This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $1.422M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Charlotte, N.C.
Course: Quail Hollow Club
2018 champion: Jason Day
Golf Twitter was getting worried. It was Thursday, and Tiger Woods still had not said whether he'd play in the Wells Fargo Championship. Then Friday came, then it was noon. Crickets. Only five hours to go. Alas, the 5 p.m. ET deadline came and went, and the field was posted: no Tiger. A huge disappointment for golf fans, not to mention tournament organizers. Woods said in an interview that he has still not recovered from his monumental Masters victory, and now we won't see him until the PGA Championship in two weeks. Presumably, his recovery at this stage is more mental and emotional, though we should not dismiss the physical toll. Ominously, the fact that Woods is not playing this week should be a concern for his PGA chances. Winning that fifth Green Jacket and a major for the first time in more than a decade clearly took a lot out of Woods – expectedly, of course. But being in the right frame of mind to contend for another major so soon afterward might be asking a lot. More on that as we get closer to Bethpage Black.
For now, though, golf fans will have to get by with a Quail Hollow field that's, well, quite hollow. Only three of the top-10 and 10 of the top-25 in the world rankings are on hand. To make matters worse, the quality of the field falls hard and fast after that. Almost a third of the 156-man contingent is comprised of last year's Web.com grads, plus there are a bunch of exemptions, sponsor and medical, that are even lower in the pecking order. But any group that includes two-time Wells Fargo champ Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, 2012 winner Rickie Fowler, defending champion Jason Day and Phil Mickelson warrants at least some of our attention.
At close to 7,600 yards, Quail Hollow is the biggest brute on the PGA Tour calendar, and it should be good prep work for the PGA. It annually is among the toughest tracks on Tour. Last year, it was the fifth hardest. Two years ago, when it played host to the PGA instead of the Wells Fargo, it was the absolute hardest. Of course, the signature is the closing three-hole stretch known as The Green Mile: two par-4s of about 500 yards each sandwiching a long par-3. Just about everyone would sign up for four straight days of par-par-par right now.
Half the holes are par-4s of at least 450 yards (okay, one of them is 449). Three of the par-3s exceed 200 yards, with No. 6 topping out at a just-not-fair 249. The key to Quail Hollow success was always the par-5s – birdie the heck out of them, take your pars most everywhere else. But two years ago at the PGA, they turned a par-72 into a par-71, and now there are only three par-5s. It's still critical to score on those holes, as we'll detail in the Champion's Profile below. Even when there were four par-5s, sometimes the winning score was single digits. That tells you all you need to know about Quail Hollow. Last year, Day won at 12-under. His backers should note that only one of the past nine defending champs finished in the top-25 the next year, according to the PGA Tour website. That was McIlroy in 2016, when he finished solo fourth.
Weather-wise, the first part of the week looks perfect: warm, dry, light winds. But rain creeps into the forecast on Saturday and could be a concern the final two rounds.
Fun Wells Fargo factoid: This is the 17th edition of the tournament, and two guys in the field have played in every one of them: J.J. Henry and Rory Sabbatini. Mickelson has played in all but one, and has 12 top-12s through the years. He has never won it.
Key Stats to Winning at Quail Hollow
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Driving distance/strokes gained: off the tee
• Ball striking/Strokes gained: tee to green
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Par 4 efficiency 450-500 yards
2018 - Jason Day
2017 - Brian Harman (Eagle Point GC)
2016 - James Hahn
2015 - Rory McIlroy
2014 - J.B. Holmes
2013 - Derek Ernst
2012 - Rickie Fowler
2011 - Lucas Glover
2010 - Rory McIlroy
2009 - Sean O'Hair
Long, long and long. Did we mention long? Quail Hollow favors the biggest hitters. Three of the past five winners there – Holmes, McIlroy and Justin Thomas at the 2017 PGA – led the field in driving distance. While Day was only 14th in the field in driving distance a year ago, he averaged a hefty 325 yards off the tee. Imagine that, 13 guys better than 325? Day also ranked second in both scrambling and strokes gained: putting, which alone will put you in contention just about every time. McIlroy shot a tournament-record 21-under and won by a whopping seven strokes in 2015, but those days are likely over since he shot 13-under on the four par-5s. Now with only three of them, it's still the same plan of attack, but now the overall score will surely be lower. What we've seen since the change is Thomas score 7-under on the par-5s en route to winning at 8-under, while Day was 9-under and won at 12-under. If you can pick up a few strokes on the par-4s over the course of the week, that could be the difference between winning and contending.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Rory McIlroy - $11,800 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 6-1)
You don't see many prices this high these days. And McIlroy is a whopping $800 over the No. 2 guy on the DK board, defending champion Jason Day. McIlroy's odds are about as low as you'll see for a regular PGA Tour event. He has won this event twice, finished second once, fourth another time. He leads the Tour in strokes gained: off the tee. But we'll also say that since they eliminated the fourth par-5, McIlroy finished 22nd at the 2017 PGA and T16 at last year's Wells Fargo.
Jason Day - $11,000 (10-1)
Coming off a tie for fifth at the Masters and a tie for eighth at THE PLAYERS, Day is circling contention almost every time out. As the defending champion, his price has now hit $11,000. But he's still worth it. Day is ranked fifth on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and fourth in SG putting. He continues to be hindered by wayward iron play, but we wrote that last year, too, and see what happened.
