With that, here’s the first edition of the Big Guide… for the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship.
Tournament: Wells Fargo Championship
Dates: May 2-5, 2019
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: $1,422,000
Defending Champion: Jason Day
The Big Guide: Wells Fargo Championship is powered by Taylormade Golf Store.
TV, Stream, and Links
Rd 1: Th 2-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 2: Fr 6-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sa 1-2:45 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sa 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
Rd 4: Su 1-2:45 pm (GOLF)
Rd 4: Su 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
PGA Tour Live
Rd 1: Th 7:00 am-6:00 pm
Rd 2: Fr 7:00 am-6:00 pm
Rd 3: Sa 8:30 am-6:00 pm
Rd 4: Su 8:30 am-6:00 pm
The Wells Fargo Championship is a relatively young tournament, with the inaugural tournament (then called the Wachovia Championship) teeing off in 2003. The first event winner was David Toms, who at 10-under par, won by two shots. Each of the next three editions were decided by playoffs.
Notable champions include Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler.
McIlroy is the only two-time winner – taking the 2010 and 2015 titles. In that 2010 victory, McIlroy made the cut on the number and then exploded on the weekend, shooting 66-62 to win by four strokes over Phil Mickelson.
Quail Hollow Club is a famously difficult course, highlighted by a brutal finishing stretch (16-18) referred to as the “Green Mile.”
Scoring: 267 (-21) – Rory McIlroy (2015)
Wins: 2 – Rory McIlroy (2010, 2015)
History: Tournament Names
2011-18: Wells Fargo Championship
2009-10: Quail Hollow Championship
2003-08: Wachovia Championship
History: Recent Winners
2018: Jason Day (-12)
2017: Brian Harman (-10)
2016: James Hahn (-9)
2015: Rory McIlroy (-21)
2014: J.B. Holmes (-14)
2013: Derek Ernst (-8)
2012: Rickie Fowler (-14)
More than a quarter-century before the creation of what’s now the Wells Fargo Championship, Quail Hollow Club was part of the nomadic history of the Kemper Open.
Quail Hollow, still establishing itself on the golf market, spent 11 years as Kemper host from 1969-79. The tournament actually got its start in Boston, but only lasted one year there despite Arnold Palmer winning the inaugural edition.
Dale Douglass cruised to victory in the first Quail Hollow stop, and two years later Tom Weiskopf captured the first of his three wins in Charlotte. Doug Sanders, Raymond Floyd and Andy Bean were other prominent winners in the Quail Hollow years.
The Kemper relocated again in 1980, moving back north to begin a 27-year run in the Washington market. Kemper Insurance dropped its sponsorship after the 2002 edition, and the tournament itself was gone four years later amid an overhaul of the PGA Tour schedule.
– Jeff Shain
Stat of the Week
Two (2) Top 10s – At last year’s Wells Fargo Championship, Aaron Wise and Nick Watney, both in much different places in their careers, were the biggest chasers to tournament winner Jason Day.
Had Wise won, it would have been the first of his career (that ended up coming the very next week). For Watney, who had seen his once promising career implode in front of his eyes, it would have been his first victory in six years
Both Wise and Watney came to play that week, and Wise continued to play well enough to secure PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, but neither have been at their best in the 2019 season. In fact, the duo has combined for just “2” top 10s: Wise finished T10 at last November’s Mayakoba Golf Classic, while Watney was T9 while teamed with Charley Hoffman at last week’s Zurich Classic.
– Joel Cook
The Golf Course
Quail Hollow Club, a private golf club located in Charlotte, North Carolina, is regularly considered one of the top golf courses in the United States.
Originally laid out by noted golf course architect George Cobb in 1961, in the intervening years, the course has undergone a series of improvements, including modifications to several holes by Arnold Palmer (1986), a re-design by Tom Fazio in 1997, and further modifications by Fazio in the summer of 2016, in preparation for the 2017 PGA Championship.
The course’s elevation is approximately 600 feet above sea level, and is part of an extensive real estate/housing development.
From 1969-1979, the course played host to the PGA Tour’s (now defunct) Kemper Open, and since 2003, the club has annually hosted the Wells Fargo Championship. In 2017, it hosted its first major – the PGA Championship, and in 2021, it will host Presidents Cup matches.
The par-71 course measures 7,600 yards during championship play, and is considered one of the most challenging tracks on the PGA Tour circuit.
Hole of the Week
No.1, Quail Hollow Club
Par 4, 495 yards
2018 average: 4.296 (3rd toughest)
Already boasting what’s perennially the PGA Tour’s toughest closing stretch in the “Green Mile,” Quail Hollow also now features an opening brute that might give Augusta National’s first hole a run for its money.
Created from the merger of two holes in Quail Hollow’s original footprint, the new No.1 was unveiled at last year’s PGA Championship and soon made itself known. After just 15 birdies were recorded in the first two rounds, not one of the 75 players to make the weekend birdied No.1 in Round 3.
All in all, No.1 came in as last year’s eighth-toughest hole on the PGA Tour. Rory McIlroy, whose 61 in the 2015 Wells Fargo stood as the old course record, summed it up by suggesting whereas the old 418-yard opener greeted golfers with a gentle handshake, the new version is like a punch in the face.
No.1 will play 29 yards shorter this week than at last year’s PGA (524 yards), so that should ease a bit of the sting. Still, only the longest hitters will be able to cut much corner on a dogleg that doesn’t bend until 250 yards, and a long approach awaits to a small, well-guarded green.
