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Glass� 97th PGA Preview

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Rory McIlroy has returned from an ankle injury to defend his title at the 97th PGA Championship at Whistling …

Wells Fargo Championship

Quail Hollow Club

Charlotte, North Carolina

Quail Hollow Club

Yards: 7,562

Par: 72 (36-36)

Greens: Miniverde Ultradwarf Bermudagrass; 6,500 square feet on average.

Stimpmeter: 11

Rough: 419 Bermudagrass with rye grass at 2”

Bunkers: 52

Water Hazards: 3

Course Architect: George Cobb (1961); Tom Fazio (2003)

Purse: $6,900,000

Winner’s Share: $1,224,000

FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner

Defending Champion: Derek Ernst defeated David Lynn on the first playoff hole for his first victory of his career.

Dates:  May 1-4

Notes: 155 players this week with the top 70 and ties making the cut.

Recent History Lessons

After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the 19 of 24 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every and Matt Kuchar have cashed for the red, white and blue. Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed four victories and now we add South Korean S.Y. Noh to the party. Europe? Hello, Europe?

S.Y. Noh joined Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley and Matt Jones as the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had seven in 24 events so far in 2014. Anyone of the four best this week would have been a first-timer.

Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys

Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. The last three weeks have found first-time winners and they have all been in their 30s. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, won over the last three weeks before Watson chalked up win No. 2 of the season. Matt Kuchar, 35, joins this list this week as he racks up his seventh career win.

Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) and now Noh, 22, are the twenty-somethings on the board.

John Senden’s back is hurting from carrying the “Old Guys” this season as he’s the only winner on TOUR in his 40s. David Toms, who has been playing decent golf as of late, was T15 to fly the flag for the oldies, but goodies.

Pay Attention: It’s FREE!

This is the 11th edition of the Wells Fargo Championship. All 11 events have been held at the Quail Hollow Club.

In the last six years, three times the winner has broken their TOUR maiden including the last two editions.

Derek Ernst, the fourth alternate last year, won in his first appearance at Quail Hollow.

In the last six tournaments here, five winners have been twenty-somethings.

In the last six tournaments, four of the winners have been YOUNGER than 24 years of age. #experiencedoesNOTmatteragainthisweek

Yet, six of the 11 winners are also major champions.

Don’t get too excited if you have the leader on Sunday morning as only three of the 11, 54-hole leaders have gone on to win. Jim Furyk and Derek Ernst are the only two to go wire-to-wire in 11 tries.

The last three editions have gone to sudden death holes. That makes six in 11 years where 72 holes has NOT been enough to settle it. #freegolf

There have been zero repeat champions at this event. In fact, the last four champs have either MC or MDF. #weird

The course record is 62 set by Rory McIlroy in 2010 on Sunday en route to his victory.

Anthony Kim has the tournament record with 16-under, 262. (Anthony Kim mention! Everybody take a drink!)

Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson are the only players on TOUR with multiple victories in the 2013-14 season. Only Jimmy Walker is in the field this week.

This is the last chance to WIN and gain entry into THE PLAYERS next week. The OWGR top 50 was set for THE PLAYERS Sunday night.

This Will Win You a Bar Bet

The 2017 PGA Championship will take place at the Quail Hollow Club. #steamyinAugust

Past Champions

2003: David Toms -10

2004: Joey Sindelar -11

2005: Vijay Singh -12

2006: Jim Furyk -12

2007: Tiger Woods -13

2008: Anthony Kim -16

2009: Sean O'Hair -11

2010: Rory McIlroy -15

2011: Lucas Glover -15

2012: Rickie Fowler -14

2013: Derek Ernst -8

Inside the Ropes

The Quail Hollow Club was built by George Cobb in 1961 and perfected by Tom Fazio in 2009 with some minor redesign before last year’s event. The greatest factor that has to be taken into account during this year’s tournament is the addition of Miniverde Ultradwarf Bermudagrass. All 18 greens were replaced after the 2013 edition to prepare the course for competition in August, especially in 2017.

The Bentgrass they had on the greens had issues during the previous summer and didn’t repair fully in time before last year. Greens Nos. 8 and 10 were re-sodded and Nos. 12 and 13 had sections that weren’t up to TOUR standards. Throw in chilly temperatures, wind and rain and it’s no wonder why Derek Ernst posted the highest winning score, eight-under-par, 280 en route to his first ever win ON TOUR.

