Well I’m about ready to turn the page on the Zurich Classic. After five days (and only three rounds), Brian Stuard produced enough clutch shots (and made every single putt) to capture his first career win and his 1st Masters berth. He seemed to be overmatched in the playoff against Jamie Lovemark and Byeong-Hun An, but Stuard stuck to his game plan, stayed patient, and came out a winner. Now we go from one of the softest fields of the year in New Orleans to one of the better ones. A bunch of the top players in the world are here in Charlotte tuning up for The Players Championship next week.
This week, the tour moves to The Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, in Charlotte, NC. Quail Hollow is takes a little navigating, but ultimately it’s a bombers paradise. It stretches over 7,500 yards, and is a standard par-72 course. The course is littered with long par 3s, long par 4s, and par 5s that the bombers can take advantage of. Hitting the fairways this week isn’t as important as hitting to the correct side of the hole, so as long as players control their misses, playing out of the rough isn’t going to be too difficult. Finally, the greens are Bermuda, so as usual, take a look at players who perform better on these types of surfaces. Although many top players have come to this event before, I think more are here this year because Quail Hollow will be hosting the PGA Championship in 2017. The more looks a player can get at a course, the more comfortable he will feel coming back out for a major. Similarly, this is a course where previous winners have had other strong showings, so I’ll be weighing course history a little more than usual this week. That will be reflected in my picks below with guys like Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, and Webb Simpson. Beyond strong showings in this event, many players reside in the area and have tons of experience playing Quail Hollow. Some names that pop out to me are Webb Simpson, Bill Haas, Harold Varner III, Kyle Reifers, Jason Kokrak, and Brendon de Jonge.
Without getting too in depth with stats this week, I’m going to focus on Driving Distance, Par-5 scoring average, strokes gained: tee-to-green, and players who perform well on Bermuda grass greens.
*One major field note to keep in mind: Dustin Johnson has withdrawn this week.
And now on to the picks! Hopefully we can keep rolling with some solid picks across the pricing spectrum. The weather looks beautiful in Charlotte, and pricing is so soft that it’s going to be much easier to get 6/6 golfers through the cut this week. I’m going to be fairly heavy on Rory McIlroy, but will also be putting some balanced lineups together. Here are the guys I’m looking at in all of the pricing tiers:
Rory McIlroy ($12,800) – Two-time champion at the event, but isn’t coming in playing his best. You know it’s only a matter of time until Rory makes a statement, and why not here? Rory’s won twice at Quail Hollow, has three other top-10 finishes, and checks all the boxes this week. He’s 13th in driving distance, 1st in par-5 scoring, and 8th in SG:T2G. I’m all in.
Rickie Fowler ($10,900) – Rickie didn’t have his best stuff last week at Zurich, but I’m willing to overlook his mediocre finish. He’s also won here before, and I think he’s going to have a strong showing the week before he defends his Players Championship. Rickie ranks 36th in driving distance, 3rd in par-5 scoring, and 6th in SG:T2G. If you can fit him in your lineups, fire him up.
Phil Mickelson ($9,500) – There’s nobody in the field who has a stronger course history than Phil this week. He has seven top-10 finishes in his last 11 appearances, and hasn’t missed a cut in that time either. Although he disappointed everyone at The Masters and again at Valero, I’m taking a long view of his season. Phil’s been great overall, so I think he’s going to turn it back around this week at a place he’s comfortable. Even though he’s approaching 50 years old, Phil still ranks 41st in driving distance, 25th in par-5 scoring, and 11th in SG:T2G. I’m going to have a lot of Mickelson this week.
J.B. Holmes ($9,100) – People always overlook what a great year J.B. Holmes is having, and he’s another player I think is ready for a breakthrough. I’ve already locked him in as a pick at Oakmont, but I think he gets a win before the Open. In a bomber’s paradise, Holmes is one of the first players to target, as he is 3rd on Tour in driving distance, and ranks 17th in SG:T2G. Oh, and he’s also won here before.
Daniel Berger ($8,400) – Considering Berger was priced over $10,000 last week, I think he’s going to be a pretty chalky play. He’s 25th in driving distance, and ranks 46th in SG:T2G. His form has been great as of late, and he’s another young player who is due for his breakthrough win. Although the strength of this field is going to make it very difficult for Berger to win, I can easily see him finishing inside the top-10, with even more upside than that. Berger’s only played Quail Hollow once, and finished 28th, but I think he can improve on that this time around.
