The hallowed grounds of Quail Hollow Club return to action to host the 2023 Wells Fargo Championship for just the fourth time since 2016. A highly sought after championship venue, Quail Hollow hosted both the PGA Championship and Presidents Cup over that span. It’s exciting to see many of the world’s best converge here this week with yet another Elevated event and a purse of $20M on the line in Charlotte. Here’s a look ahead at everything you can expect from Quail Hollow Club ahead and Wells Fargo Championship odds.
Not exactly the bomber’s paradise we saw at Vidanta Vallarta last week, the long ball off the tee is still plenty advantageous at Quail Hollow. A list of recent champions that includes Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Max Homa, Rickie Fowler, and J.B. Holmes backs that up. Beyond pure distance, however, Quail Hollow tests the field’s total driving, long iron approaches, and ability to consistently scramble for pars on fast Bermuda greens.
A winning score surpassed 12-under par just once here over the last six years. The Wells Fargo Championship should serve as ideal prep for the difficult scoring conditions in store at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in two weeks.
WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: THE FAVORITES
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THE FIELD AT A GLANCE
“If we elevate it, they will come.” That’s been the pretense of the PGA TOUR in its new season format. However, it’s clear that fatigue is already settling in, and gaudy purse increases are not enough to guarantee all of the best players will show up.
Although this is sure to be the strongest field in Wells Fargo Championship history, it will be the least top-heavy of all Elevated events thus far in 2023. Only 21 of the OWGR top 30 committed to make the trip to Charlotte. Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Billy Horschel, Tom Hoge, Russell Henley, and Justin Rose are the notables who are out due to “Load Management,” while Hideki Matsuyama and Will Zalatoris will also miss due to injury.
It’s surprising to see the Wells Fargo Championship draw a weaker field than the RBC Heritage – the last Elevated event. This tournament and its iconic venue draws an ideal place on the schedule, sandwiched between two negligible events in the Mexico Open and AT&T Byron Nelson. It’s not a great look for the event or the PGA TOUR to have its two highest rated players skip town. But in any case, it sets up for a very appealing slate for us golf bettors to approach.
With no World No. 1 or No. 2, the spotlight shifts focus to defending 2021 champion (at Quail Hollow), Rory McIlroy. He makes his first PGA TOUR start this weekend since a disappointing early exit at The Masters. Max Homa, Jason Day, James Hahn, Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes, and Lucas Glover represent the full list of past champions at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club. Justin Thomas is also notably in the field as a past winner on these grounds at the 2017 PGA Championship.
INTRODUCTION TO QUAIL HOLLOW CLUB
Designed by George Cobb in 1959, Quail Hollow Club has already enjoyed a rich history over its first 64 years. It first hosted the PGA TOUR’s Kemper Open in 1969 through 1979. When the Kemper Open switched over to Congressional, it went on to host the World Seniors Invitational before finding a more stable home as host of the Wells Fargo Championship starting in 2003.
With renovations from Tom Fazio in 1997, 2003, and 2016, Quail Hollow Club has been modernized to withstand the increased length of PGA TOUR pros and is a quintessential fit as a Major championship venue. It hosted the 2017 PGA Championship where Thomas went on to secure his first career Major and will be back on the Major circuit soon again for the 2025 PGA Championship.
We last saw Quail Hollow at the 2022 Presidents Cup about seven months ago. Though the routing and format were not exactly the same as Wells Fargo’s, Jordan Spieth, Max Homa, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, SI Woo Kim, and Sungjae Im each impressed in their latest trips here.
Like most other modern Major championship-style venues, Quail Hollow rewards the longest players off the tee and requires polished all-around skillsets from tee-to-green. Compared to Major conditions, the fairways are less pinched for the Wells Fargo Championship, opening the door for shorter fairway-finders like Abraham Ancer, Joel Dahmen, and Nick Watney to contend in the last three Wells Fargo Championship contests at Quail Hollow Club.
These are exceptions to the rule, however, as bombers consistently littered the tops of leaderboards here over the years.
For Quail Hollow course specs, hole-by-hole breakdown with yardages, and past Wells Fargo Championship winners with their pre-tournament odds, visit our Wells Fargo Championship page.Editor’s Note
EVENT HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS
Any course that’s been tapped to host a Major in recent years can be counted on to impose a stern test to the field. Similar to what we’ve seen from other modern Major championship venues, Quail Hollow Club rewards elite tee-to-green play, particularly favoring long drivers who can score on 450+ yard par-4s, are proficient with their long irons, and can consistently scramble for pars with a lower greens-in-regulation percentage expected.
