A nice field of 155 players will tee it up on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship on the historic Quail Hollow Club golf course in Charlotte, North Carolina. Although there are some marquee players in the field, including five-time major champ, Phil Mickelson, and two-time major champ, Rory McIlroy, four of the past six winners of this event have come from first-time winners on the PGA Tour, Including Rory in 2010.
In an attempt to make the Wells Fargo a top stop on the PGA Tour, the organizers at Quail Hollow continue to tinker with the golf course. They ripped out the bentgrass greens after last year’s tournament, and replaced them with Ultradwarf Bermuda Grass which is more tolerant to weather in this region, and just so happens to be the same grass that has been installed at Pinehurst.
They have also added some distance to a few of the holes including an additional 23 yards to the par 3 17th which is part of the “Green Mile”.
A lot of golf courses have either added a driveable par four, a monster par three, or both to their courses to promote more decisions for players trying to win down the stretch on Sunday afternoon. The Green Mile is already treacherous, but now it is ready to add even more drama.
I’m not sure what fans expected when Lee Westwood moved his family to Florida a few years back, but it has taken the 41 year-old former number one a while to get his swing, and golf game under control. His effort so far in 2014 has been all over the board, but he has warmed considerably in the last month, and deserves to be ranked this week. Westwood posted a solo 7th place finish at the Masters, and won two weeks ago at the Maybank Malaysian Open. He finished T5 and T4 at Quail Hollow in his last two starts.
The FedEx Cup leader needs to show fans that he can win East of the Mississippi River, and Quail Hollow would be a great place to start. Walker hasn’t played poorly since leaving the friendly confines of the West Coast with a T8 in his Masters debut, but he has been unable to get another win. All of his starts have been in the top 25, so I think he may be one to keep an eye on this weekend in North Carolina. He finished T22 last year.
I am not in the group of fans that think the youngster from Northern Ireland is fully back to his 2012 form. He started to get his swagger back until the final-round meltdown at the Honda Classic. Even after blowing the lead, he made one of the best shots of the year at the 18th hole, but the 2012 Rory would have made the eagle putt, and dashed everyone’s chances. McIlroy won his first PGA Tour tournament here in 2010, and certainly needs to be included in my picks. Who knows, maybe this is the week that he puts the entire 72 holes together, and gets a much-needed win.
Kevin Na is a player looking for a place to win, and Quail Hollow would be a great place for him to break-out that win. Yeah, I know he can be difficult to watch at times, but his pre-shot routine has gotten shorter, and the guy can play some golf when he gets his putter going. Kevin had a T14 here in 2010, and a solo fifth in 2011, and has five top 20 finishes in his last seven starts. He missed two cuts.
As much as Phil Mickelson tries to dispel rumors that he still isn’t healthy, I think he is struggling with physical problems. This is the worse start he has had to season since he came on the PGA Tour. With that being said, I still can’t pull the trigger, and leave him off my list. Lefty can get up on any day, and shoot the lights out, but just hasn’t been able to put four rounds together in 2014. Quail Hollow would be a great place for Phil to show us if he is ready to erase the memories of his loss to Payne Stewart at Pinehurst, and get that career slam on Fathers Day.