Sorry, I have pat myself on the back before I preview this week’s PGA Tour stop at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte for the Wells Fargo Championship.
Last week at the Zurich Open of New Orleans, this is what I concluded with under my picks section: “My choice is (Jason) Dufner at 22/1. The guy has too much talent to not win sooner rather than later. Plus, he has finished in the Top 10 in the past three years here, including that T3 a year ago. Dufner is eighth in the all-around ranking this year.”
And wouldn’t you know it? Dufner beat Ernie Els in a playoff, giving me a third winner so far this season – joining Rory McIlroy at the Honda Classic and Tiger Woods at Bay Hill. I believe Dufner, who got win No. 1 in his 164th start, might be the longest shot I have called in the year-and-a-half I have been doing this. But that just makes me want to improve!
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Dufner won’t be going back-to-back as he is not entered in this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, which has drawn the best field since the Masters because of a large purse, the fact that Wells Fargo is one of the biggest sponsors on Tour, and that Quail Hollow is considered one of the best courses on Tour – it will host the 2017 PGA Championship. Arguably the four biggest names in golf will be teeing off this weekend: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood. Masters winner Bubba Watson and world No. 1 Luke Donald aren’t playing, however. McIlroy could reclaim No. 1 this week with a good enough result.
As usual, most eyes will be on Tiger as he plays for the first time since his worst Masters finish as a pro. He claims he has fixed the ball-striking issues that plagued him at Augusta, although you won’t hear Tiger say it because he skipped the normal Tuesday media session this week. Does that mean he’s totally focused or just irritated with answering the same questions? Woods did say this on his website Monday: "Sean (Foley, swing coach) and I fixed it. It had to do with my posture. My setup wasn't quite right, as well as my takeaway so we worked on that. I just needed to do hundreds of (repetitions). I'm getting dialed in."
Lucas Glover (80/1) is the defending champion here. He beat former Clemson teammate Jonathan Byrd on the first playoff hole in 2011 with a par. Byrd birdied his final hole in regulation to set up the playoff. Finishing just a shot out of the playoff was Rory Sabbatini. Glover has been wretched so far this year (one round in the 60s, best finish of T66), so I won’t be recommending him.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Wells Fargo Championship Favorites
As one would expect, McIlroy and Woods are the favorites at 15/2 and 9/1, respectively. McIlroy seems to be going the Tiger route in playing fewer tournaments and focusing solely on the big ones. He hasn’t played since the Masters and this will be only his second event since the WGC-Cadillac concluded on March 11. McIlroy said he got worn out last year after playing 30 tournaments. This year he plans on playing 23 tournaments – including five in the next seven weeks -- and the Ryder Cup. But I expect McIlroy to be rusty, although he says he practiced all last week in Florida. He did win here in 2010, thanks to a final-round 62, but missed the cut last year.
Tiger won this event in 2007, but he might also be a bit rusty after that 40th-place finish at Augusta where he failed to break par in any round. Woods didn’t play here in 2011 and had a memorable missed cut at this event in 2010. But he hasn’t finished outside the Top 11 in his other four starts, including his win.
No player who has played this event at least twice has a better average finish than Phil Mickelson’s 9.8. In fact, it’s kind of like his U.S. Open, where he’s a perennial runner-up. Lefty (12/1 to win) has played here the past eight years and has finished outside the Top 10 just twice. He also has four Top-5 finishes, with a runner-up in 2010.
Westwood (14/1) has played here just three times – not last year – and has a best finish of T38. He hasn’t missed a cut this year on either the PGA or European Tour and was T3 at the Masters in his last start.
Hunter Mahan (20/1) rounds out the Top-5 favorites. He’s an early leader for Player of the Year as the FedExCup leader has two victories already and has finished outside the Top 25 just once. This is his first event since a T12 at Augusta. Mahan hasn’t finished worse than T22 at this tournament since a missed cut in 2007.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Wells Fargo Championship Picks
Perhaps we should stick with those 22/1 odds again and go with Jim Furyk this week at that number. In his last four starts this season, he's finished no worse than T11 and he leads the Tour in fairways hit, which is essential on this course. Furyk won here in 2006 and has three other Top-11 finishes since then at this event.
Webb Simpson (30/1) is intriguing. He’s not playing particularly great, although he was T13 last week in New Orleans. And Simpson has missed the cut in two of three tries here. But he not too long ago moved a mile or so from the course and has spent a lot of time playing and practicing at Quail Hollow, especially while preparing for his first Masters last month. So he will know the course perhaps better than anyone.
And I really like Cameron Tringale at 40/1. His tie for seventh place in New Orleans was his third consecutive Top-10 and fourth of the year. He has played here twice and not been good, missing the cut two years ago and finishing 59th a year ago. But Tringale is rolling right now.
But I can’t go for a long shot this week – I think it’s Mickelson’s time to break through. In fact, I would double up not only on the odds to win but at even money he will finish in the Top 10. I would also take Furyk at +200 to finish in the Top 10. Finally, I would take McIlroy at -140 head-to-head against Tiger (+110).
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