Looking at recent course history, five players have multiple T16 finishes over the last three years at Quail Hollow: Rory McIlroy, Keith Mitchell, Emiliano Grillo, and Joel Dahmen.
Eight players made the cut in each of the last three years at Quail Hollow: Rory McIlroy, Brian Harman, Keith Mitchell, Luke List, Seamus Power, Jason Dufner, Joel Dahmen, and Beau Hossler.
Rory McIlroy is the clear course horse at Quail Hollow. He’s won the Wells Fargo Championship three times, and has just one finish outside the top 10 in his last eight appearances here dating back to 2012 (T16 in 2018). The Wells Fargo Championship has a history of going down to the wire, with 6 championships being decided in a playoff since the inaugural 2003 tournament. Only three times the event was won by 4+ strokes, and two of those were won by McIlroy. Despite the disappointing showing at Augusta, his unblemished course history and the absence of Rahm and Scheffler sets the stage for McIlroy to open as the clear favorite this week. Rahm and Scheffler have combined to win five of the first seven Elevated/Major events this season.
Looking at total strokes gained at Quail Hollow over the last 10 years, the top 10 players in course history are: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas, Joel Dahmen, Stewart Cink, Keith Mitchell, Ryan Moore, and Nick Watney.
Torrey Pines stands out as the most apparent comp course to Quail Hollow, as both venues place a premium on driving distance while still offering a stern test all around from tee-to-green. Both venues are also on the Major championship course rotation in addition to being mainstays on the PGA TOUR schedule. Max Homa and Jason Day won at both courses within the last five years.
From a leaderboard overlap standpoint, Riviera CC also bears plenty in common with Quail Hollow, as Max Homa, J.B. Holmes, and James Hahn all won at both events. Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, and Phil Mickelson add to the list of consistent contenders at both tracks.
After Torrey Pines and Riviera CC, Bay Hill, Muirfield Village, Winged Foot, Southern Hills, and Bethpage Black fall in the next tier for me as comparable long and difficult courses. Given the Tom Fazio influence, the Summit Club, Congaree, and Shadow Creek also serve has solid tertiary comps. Quail Hollow stalwarts McIlroy and Keith Mitchell demonstrated great consistency there, as well.
Combine performance across this long list of difficult bomber tracks, and the top 10 players in Comp Course History from this week’s field are: Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa, Max Homa, Justin Thomas, Sungjae Im, Cameron Young, Viktor Hovland, Chris Kirk, Patrick Cantlay, and Xander Schauffele.
KEY STATS TO CONSIDER
- Driving Distance / SG: OTT
- SG: APP / Prox 175+
- SG: ARG / Scrambling
- Par 4: 450+
- SG: TOT & Bogey Avoidance (Difficult Scoring Conditions)
- SG: Putting (Bermuda) / 3-Putt Avoidance
- Course & Comp Course History
A week after the Mexico Open at Vidanta and we keep the pedal down on Driving Distance importance. Excluding James Hahn, all other winners at Quail Hollow dating back to 2014 (Max Homa, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, J.B. Holmes) have ranked top 15 in Driving Distance leading in. The top 15 players in Driving Distance in this field entering this week are: Rory McIlroy, Cameron Young, Cameron Champ, Matthias Schmid, Byeong Hun An, Gary Woodland, Keith Mitchell, Brent Grant, Wyndham Clark, Trey Mullinax, Luke List, Will Gordon, Vincent Norrman, Callum Tarren, and Davis Thompson.
Quail Hollow’s combination of eight 450+ yard par-4s, three 175+ yard par-3s, and three par-5s combine to draw a significant 56% of approaches from beyond 175 yards. The top 10 players in weighted proximity from 175+ yards are: Collin Morikawa, Nick Hardy, Gary Woodland, Augusto Nunez, Taylor Moore, Davis Riley, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, and Shane Lowry.
Proximity aside, the hole distances are concentrated with eight par-4s measuring between 450-510 yards. The top 10 players scoring in this range are: Patrick Cantlay, Hayden Buckley, Viktor Hovland, Sam Ryder, Max Homa, Chris Kirk, Si Woo Kim, Sahith Theegala, Jason Day, and Justin Thomas.