Over the years, Quail Hollow has played, on average in the harder half of courses used on TOUR. The famous finishing stretch of holes, The Green Mile, doesn’t yield too many birdies so the pros will have to locked and loaded into place before coming home. This stretch of holes is constantly ranked as some of the hardest three-hole stretches on TOUR annually. The par-four 16th plays at 508 yards and now has a shaved bank on the left side approaching the green that will sink loose shots.  No. 17 is (as of 2013) 221 yards which requires a 200-yard carry and water on three sides. No. 18 is 493 yards with a creek running down the middle and trees flanking the fairway eliminating a bailout. Phil Mickelson made two bogeys in this stretch last year to lose his lead and miss Sunday’s playoff. It’s quite a test for even the most experienced and most talented.

The pros will have to make their hay in the first 15 holes, with the exception of No. 9. The final hole going out is a 495 yards of monster and was the 25th-hardest hole on TOUR last year. It goes without saying it was the hardest hole on the course last year! With four par fives on the card plus two, short par fours, there are plenty of chances for birdies as well. The average winning score before last year’s anomaly was pushing 13-under so there will have to be birdies made and bogeys avoided.

The pros will that find the most greens and avoid the most bogeys will be the ones having the say on Sunday. Quail Hollow feels like a PGA as its long, over 7,500 yards and scores relative to par will be in play. Only Lucas Glover has won with four rounds in the 60s so that points me to guys who have no problem grinding this week. The players who get used to the new green surface the quickest will also have an advantage. They all have sub-air systems so there shouldn’t be any issues with rain, wind or even heat.

The trends say young and first-timer or grinding, major champion. In other words, another week on TOUR where the guys who play the best golf, either from tee-to-green or around and on the greens, will handle the trophy come Sunday.

Call to Order

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1. Rory McIlroy (B): The 2010 champion holds the course record and hasn’t finished outside of the top 25 on TOUR this season. His T25 at WGC-CC was the week I had him as my OAD. It’s his worst finish. Sigh. Not even a 77 at Augusta could keep him out of the top 10 (T8) in his last outing. The problem club for McIlroy has been the flat stick and with new greens this week, I ‘m fine with that. I’ll ride a guy who has a chance to hit all of them instead.

2. Jim Furyk (B): The 2006 champ has never finished worse than T26 in seven of nine weekends. Anytime a grind is needed to contend, I don’t look much further than the proven veteran who has made 16 cuts in a row. His last four on TOUR, all difficult courses (Valspar, Valero, Masters and RBC) have all resulted in T20, T6, T14 and T7. Don’t worry that he’s not pegging GIR as he’s fifth on TOUR in scrambling.

3. Lee Westwood (A): The man had his own column heading into the SHO as that was the time of year he usually started to heat up and boy, did he! After a very solid T17 with all four rounds at par or better at SHO, Westwood made his annual jaunt into the top 10 at Augusta with solo seventh. Mike Walker is now his coach and he’s reverted to the “old Westwood” and that’s resulted in his first victory since June of 2012 last week in Malaysia. His eye fits Quail Hollow as he’s finished T5 and T4 in his last two. He’s on fire and his short game has been behaving as well. Remember when he was No. 1 in the world?

4. Rickie Fowler (A): After being installed as one of the favorites last week, Fowler crashed and burned gamers who were riding his solo sixth at SHO and T5 at Augusta. His swing, which looks better than it has in sometime, is not a finished article and rounds like last week in New Orleans can still happen. He’s never missed in four tries and the 2012 champion only has two rounds of 14 above par on this layout. He should bounce back nicely this week.

5. Ryan Moore (A): With finishes of T5 and T6 in his last two at WFC even I might be able to overlook his VERY quiet winter and early spring. He was on this same path last year before busting out here for T6 so I’m on board. He’s currently 12th in the all-around and hits plenty of fairways and greens.

6. Justin Rose (B): Another steady week last week in New Orleans resulted in another top 10 as the Englishman begins to turn on the class heading up to defending his U.S. Open title in June. With his T14 at the Masters on top of his T8 last week, gamers should be fully convinced that his shoulder twinge in March was no more or no less and that he’s ready to fire.

7. Jimmy Walker (C): The 2013-14 season kept getting sweeter for Walker as he hit the top 10 (T8) in his first trip to Augusta his last time out. If that plus three wins doesn’t convince gamers that he’s legit, I’m running out of idea that will. Since his third victory in early February, he’s played six more events. His worst finish is T25. #proofisinthepudding

8. J.B. Holmes (C): With finishes of T18 or better in four of his last five, Holmes should capture a spot in lineups in various games this week. He’s flying somewhat under the radar because none of those finishes have hit the top 10 but he was worth plenty of value to me in Group 3 and Group C last week in fantasy land with T11. He’s played the weekend here three out of six times and has finishes of T9, T17 and T34 to show for it.

