If there were such a thing in golf as a “mini-major,” the way this week’s Wells Fargo Championship is setting up just might qualify.
Several factors specific to this year, when considered together, elevate the 16th staging of this championship to a higher level. Not the least of them is the Quail Hollow course itself, which permanently validated itself a top-rung American test of golf when it hosted one of the more memorable PGA Championships of recent years last August, with its famous “Green Mile” of finishing holes living up to its fearsome reputation.
From that field, 64 players are back as part of the 156-man field that will tee it up this week. Leading the way is the breakout star of that PGA Championship, Justin Thomas, who not only won his first major title but set the stage for earning 2017 PGA Tour Player of the Year honors on his march to status as the world’s No. 2-ranked player.
Thomas, like every player in the field, is hoping to flash top form to show they are ready for a pivotal seven-week stretch of the 2018 schedule, highlighted by this week’s stop, next week’s Players Championship, the Memorial Tournament on Memorial weekend and finally the U.S. Open in mid-June.
Lurking right behind Thomas are two popular, powerhouse players who each recorded their first wins on the PGA Tour at this event. World No. 6 Rickie Fowler was the 2012 champion, while world No. 7 Rory McIlroy not only won the 2010 title, but became the only multiple winner in event history when he added a second victory in Charlotte in 2015.
Then you have the intrigue of Masters champion Patrick Reed, now up to No. 11 in the world and facing the strongest field since his dream victory at Augusta in April. Reed is never shy, and should have even additional confidence from his tie for second at Quail Hollow in the PGA.
And if you would happen to stroll past the broadcast facilities at Quail Hollow this weekend and wonder why the CBS executives all have such giddy smiles on their faces, that would be because the Great Ratings Reliables are both on the grounds, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Those two alone guarantee gaudy TV ratings, particularly if one or both are in contention on the weekend. Add to all of those factors a strong overall field, and this 2017 “mini-major” could just end up as must-see TV for all true golf fans.
Tournament: Wells Fargo Championship
Dates: May 3-6, 2018
Where: Charlotte, N.C.
Course: Quail Hollow Club
Distance: Par 71, 7,554 yards
Architect: George Cobb, Tom Fazio
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,386,000
Defending Champion: Brian Harman
Marquee Players: Harman, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Alex Noren, Joaquin Niemann
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