After picking up his first, and only win on the PGA Tour at The Wells Fargo Championship in a playoff with Rory McIlroy, and D.A. Points last year, Rickie Fowler went on a tear. The popular Oklahoma State star from Murrieta, California nearly repeated the following week at The Players with a second place tie, and a tie for fifth at Colonial. After Colonial, Fowler faded on leaderboards, but has retained his immense popularity.
Rickie Fowler will tee it up on Thursday at The Quail Hollow Club located in Charlotte, North Carolina to defend his 2012 victory on this beautiful 7492 yard par 72 layout which was designed by George Cobb, and opened for play in 1962. For older fans like myself, you might remember that this tournament as The Kemper Open until 1979. The venue hosted The World Seniors Invitational from 1980 until 1989, and the PGA returned in 2003 as The Wells Fargo Championship.
The golf course was redesigned in the late 1990′s by Tom Fazio, and since last year’s tournament, has undergone a renovation that included a complete re-build of the green at the 12th hole. The measurements of 10 other holes have been tweaked. From a pair of nine-yard bumps (at the 210-yard, par-3 13th and 487-yard, par-4 16th) to a 19-yard reduction at the par-3 17th (198 yards).
The final three holes at Quail Hollow are referred to as The Green Mile, and is considered as one of the toughest closing stretches on the PGA Tour. The 72 hole record of 272 was set by Anthony Kim in 2008, and the 18 hole record of 62 was set in the final round by Rory McIlroy in 2010.
In three appearances at Quail Hollow, Rickie Fowler has never finished lower than 16th, and will join five past champions looking for their first repeat at this tournament which has never had a repeat winner in its short existence. Phil Mickelson has finished in the top ten six times in nine trips to Charlotte, but has never won this event. Webb Simpson, whose home is less than a mile from Quail Hollow has come close, but has not yet picked up a trophy at The Wells Fargo. He had the 54 hole lead last years, but shot 73 on Sunday, and was one stroke short of making the playoff with Fowler, Points, and McIlroy.
Many of the world-class players that we haven’t seen since the Masters will return this week, as this tournament serves as a warm-up for the Players next week, which is considered the year’s fifth major with its ten-year exemption on the line. The world’s number two, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, and 2012 US Open Champ, Webb Simpson will all be in the field, and will be joined by Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, and Bubba Watson. Ryder Cup star, Nicolas Colsaerts will make his first appearance at Quail Hollow.
PGATour.com Fantasy Insider, Rob Bolton has an interesting Power Ranking this week, and his top five includes Webb Simpson, Bill Hass, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, and Nick Watney in that order. I find it interesting that he hasn’t given defending champ, Rickie Fowler much respect, and has him ranked sixth. He also has D.A. Points, who played really well at Houston, and nearly beat Billy Horschel in New Orleans, ranked ninth.
With Points finding a new life with his mother’s old putter, and his playoff loss last year, I have to give him a little more respect. In fact I’m going out on a limb here, and making D.A. Points my pick to win his second tournament of the year at The Wells Fargo Championship.
Tiger Woods announced last week that he would not be playing at Quail Hollow this year, but would return for the Players next week, and has joined the field for the Congressional in June. Last weeks winner, Billy Horschel will also be taking a week off, and will also return next week at Ponte Vedre Beach.
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