9. Gary Woodland (A): He’s made 10 cuts on the bounce and the last four have been T26 or better. The big hitter knocked on the door a few times in 2013-14 and being second on the ball-striking charts won’t hurt again this week. He can overpower most tracks and he’ll need to have the big stick working again this week to make that happen. Along with Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, Woodland has trusted Butch Harmon to getting him to the next level. It’s not surprising they are all in my top 10 this week.

10. Jonas Blixt (A): Rounds of 67 and 68 led to T9 for Blixt here in 2012 in his first visit. The Swede since then has won twice on TOUR and has finished in the top five in the last two majors. If Quail Hollow is deemed major-worthy, I can’t see why Blixt should be in the fight this weekend. His short game and putter can bail him out of most uncomfortable situations!

11. Jason Kokrak (B): His only MC in his last six was at SHO when he fired 73-73. His return at RBC saw him close 66-70 to finish T12 so that shows me that he’s more than bomb-and-gouge. Now, that won’t hurt this week, but don’t forget that he also sits 16th in the all-around so there’s plenty more to his set-up. He was five-under heading into Sunday last year before 80 in the wind and rain knocked him all the way to T50. We’ll see what he learned from that.

12. Zach Johnson (B): Form is temporary, class is permanent. Johnson’s recent form doesn’t do it for me this week but I do think his T6 at Valero is a positive heading into this week. He’s been par or better in five of the last six years here heading into the weekend so that’s encouraging. He’s made the last seven weekends here as well but only has three top 25s to show for it.

Just Missed

Jamie Donaldson: After finishing second at Doral and T14 at Augusta, Donaldson has backed up his recent stellar play on the European Tour with the world’s big boys. He looks comfortable playing on tough courses without much previous experience and that again is the formula this week.

Brian Harman: He plays demanding courses well evidenced by his T3 at Riviera, T16 at Valero and T7 last time out at Harbour Town. He’s 11 of 15 on the year with four top 10s. He was T10 here last year as well.

Cameron Tringale: He’s on the list because he played the weekend in 8-under at Zurich. His course form here should scare most players off but he’s fourth, MC and T17 in his last three.

Rory Sabbatini: After WD with rib and neck injuries during the API, Sabbatini has rebounded with T9 at RBC and T17 last week in New Orleans. He enjoys ball-striking courses and this qualifies. He’s MC in four of the last seven years but also has finished third and T3 during that stretch.

Nick Watney: He’s banged home top 25s in seven of nine starts at the WFC including eighth and T10 in his last two years. He was the 36-hole leader in 2012 after a second round 64 and was five-under 67 to lead after 18 last year. #knockknockknock

Chris Kirk: He’s 14-of-14 on the season with a win, second and four other top 25s. He struck it well his last two times out with T20 at Augusta and T27 at Harbour Town. He’s also played his last 16 weekends on TOUR so that’s impossible to leave out. I usually prefer Kirk in a birdie-fest but he’s worth a look this week because of his par-five domination.

Kevin Na: His crash-and-burn at RBC is probably a sore spot for most gamers but don’t forget that the South Korean had been second, T14 and T11 in the three events leading up to that MC. He’ll be buoyed by his boy SY winning last week and has T14, fifth and MC in his last three at Quail.

Stuart Appleby: After playing four weeks in a row that resulted in T58, MC, T72 and MC, Appleby has bounced back with T12 at RBC and T17 last week at Zurich. His record at WFC says stay away, though.

Ben Martin: After his T3 at RBC and 36-hole lead last week at Zurich, Martin has deserved a look again this week. Even though he MC in his only appearance here his Friday round of 68 is worth noting. He’s quietly 27th in the all-around ranking after leading the Tour in that same category last season.

Daniel Summerhays: He’s ground out fantastic results at a tough Honda Classic (T12) and almost won at Valero (T2) so he’s a nice counter-culture pick this week. His splits overshadow the fact of his limited success at WFC.

Horses for Courses/Long Shots

Bo Van Pelt: He’s shown signs of life over his last two events including 63 last week in New Orleans. He’s finished in the top six three times here in nine tries including T6 last year.

Lucas Glover: In his victory and runner-up finishes at Quail Hollow, Glover was in the top three in putting. It’s not a hard formula to deduce for his game. In 10 trips he’s finished T34 or better in seven of them and that includes four top 10s. #giddyup

Geoff Ogilvy: He’s nine from nine with all of his finishes falling between T38 and T10. He played well, T11, on a long, difficult track at Valero.