– Jeff Shain
The top-ranked player in the field is No. 2 Justin Rose, who won earlier this season at Torrey Pines (Farmers Insurance Open). In his most recent start at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club, the Englishman finished T3 in 2016.
The betting favorite is two-time Wells Fargo winner Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman, who will turn 30 on Saturday, has been reborn in 2019. In eight starts on the year, McIlroy owns a win (PLAYERS Championship), along with six additional top 10s. His only non-top 10 of the year occurred at the Masters earlier this month, where he posted a T21.
Defending champ Jason Day also enters in strong form, having posted four top 10s in his five most recent stroke-play starts, highlighted by a T5 at the Masters.
This year’s field also includes 2012 Wells Fargo winner Rickie Fowler, who enters with a world ranking of No. 10, and fresh off another top 10 at the Masters. The 30-year old Oklahoma State product is also a 2019 winner (Waste Management Phoenix Open), and one of the top-5 betting favorites this week.
Alongside Rose, Fowler and McIlroy, eight additional 2019 tournament winners will be in the field this week, including Cameron Champ (Sanderson Farms), Charles Howell III (The RSM Classic), Phil Mickelson (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am), Adam Long (Desert Classic), J.B. Holmes (Genesis Open), Martin Trainer (Puerto Rico), Keith Mitchell (The Honda Clssic), and Paul Casey (Valspar Championship).
– Jordan Thomas
1. Day Defends
Coming off an extremely disappointing 2017 season, Jason Day notched his second victory of the 2018 season last year at Quail Hollow. A pedestrian final round through 15 holes had Day, the tournament’s 54-hole leader, on the ropes, but with clutch birdies on 16 and 17, the then 30-year-old Aussie won the Wells Fargo Championship by two strokes over a rejuvenated Nick Watney and super-rookie Aaron Wise.
The former World No. 1 is now World No. 14, but while he is not the week-in, week-out dynamo he used to be, he has contended a number of times in 2018, posting five top-10s in 11 starts, with the most recent one being a T5 at The Masters. Day is killing it with his driver and putter this year, but his ball-striking has not always been there.
2. Rory’s Playhouse
One of the worst kept secrets on the PGA Tour is that Rory McIlroy basically owns Quail Hollow Club. The affair began at the 2010 Wells Fargo Championship when Rory made the cut on the number, but then put together a ridiculous 66-62 weekend to somehow win by four strokes (to those unfamiliar with that event: seriously, none of that was a typo). That 2010 final round was not even Rory’s best here: he shot a course-record 61 in the 2015 edition, which he also won.
The only two-time champion of this event, Rory is the favorite again coming into the week, and while his most recent start (The Masters) was a surprising disappointment (T21), he still has a victory and a runner-up among his seven top-10s in just nine starts this season, which has him at a loft third in the current FedExCup Standings.
In the midst of one of his most complete seasons yet, McIlroy leads the Tour in strokes gained: off-the-tee, strokes gained: tee-to-green, and strokes gained: total.
3. Phil Looking For a Breakthrough
There is not a lot that Phil Mickelson has not been able to accomplish in his long, Hall of Fame golf career, but he really, really wants a victory at Quail Hollow.
Mickelson has played this event 16 times, and has consistently finished high, but has not quite been able to win. He finished runner-up the year (2010) that Rory went crazy on the weekend, and also has finishes of T5 (last year), T4 (2015 and 2016), T11 (2014, despite rounds of 75 and 76), 3rd (2013), T9 (2011), T5 (2009), T3 (2007), T7 (2005), and T5 (2004).
Phil won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, but has struggled badly since, as a T18 at The Masters is his only finish of better than 37th in six starts.
– Joel Cook
The challenge of Quail Hollow traditionally lures a strong field, and this year’s edition is no different, as eight members of the OWGR’s top 20 are in attendance this week.
That segment is heavily represented in this week’s power rankings, but are far from the only players worth of attention:
10. Tony Finau (15), 22-1
9. Sergio Garcia (29), 20-1
8. Phil Mickelson (23), 25-1
7. Paul Casey (13), 25-1
6. Lucas Glover (84), 40-1
5. Webb Simpson (20), 20-1
4. Justin Rose (2), 11-1
3. Jason Day (14), 10-1
2. Rickie Fowler (10), 11-1
1. Rory McIlroy (4), 6-1
Top Sleeper: Seamus Power
An unbelievably poor start to the 2019 season had the Irishman looking like a long-shot to keep his PGA Tour card after this season, but everything has changed over the past two weeks.
After a 10 start stretch where he missed seven cuts, with finishes of T64, T35, T44 in his other three starts, the 32-year-old broke through with a T6 effort at the RBC Heritage, where his short game bordered on immaculate, and then last week he posted a T5 while paired with a badly struggling David Hearn.
In their round 1 4-under 68, Power carded every birdie the duo had. In addition, he played well at Quail Hollow last year, finishing 1-under for the week, good for a share of 27th place.
– Joel Cook
Featured Groups: Tee Times
Round 1, Thursday
07:30 am: Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama
07:40 am: Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Harold Varner III
12:40 pm: Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson
12:50 pm: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau
Round 2, Friday
07:30 am: Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson
07:40 am: Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau
12:40 pm: Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama
12:50 pm: Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Harold Varner III
4 Featured Groups: Slideshow