Kevin Kisner ($8,100) – Kisner’s form has been shaky of late, but we all know what he’s capable of. At this price, it’s impossible for me to overlook him for cash games and even some GPPs. He’s not the longest hitter on Tour, but he can stripe it as well as anyone out there. Also – narrative – his brother-in-law is a member at Quail Hollow, so I’m sure Kisner is very familiar with the course. Kisner also finished 6th here in 2014. Remember, this was the part of the season where Kisner broke out last year, culminating with a 2nd place finish (in a playoff against Rickie Fowler) at The Players Championship.
Charles Howell III ($8,100) – Criminally underpriced again. You need to keep playing Charles Howell until his price goes up or until he misses some cuts. He’s been uber-consistent on Tour this year and even has some top-10 finishes recently. Howell has made nine of his last eleven cuts here at Quail Hollow, and although he doesn’t have high finishes, he seems to be a different player this year. Howell is 18th in driving distance, 16th in par-5 scoring, and 35th in SG:T2G. He’s a cash game lock for me.
Webb Simpson ($7,900) – The ultimate narrative, since Webb lives on the golf course. He’s got all the course knowledge in the world, and has played well here in the past. Webb has made five consecutive cuts at this event, including two top-4 finishes. He’s one of the premier ball strikers on Tour, so Webb’s results are all dependent on his putter. But at a course where he knows all the subtle breaks on the greens, I’m willing to roll the dice in all formats.
Gary Woodland ($7,800) – One of my favorite plays of the week, and one of my top targets when the Tour plays these bomber’s tracks. Woodland leads the Tour in driving distance, ranks 4th in par-5 scoring, and 19th in SG:T2G. He’s made all five cuts at this event, improving on his finishes each year (culminating with a 4th place finish in last year). Woodland is always a boom or bust type of player, but I’m heavy on him this week.
Patrick Rodgers ($7,700) – Rodgers has been a trainwreck all year, but seemed to find some form last week at Zurich. He’s a form player who hits the ball a mile, so I’m going to give him a shot this week. He ranks 23rd in driving distance, 29th in par-5 scoring, and 37th in SG:T2G. He’s not the world’s best putter, but poor putters have had success here in the past (Lucas Glover, Webb Simpson, etc.). Rodgers played here for the first time last year, finishing runner-up to Rory.
Robert Streb ($7,400) – Another guy who has been an absolute disaster this year, but is coming off a good showing at Zurich last week. Streb has also played well here in the past (4th last year, 23rd in 2014), so the combination of those things gives me a little hope for him this week. He’s pretty average in all the stats I’m targeting this week, but I have a good feeling about Strebber this week. Like Kisner, this was the part of the season where he turned things on last year and made himself a DFS darling.
Brendan Steele ($7,200) – Purely a form play again, but Steele has been pretty consistent this year and is coming off a 13th place finish at the Valero Texas Open (where he lead most of the week). Steele is one of the best ball-strikers on Tour, and checks the boxes we’re targeting this week. He’s 16th in driving distance, 16th in par-5 scoring, and 55th in SG:T2G. Steele has made 4/5 cuts at this event, and had a 9th place finish last year. Also, at this price he’s severely undervalued, making him a must in all cash games.
Harold Varner III ($6,900) – Sorry, Zach Woods. But the HV3 cat is out of the bag after back-to-back top-10 finishes and the fact that he’s a local boy coming home playing some of the best golf of his career. Oh, and he’s a bomber. I expect Varner to be very, very chalky at this price, so I’m going to skip him for most GPP lineups. Either way, he’s a solid option this week. He ranks 19th in driving distance and 9th in par-5 scoring average. Fire me up some HV3.
Morgan Hoffman ($6,600) – A bit of a gut play here with other, safer options around this range (Lucas Glover, Will Wilcox, etc). MoHoff is a weird player, who has been pretty bad most of this year but seems to elevate his game in elite fields. He hits the ball a mile and dominates par-5s, so I’m willing to gamble on him this week.
Nick Taylor ($6,000) – Probably the most underpriced player in the field this week to me, considering his recent form and upside. His stats don’t do his recent play justice, but basically Taylor is a former winner on Tour who hits the ball a country mile. He’s a bit inconsistent, but makes a ton of birdies (and eagles), which is perfect for GPP formats. I’m going to be using a lot of Taylor this week at a very depressed price.
Good luck this week!