Stewart Cink: He’s seen the weekend in eight of his last 10 including four straight. In his seven trips around Quail Hollow he’s posted finishes of T26, T5, T8, MC, MC, T9 and T15 in 2012. He DNS last season. That’s strong course form folks.

Andrew Svoboda: I’m interested to see how he bounces back this week but after digging through his numbers, I don’t see why he can’t. Most of these guys play HOT in patches and that’s three top 26s or better in a row for him. He’s 28th in total driving, sixth in GIR, 48th in scrambling and 40th in total putting. #choochoo!

Brian Davis: He’s posted nine of his last 12 rounds here at par or better and that’s led to finishes of T16, T9 and T27 last year. His form entering this week is harrowing, though.

Jonathan Byrd: After MC in his first five tries at Quail Hollow, the Clemson grad finally picked the lock in his last five tries with a second, T5 and T9 in four cuts made. He had made four cuts on the bounce before MC last week in New Orleans so the form isn’t bad either!

John Merrick: T57, T40 and T22 in his last three appearances. That’s moving in the right direction and he falls in that ball-striker category as well. His current form is steady, five on the bounce, but none better than T32.

Robert Allenby: There, I’ve done it. He’s back, for now, as he’s racked up a pair of top 25s in his last two and he’s seven from nine here.

Kevin Chappell: He enjoys a tough track as evidenced by his record in U.S. Opens but the youngster has only three top 25s in 10 weekends this season. His ball-striking will always give him a chance; his putter is probably what’s holding him back. Think young Lucas Glover.

Robert Karlsson, Brendon de Jonge, Martin Laird and Johnson Wagner: They all live in Charlotte. Karlsson would be the play for me here. On a very limited schedule, he’s racked up three top 20s and was T4 here last year.


Webb Simpson: Sure, it’s his home course. It was also his home course last year when he was playing a million times better and finished T32. His best finish in his last five stroke play events is T47 at Doral. I have no doubt he knows the course but I’m not convinced that makes him contend this week. I’ll let someone else chase him based on home court advantage.

Phil Mickelson: He’s never won here or in the state of North Carolina. His recent form does nothing to suggest that I should burn him in any format this week. I’ve burned enough starts on him and will hop back on once he starts banging top 10s again. His last one was 14 events ago at The Barclays (T6). Yikes.

Bill Haas: I don’t like to endorse guys in their first competition back after WD with an injury. I’ll leave him be unless he makes a statement prior to the tournament that clears up any concerns.

Hunter Mahan: No top 10s in 10 starts at Quail Hollow and he’s been spinning his wheels since his WD at API. For a premium player, I need answers/momentum rather than questions if he’s going into my lineups. I’ll be keeping an eye on his play this week as I get my guys ready for THE PLAYERS.

The Men with Their Own Section

Matt Jones: The last time we saw the Aussie he was walking on air on the grounds of Augusta National. I’m throwing that result out and am interested in what his reality check will be this week. His last three times out at Quail he’s finished T7, T21 and MDF last year.

George McNeill: He might have scared gamers off last week but that was his first event in almost a month. There are two schools of thought on players who do this: one, they are rested and raring to go or they need a week to get their bearings right. McNeill MC last week so we’ll see if it’s a Florida thing or a case of rust. The new Bermuda greens won’t bother him a bit!

Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week

The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar. Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.

SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.

CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!

WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.

McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek

OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.

HTOC:  Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.

Sony: Hudson Swafford and Will Wilcox both finished T8. Both played on the Tour last year and are rookies on TOUR this season.

Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.

FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN

Pebble Beach: Er, Jordan Spieth, T4. Patrick Reed, 23, finished T13 and he’s won twice since August. Golf is good hands, again.

Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.

WGC-Match Play: Victor Dubuisson is 23 and was second. Jordan Spieth was T5. #youthmovement

Honda: Russell Henley is now the fourth player on TOUR under 25 with two wins. He joins Patrick Reed, Harris English and Rory McIlroy in this very elite club of pups.

WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.

Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.

Valspar: Chesson Hadley backed up his first win with T14 on a tough, tough Copperhead Course. Scott Langley, a second year player from Illinois (see above) was third.

API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.

Valero: He’ll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons but Andrew Loupe, 25, finished T4 in only his eighth start on TOUR. #slowgolfclap

Shell Houston: Russell Henley’s T7 shows him heating up before heading back for another crack at Augusta.

Masters: That Jordan Spieth guy was T2.

RBC Heritage: John Huh, T3, is a TOUR winner but is only 23 years old. Remember?

Zurich: The winner was 22-year old Seung-Yul Noh. He fits this column to a T.

Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon

Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 5 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.

Coming Wednesday

And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Wells Fargo Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.

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