Everything you need to know about the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in North Carolina. 

By Daniel Rapaport
May 02, 2018

After a one-week dip into team play, the PGA Tour switches back to the trusty 72-hole stroke play format for this week's Wells Fargo Championship. 

A number of the world's best players are in the field this week—15 of the top 25 in the Official World Golf Ranking—but it's the world's 93rd-ranked player who is responsible for the undeniable buzz on the ground at Quail Hollow Club this week. 

That player, of course, is Tiger Woods. Woods is making his first start since a (relatively) disappointing T-32 finish at the Masters and just his seventh official Tour start since returning from a year-long absence for spinal fusion surgery. He'll play alongside Masters champion Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka, the reigning U.S. Open champion who returned last week after a 15-week absence due to a wrist injury. They'll go off at 12:50 p.m. ET on Thursday and 7:40 a.m. on Friday. 

If you're wondering what you can expect from Tiger this week, that exact issue was discussed in this week's FORE Questions

Here's everything you need to know about one of the year's best non-Major, non-WGC tour events. 

The golf course

Quail Hollow Club is a private George Cobb design located south of downtown Charlotte. It opened in 1961 but has been subject to a number of facelifts—the first performed on just a few holes by Arnold Palmer in ’86, and more recently by noted architect Tom Fazio in ’97 and 2003. The course also underwent a series of renovations in anticipation of last year’s PGA Championship and the 2021 Presidents Cup. The setup for this week will be 7,442 yards and par 71.

You often hear golf pundits describe a venue as a "major championship golf course," and Quail Hollow earned that distinction in 2017 when it hosted the PGA, won by Justin Thomas at -10. Quail Hollow is one of the most difficult courses that hosts an annual Tour stop. Its fairways are narrow, its rough can be very long (more on that in just a second) and the greens are firm and fast. The last three holes are known as the Green Mile and are an absolute beast. First up is the 506-yard, par-4 16th, a dogleg right that has water left of the green. Next is the par-3 17th, a 220-plus one-shotter that features a quasi-island green. (On this hole in last year's PGA, Thomas hit a hard 7-iron, then rolled in a crucial birdie.) The finishing hole is one of the most visually intimidating holes on the PGA Tour​, a 494-yard dogleg left with an elevated tee and water all along the left side.

For good reason, the Green Mile rivals PGA National's Bear Trap and Innisbrook's Snake Pit as one of the most difficult finishing stretches on the PGA Tour.

The setup this week will be a bit easier then last year's PGA Championship setup. Players have said the greens, which are over-seeded Bermuda in composition, are as firm but a bit slower than they were in the PGA. Additionally, the rough is significantly shorter (about an inch in most places) than it was last year, when players hit only 54% of greens from the rough, a season low. Still, this is a track that puts a premium on ball-striking and, most importantly, finding the fairway.

The field

As mentioned previously, there's a really, really strong field teeing it up this week. Six of the world's top 10 players will be there: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed, as well as other notables like Phil Mickelson, Tommy Fleetwood, Jason Day and Paul Casey. And Tiger, of course. As far as the FedEx Cup goes, six of the top-10 will be there: No. 1 Thomas, No. 2 Patton Kizzire, No. 4 Mickelson, No. 5 Reed, No. 8 Tony Finau and No. 10 Andrew Landry. Defending champion Brian Harman is also in the field.

Without a doubt, the Wells Fargo features one of the best non-major, non-WGC fields of the season.

Tee Times

Some notable groups (all times ET)

Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, James Hahn - 7:30 a.m* Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday
Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Daniel Berger - 7:40 a.m.* Thursday, 12:50 p.m. Friday
Justin Thomas, Brian Harman, Rickie Fowler - 12:40 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 a.m.* Friday
Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Tiger Woods - 12:50 p.m. Thursday, 7:40 a.m.* Friday

For a full list of tee times, click here.

The past champions

Last year's event was won by Harman at -10, a score good enough to edge Dustin Johnson and Pat Perez by one, but it was played at Eagle Point Golf Club as Quail Hollow prepared to host the PGA. James Hahn took home the title in 2016 in a playoff win over Roberto Castro, and McIlroy won by seven in 2015 at -21. McIlroy also won the event in 2010 for his first career PGA Tour victory, shooting 66-62 on the weekend to win after making the cut on the number. Tiger won this event in 2007 but has missed the cut in his last two starts at Quail Hollow. The winning score before 2016 usually fell between -10 and -17, but with the course significantly tougher than it used to be, I'd be shocked to see someone get much deeper than -10 this week.

The odds

From Oddsshark.com:

Rory McIlroy +750 — No surprise to see Rors favored, given his strong recent play and good history at Quail Hollow
Justin Thomas +900
Rickie Fowler +1200
Jason Day +2000
Patrick Reed +2200
Hideki Matsuyama +2500
Phil Mickelson +2500 — Disappointed at Augusta, but has played great this year and has a second-place finish at Quail Hollow
Paul Casey +2800
Tiger Woods +2800 — A return to realism for the oddsmakers, as Tiger's game isn't a great fit for the course this week
Tommy Fleetwood +3000
Tony Finau +3300 — Two straight top 10s since that embarrassing ankle sprain at Augusta
Louis Oosthuizen +4000
Webb Simpson +4000 — North Carolina native finished second in 2015
Chesson Hadley +4000 — Four top-20 finishes in a row and has two top-20s at Quail Hollow
Alex Noren +4500
Kevin Kisner +4500
Ryan Moore +4500
Bryson DeChambeau +5000
Emiliano Grillo +6600
Luke List +6600
Daniel Berger +6600
Brooks Koepka +6600
Brian Harman +6600

The pick

Having a hard time not picking Reed here. He finished tied for second in last year's PGA, and his game suits Quail Hollow nicely. But I'm going to bank on him still being a little tired from all the post-Masters hoopla and pick local boy Webb Simpson. He knows this course as well as any on Tour. He hasn't missed a cut since Phoenix. He has three top-eight finishes in his last six starts. The Raleigh native and Wake Forest grad picks up PGA Tour win number five this week.

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