More Than Just a Bomber’s Course
Of course, a venue like Quail Hollow – which has produced a field median score of around Even par each of the last 10 years – requires more than sheer power to score. Narrow fairways, penal rough, and fast greens all contribute to a Greens In Regulation percentage of just 61%. That’s well below the PGA TOUR average.
Greenside hazards aren’t the most complex, but being able to scramble around the green is crucial here. Just 11 players rank above-average in SG: ARG, Scrambling, Bogey Avoidance, and SG: TOT (Difficult Scoring Conditions): Jason Day, Max Homa, Wyndham Clark, Sungjae Im, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sahith Theegala, Adam Schenk, Matt Kuchar, Danny Willett, Ben Griffin, and Taylor Montgomery.
To summarize this week, I’m looking for players who are long off the tee, great ball strikers, solid on Proximity from 175+, reliable around fast Bermuda greens, and have proven results on other comp difficult courses. Six players rank above-average in each of those categories: Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Wyndham Clark, Jordan Spieth, and Sahith Theegala.
Correlation at Quail Hollow
It’s worth noting that the profile of players who find success at Quail Hollow doesn’t stray too far from TOUR average. That’s common on difficult scoring venues, so we can say that the best players in the world are going to fare best here. The most notable difference to flag, however, would be the premium on Opportunities Gained (7th vs 13th on average) and SG: SG (9th vs 14th on average).
Six players in the field rank above average in each of the above key stat categories: Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Wyndham Clark, Jordan Spieth, Tyrrell Hatton, Justin Thomas, and Rickie Fowler.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: VIKTOR HOVLAND
It’s a strange irony that Viktor Hovland – known for his repulsive short game and lackluster resume of PGA TOUR wins across deficient fields outside the continental U.S. – has sneakily performed his best in the most difficult scoring conditions. Since 2020, he compiled 20 top-10 finishes on TOUR. 13 of those came on difficult courses I have marked as comparable to Quail Hollow. He’ll enter Charlotte this week with three top-10 finishes across THE PLAYERS, The Masters, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational over his last four stroke play events.
There is an argument to be made that Hovland is currently the best ball-striker in the world. He’s the only player in this field to rank top-20 in SG: Ball Striking, SG: OTT, SG: APP, Driving Distance, and Prox: 200+. He has gained 1+ strokes OTT & APP in each of his last six starts and is No. 3 in SG: Ball Striking on courses over 7,400 yards. Hovland is at his best when he leans on his driver, exactly the formula in store at Quail Hollow.
Hovland showed no concerns acclimating to this course in his 2021 debut, finishing T3 and gaining across all four SG categories. The quality of wins on his resume does not fit his skill level. With seven international wins since 2020, I’m not going to question his ability to close out tournaments. Hovland is due for a big time win soon and Quail Hollow seems to be the ideal fit for him to take down.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2023 WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP
TPC Potomac produced an entertaining (albeit torrential) tournament with a climactic finish. It pitted favorites Max Homa, Cameron Young, Keegan Bradley, and Matt Fitzpatrick against each other down the stretch. I’ll miss TPC Potomac and hope to see it back in rotation soon, but I have no complaints with a return to Quail Hollow seven months post-Presidents Cup. Long-hitting spike putters has remained a predictable formula on these grounds, so here’s hoping for another entertaining finish in 2023.
With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2023 Wells Fargo Championship odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.
2023 Wells Fargo Championship Model Breakdown
In my model this week, I’m emphasizing Comp Course History, Prox 175+, SG: APP, Par-4: 450+, and SG: ARG, followed by a more balanced mix of Driving Distance, SG: P (L36, Bermuda, 3-Putt Avoidance), and Bogey Avoidance.
With no Rahm or Scheffler to worry about, Rory McIlroy enjoys a clear path to the No. 1 spot in my model this week, to little surprise. Rory has justified the course fit already with three career wins at Quail Hollow. This year, he looks poised to contend yet again, ranking No. 1 in SG: TOT, Driving Distance, and Comp Course History over the last 36 rounds.
After McIlroy, the rest of my model’s top 10 is rounded out by Jason Day, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Wyndham Clark, Viktor Hovland, Jordan Spieth, and Sungjae Im.
When 2023 Wells Fargo Championship odds open on Monday, I’ll look to Viktor Hovland, Jason Day, Sungjae Im, and Sam Burns as my first potential targets depending on where the odds ultimately open.
Check back in later this week for more updates. Best of luck navigating 2023 Wells Fargo Championship odds!
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