It seems like months ago that Adam Scott placed the green jacket on Bubba Watson, but it was, in fact, just a couple weeks ago. With the U.S. Open still more than a month away, this was the time in years past that PGA Tour fans dreaded, but with the schedule change that moved The Players from March to May, there is no longer an unbearable gap between big events. That said, it's still difficult to come down from the high of the Masters a couple weeks ago. Sure, it's nice when the week following a major we get Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald battling to the end, but for every Donald vs. Kuchar battle, we get a Seung-Yul Noh vs. Andrew Svoboda and Robert Streb matchup.
What am I getting at? Those of us who came of age during the Tiger Woods era are a tad more impatient than those who came before, and we expect to be entertained every week. If we can't have Tiger, we want a major. If we can't have a major, we want a "Kuchar-Donald" battle. If we can't have a "Kuchar-Donald" battle, well, then we get a little ornery. It's certainly not what the PGA Tour wants to hear, but the public is getting more and more impatient and placing more of an emphasis on the destination instead of the journey. Sure, the regular season is fun, but the playoffs are everything. Heck, even college football finally cracked and switched to a modified playoff to appease the masses. The danger in placing such an emphasis on the big events, though, is a natural devaluation of the other events. It's happening on the PGA Tour and if you aren't convinced, try asking a friend who won the Zurich Classic two weeks from now, the Monday after The Players. My guess is, they'll have no clue.
This week: Wells Fargo Championship - Quail Hollow Country Club, Charlotte, N.C.
Last Year: Derek Ernst shot a final-round 70 on his way to a playoff victory over David Lynn.
Players to Consider:
Fowler disappointed last week as he missed the cut at the Zurich Classic by a country mile, but that can probably be attributed to the crash after the Masters high. With some big names in the field this week, I expect Fowler to ramp up his game this week. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that he won here in 2012.
Mickelson has done just about everything here except win. He's rarely out of the mix on the weekend at this event, and this week should be no exception. Mickelson has seven top-10s here in 10 starts.
Outside of a bizarre MC in 2011, McIlroy has played very well here. He won this event in his first try in 2010 and finished runner up the year following his MC in 2011. McIlroy backed that up with a top-10 last year, as well.
Westwood doesn't appear to be playing at the same level he was last year, but that might not matter this week as he's had plenty of answers on this track the past two years. Westwood enters the 2014 Wells Fargo Championship on a streak of consecutive top-5s here.
Bo Van Pelt
Van Pelt was mired in an awful stretch earlier this season, but he looks to have played his way out and now he is perhaps ready to start making some noise again. Van Pelt posted a top-25 last week at the Zurich Classic and has two top-6 finishes in the last four years here.
Players to Avoid:
Watney has the track record here - he's carded top-10s the last two years - but his game has been off for the better part of the last two seasons, and I don't expect that to turn around this week. Watney has only one top-25 since the calendar turned to 2014.
Thompson has played some quality golf the last month or so, but even if his form is solid, he may struggle this week. Thompson has played here four times and has yet to make the cut. Perhaps he'll make it to the weekend this week, but anything more than that seems unlikely.
O'Hair won this event in 2009 and he managed a top-15 here in 2012. But even in 2012 he was a different player. As for the 2009 version of O'Hair, well we haven't seen that guy in quite a while. There's always an off chance that O'Hair will rediscover his old form this week, but it seems highly unlikely.
The end may finally be near for Els. Els has missed the cut in four of his last seven events and has failed to get anything done on the weekend when he has made the cut. His track record here is limited, so there's no reason to think his poor play will improve this week.
Castro came out of the gates strong as a rookie last season, and although he played well early in the 2014 season, he's really struggled lately. He's played this event twice with mixed results, so I don't expect a slump-busting effort this week.
ONE AND DONE GOLFER
Last week: Jerry Kelly (MC) - $0; Season - $2,616,284
This week: Rickie Fowler - Fowler let me down as a survivor pick last week, but this is a new week, and he'll be ready to go this week. Fowler has a solid track record here, and the missed cut last week should only inspire a better effort this week.
Group A: Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson
Group B: Bo Van Pelt, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Jim Furyk
Group C: Jonathan Byrd, Jimmy Walker
Last week: Rickie Fowler; Streak - 0
This week: Bo Van Pelt - The way Van Pelt has played the last two years, using him in a survivor format is certainly risky, but he seems to have turned his game around. If you are going to use him in a survivor format, it should probably be here.