Rickie Fowler - $10,600 (10-1)
Even though Fowler won earlier this year at Phoenix, he still doesn't have many PGA Tour titles during a career now in its second decade. But his very first came at Quail Hollow, back in 2012. Fowler has finished top-5 there the past two years. When you think of Fowler, you don't think of a bomber off the tee, but he's ranked 29th on Tour in driving distance, averaging over 300 yards. His scrambling has been quite poor this season, but the putting remains true. He's ranked seventh in SG putting.
Paul Casey - $9,500 (25-1)
We still have no idea what the heck happened to Casey his last time out on Thursday at the Masters, when he imploded with an 81, effectively ending his tournament. His only other round within seven shots of that was at THE PLAYERS, where he shot 78, also on a Thursday (hmmm, note to self: Casey has gotten off to woeful starts in the two biggest tournaments so far this year). Of course, Casey followed up that missed cut at TPC Sawgrass with a win at the Valspar. Casey finished tied for fifth a year ago at Quail Hollow. He's ranked 19th in par-4 450-500.
Tier 2 Values
Tony Finau - $9,300 (20-1)
We finally saw the Finau of old at the Masters, where he tied for fifth and really had a chance to win it. Up until then, his season had been wildly disappointing. Finau is ranked 24th in strokes gained: off the tee, good numbers for many but not for him. He's actually been going the wrong way at Quail Hollow, debuting with a T16 in 2016, then T28 at the PGA and T44 last year at the Wells Fargo. Obviously, we expect that trend to reverse itself this week.
Phil Mickelson - $9,100 (25-1)
Following a mediocre T18 at the Masters, Phil and his calves were back in the weight room last week, as he showcased on Twitter. Even long before his calves were social-media darlings, Mickelson excelled at Quail Hollow. He's played there the past 16 years, with eight top-5s (one of them at the PGA) and five more top-12s. He's missed the cut just once, but, um, that was last year. If Mickelson drives the ball like he has all season (208th in accuracy), he won't play the weekend for a second straight year.
Jason Kokrak - $8,700 (40-1)
Kokrak continues on with a brilliant season, totaling four top-10s and five more top-25s in 14 starts. He hasn't missed a cut. Iron play is what's driving him, as he's ranked fourth in strokes gained: approach and 15th in SG tee to green. Even his putting is a better-than-average 56th. Kokrak has missed the cut here three of the past four years, something we have little concern about in light of the way he's been playing lately.
Sungjae Im - $8,600 (50-1)
The rookie sensation has already teed it up 20 – twenty! – times this season. We feel he's been playing too much and it's hurt him, but at least this week is only his second straight week of action. Im has five top-10s and nine total top-25s. The Korean is ranked top-20 on Tour in both strokes gained: off the tee and tee to green, and he's tied for 10th in par-4 450-500.
Tier 3 Values
Keith Mitchell - $7,800 (80-1)
Mitchell has taken a step back of late, but even with poorer showings at THE PLAYERS and the Masters, he made the cut at both of the big tournaments. He impressively tied for 34th at the Wells Fargo last year as a rookie. Mitchell's game is well suited for Quail Hollow, as he's ranked 15th on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and 30th in tee to green.
Nick Watney - $7,600 (125-1)
If we didn't know if before, we do after last year: Watney and Quail Hollow get along quite nicely. After scoring a pair of top-10s here in 2012-13, when his game was far more potent than it is now, Watney did even better with a runner-up a year ago. It was his only top-10 all season. We really would like to offer more convincing statistical evidence, but sometimes it's staring us right in the face. Three top-10s in his past five visits is pretty dang good.
Joel Dahmen - $7,500 (80-1)
Dahmen keeps rolling top-25s off the assembly line. He has four in his past six starts, if you want to include last week's Zurich (and we do). But more importantly, it also includes THE PLAYERS. Dahmen even had another one last year (T16) in is maiden visit to Quail Hollow. He's not among the longer hitters on Tour, but he's been managing to get the job done week after week.
Kyoung-Hoon Lee - $7,300 (100-1)
The 27-year-old South Korean missed seven of his first 10 cuts. But since Riviera, he's made seven in a row (plus a WD). Lee is another guy not long off the tee, but he's top-50 in accuracy as well as in greens in regulation. He tied for seventh two months at the difficult PGA National track at the Honda. Lee is tied for 39th in par-4 450-500.
Sam Burns - $7,200 (100-1)
The 22-year-old had a rough start to his season, missing six of his first 10 cuts. But now he's riding a stretch of six straight made cuts, the three most recent being top-25s. He has a little experience at Quail Hollow; it was one of his 11 PGA Tour starts last year and he tied for 55th. Burns possesses an interesting combination of power and touch, ranking 18th in driving distance and 24th in strokes gained: putting.
Chesson Hadley - $7,000 (100-1)
Hadley has played Quail Hollow in the past three Wells Fargos there, and he's finished top-20 all three times. That counts for more in our book than Hadley's last four starts, three of which ended in missed cuts. Hadley is ranked 87th on tour in strokes gained: tee to green, which in this field is not too shabby.
Jonas Blixt - $6,900 (Field, 6-1)
The 35-year-old Swede had a run of six straight made cuts broken his last time out at the RBC Heritage. Blixt tied for ninth at Quail Hollow in 2012, then missed the cut five years in a row. But he was undeterred, returning last year to tie for 27th.
Adam Schenk - $6,700 (Field, 6-1)
We find ourselves turning to Schenk again, surprised to see him at such a low price in such a poor field. He's ranked 59th in driving distance, 72nd in strokes gained: tee to green and 45th in SG putting. Schenk has played a lot this season, as this will be his 20th start. While he's missed his share of cuts (6), he also has is share of top-25s (5), including a T7 just a few weeks back at the Texas Open.