Tournament: Wells Fargo Championship, May 5-8
Course: Quail Hollow Club: Charlotte, NC: 7,575 yards; par 72
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy. The #3 ranked player in the world, Rors flirted with the magical 59 on Saturday in 2015, but ended up with a course record 61. He won his first US PGA event here in 2010 as well.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 4-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
Fun Fact: Since the Tour returned to Quail Hollow in 2003, only one player has had all four rounds in the 60’s – Clemson’s Lucas Glover.
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Five): Erik Compton, Harris English, Brian Harman, Brendon Todd, Kevin Kisner.
This is a tough course. Let’s get that established first. Next, this is a good tournament. They treat the pros in the manner to which they are accustomed (think swag, accommodations for family, and a Mercedes courtesy car). So with a good track and good player treatment, you will naturally get a good field. And that’s what we have this week. I believe more than half of the top 25 in the world, and 8 of the top 12 are entered this week. World #2 Jordan Spieth is still licking his wounds from the #12 at the Masters, but this is as solid a field as you can get outside of a major, the Players Championship, and select World Golf Championship events.
It's a long course with decent elevation changes, and a tough finish. It’s a little heavy on the risk other than straight risk/reward, so it will be a challenge for everyone. That being said, Rory has two sub-63 rounds here. But that just speaks to the fact that when a top-ranked golfer is hot, not much stands in his way. As further evidence of the stiff test it presents, Quail Hollow is set to host the 2017 PGA Championship (a major), so next year this tournament will move to a nearby course.
Since it’s been a few weeks, I’ll give a recap of our ‘Dawgs on Tour and where they stand. Here’s who is teeing it up in Charlotte Thursday, with Official World Golf Ranking and FedEx Cup points in parentheses:
Erik Compton (369,145): Erik is a great story, but his golf game the last 18 months is not. Out of the 15 events he’s played this season, he’s withdrawn twice and missed the cut 6 times. Of those 7 made cuts, he hasn’t finished higher than T26, though he’s made 3 of his last 4. It’s still good for almost $180k in earnings, but he won’t keep his Tour card playing this poorly.
Harris English, (74,53): His season has been all over the place. By early March, Harris had a T2, a 3rd, and a 10th place finish. But with some missed cuts mixed in. And the last two months are only slightly worse, not finishing in the top 25 but with a missed cut and a withdrawal. He can quickly climb the rankings with some good finishes, but there are tough tournaments ahead, including this one.
Brian Harman (132,98): I believe Harman started the season around #80 in the world, so other players are passing him by in a hurry. He has five top 25 finishes this season, but has missed the cut in 4 of his last 7 tourneys. Of those made cuts, he has a T17, and others not worth mentioning. His putting is actually pretty good, but his driving is ranked in the middle of the pack, and his iron play is worse. If he can get in the fairway and on the green more often, his scoring should jump considerably.
Brendon Todd (161, 192): Yeesh. There’s no way to sugarcoat Todd’s results: they’re uglier than Gloria Vanderbilt. He’s missed the cut in 14 of his 17 events this season, and has missed the last nine. He only missed 6 cuts the entirety of the 2015 season. I can’t find any news concerning an injury, personal strife, or a link to Laremy Tunsil’s Instagram account, but something is off here.
Kevin Kisner (22, 5): Our next great hope. Kisner has experienced a meteoric rise (possibly at Todd’s expense?!?) over the last 14 months, and he is enjoying his blessings. He’s expanding his house in Aiken, playing the occasional round with his buddies, and this might have cooled off his game a tad. If making 4 of 5 cuts is cooling off. In perspective, late in 2015 he had a run of 5 straight tournaments where his worst finish was 9th and the other four were top 5 (and a win). He lives relatively close to Charlotte, so I’m hoping he makes a statement this week against this top field.
As mentioned in the teaser, there is a lot to play for in 2016, including the bi-annual Ryder Cup, the annual FedEx Cup, and the (latin phrase for once in 112 years) Olympics. We’ve laid out the case for golfing ‘Dawgs in the Olympics, and will keep you up to date on the others as we go. And since Vineyarddawg says I can’t print more than 1,000 words unless it’s to #FireMcGarity, I’ll end on a positive note….