokes Gained Putting at Augusta National, gaining 0.75 strokes per round with the putter, and also gained 0.6 strokes per round with the putter on Bermudagrass/Poa Trivialis greens at Copperhead. So a real bomber who has been putting very nicely of late – not a bad mix here for Quail Hollow.

    Career-wise Young has already finished 2nd at Riviera Country Club, 2nd at TPC Potomac, 3rd at Southern Hills, 2nd at St Andrews, 3rd at Emirates Golf Club (Hero Dubai Desert Classic) and 2nd at Copperhead as recently as March. Logically he will get over the line soon enough for his maiden PGA Tour title and that’s likely to happen at a tougher, longer, Major Championship venue such as Quail Hollow. I also like his local links to North Carolina, having studied at Wake Forest University just 90 minutes drive north-east up IS85.

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    Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 13:10BST 6.5.24 but are naturally subject to fluctuation. Theegala added 09:40BST 7.5.24.