Wells Fargo guide
Dave Tindall's preview and best bets for this week's Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 30/04/13 4:30pm
After many of the big names took a post-Masters rest, 10 of the top 25 in the world rankings make the trip to North Carolina this week for the Wells Fargo Championship.
Quail Hollow is where Rory McIlroy posted his first win on US soil in 2010, his closing 62 one of the most spectacular final rounds ever seen on the PGA Tour.
The world number two, who also finished joint runner-up last year, is joined in the field this week by Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson while 2012 winner Rickie Fowler will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time.
Fowler's win was the third in five years for a player aged under 25 so it can be a good tournament for the young prodigies.
Ever since the PGA Tour returned to Quail Hollow in 2003, it has been mooted as a potential major-hosting venue and that will be realised in 2017 when it stages the 2017 PGA Championship.
Sky Sports have live coverage of all four days, with the first broadcast on SS3 HD at 8pm. South Carolina is five hours behind the UK.
Quail Hollow - a 7,492-yard par 72 - was designed by George Cobb and opened in 1962. It held the Kemper Open from 1969 to 1979 and, after a revamp by Tom Fazio in the late 1990s, became the hugely popular and highly-praised venue for this event in 2003. "We've got one of the best courses tee to green I think we play all year," said Phil Mickelson last year. "It's just one of the best events we have." The winning score here in the last five years has been -14, -15, -15, -11 and -16. Since last year, there have been changes to 11 holes while look out for the final three holes. They're collectively known as 'The Green Mile' - par 4 16th, par 3 17th, par 4 18th - and give the course an extremely stern finish. Reports last week said that two greens, 8 and 10, had undergone emergency maintenance while two others, 12 and 13, weren't acceptable so it could be an issue.
A week of unseasonably cool weather is predicted at Quail Hollow so temperatures will struggle to get beyond the high 60s. Rain could be an issue but winds are forecast to be modest.
Last year - Rickie Fowler
More famous for wearing all-orange rather than playing good golf, Fowler proved that he could excel in the final round by shooting a closing 69 before winning a play-off against Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points. After all the hype it gave him a first PGA Tour success. Fowler sealed victory with a brilliant wedge to four feet and a winning birdie at the first extra hole. Points was left to rue a final-hole bogey from sand in regulation time.
The leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Rory McIlroy (8/1): This is one of McIlroy's favourite Tour stops. As well as his superb victory in 2010 (when he went into the tournament on the back of two missed cuts), he was also runner-up last year when being edged out in a play-off. Failing to post a win in the first four months of the season is obviously disappointing but his runner-up finish in Texas prior to The Masters (25th) suggests, on the right course, his winning turn will come soon.
Lee Westwood (16/1): Like McIlroy, Westwood hasn't managed a win so far in 2013 but he's now putting some solid performances together after a 10th in Houston and an eighth at Augusta. The now Florida-based Englishman was ranked the top scrambler at The Masters, suggesting the extra work he's put in on his short game is starting to pay dividends. He's played this tournament four times before with a best of fifth last year.
Webb Simpson (16/1): The US Open champion lives about a mile from the Quail Hollow clubhouse so has huge local support at this event. He threatened to scored a dream home-soil win last year when leading going into the final round before finishing fourth after a closing 73. Simpson missed the cut at Augusta but posted a second place finish at Hilton Head the week after and it's also worth remembering that his first PGA Tour win (the 2011 Wyndham Championship) came near here.
Phil Mickelson (18/1): Mickelson was concerned that not playing the week before The Masters would affect his chances there and it proved a self-fulfilling prophecy as he played some sloppy golf to finish tied 54th - his worst performance at Augusta since 1997. He's got a great record on this track with six top 10s in nine starts but last year's 26th was perhaps another sign that, as he gets older, he really does need to play the week before to produce his best. As he hasn't teed it up since The Masters that could go against him.
Rickie Fowler (20/1): The happy memories will come flooding back for Fowler as this was the scene of his first, and still only, PGA Tour win. He'd marked our cards by finishing 16th here in 2011 and 6th in 2010 so it really is a course that suits his eye. "I feel like I'm comfortable off the tee here," he noted after his opening 66 last year. A poor final round saw him slip from ninth to 38th at Augusta while he was 32nd at last week's Zurich Classic, closing with a 68.
Sergio Garcia (22/1): Although he promised more after an opening 66, Sergio's tied eighth place at Augusta was actually his joint second best ever finish in The Masters in 15 visits. He returned home the following week to finish 12th in the Spanish Open so his game is ticking over nicely. Garcia has made six of seven cuts here and was runner-up back in 2005 after losing a play-off.
Bubba Watson (25/1): Bubba, in his first tournament since relinquishing the Masters Green Jacket, shot a 65 and a 66 at the Zurich Classic last week but a 72 and a 73 in his other two rounds meant he could only tie for 15th. He's got a rather strange record here with two missed cuts and just one top 20 but that was a second place in 2009 so he can be a threat on this course. Surprisingly, he hasn't had a top 10 since early January.
Best of the rest
Nick Watney (28/1): Watney shot all four rounds in the 60s last week but on a course where 20-under won, it was only good enough for tied 15th. Still, it followed on from a 13th at Augusta so the Californian certainly seems to be rounding into some good form. He's posted six top 25s in his eight starts at Quail Hollow, with a best of tied eighth last year.
Bill Haas (28/1): Haas is threatening a breakout performance after knocking at the door with five top 10s already this season. He could have been much better than 20th at Augusta had he not made such a meal of the par fives (he was one over for the week) while he slipped back from sixth to 24th with a poor final round at Hilton Head on his last start. He's twice finished fourth in this event (2006, 2011, including R1 64) and has strong connections with the area having gone to nearby Wake Forest. 'I've got good feelings around this place. I'm comfortable."
John Huh (80/1): Three under 25s have won here in the last five years so how about 22-year-old Huh? Sixth on his second PGA Tour start, Huh then won on his fifth by capturing the Mayakoba Golf Classic in a play-off. He's not made such a flying start in 2013 but was second after 54 at halfway at Bay Hill and then played some excellent golf to finish tied 11th on his Masters debut last time out.
A quality course usually brings a quality champion and that's very much been the case here.
So, after a very solid Masters, this could be the week where Sergio Garcia posts his ninth PGA Tour win.
He's come mighty close here before and the 22/1 could prove an excellent price.
This is definitely a ball-strikers' course and Sergio is one of the best around from tee to green.
The poor greens might hurt the very bust putters so that levelling of the playing field could also play into his hands.
Bill Haas is another high-class performer and after a string of good performances this year he looks worth taking at 28/1 to deliver victory in front of his home fans.
He's marked our card with two fourth places here and knows how to win.
Young players excel in this event so, after his 11th at Augusta, John Huh could be the one this time.
Johnny Miller expects him to become an elite player so Huh is very highly regarded by some good judges.
2pts e.w. Sergio Garcia at 22/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts e.w. Bill Haas at 28/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. John Huh at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)