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Wells Fargo Championship
The Wells Fargo Championship made its debut on the PGA Tour in 2003. The usual host course, Quail Hollow, quickly became a favorite and routinely draws some of the best fields between the first and second majors on the schedule. This year, though, will mark just the second time the tournament is not contested at Quail Hollow, as the course preps to host the Presidents Cup in September.
Profiling the Winner
The 2022 edition of the Wells Fargo Championship will move from North Carolina to Maryland and be played at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. This par-70 at just over 7,100 yards previously hosted the Quicken Loans National in 2017 and 2018. In total the course has hosted 21 PGA Tour events. The redesigned track played challenging in 2017, when Kyle Stanley finished a mere seven-under-par and knocked off Charles Howell III in a playoff. The following year featured a dominant performance by Francesco Molinari, who won by eight strokes at 21-under-par after the course received quite a bit of rain during the week.
This week's forecast calls for a high chance of rain in both the second and third rounds. Temperatures will fall quite a bit over the weekend and gustier winds are expected. The softer conditions and cooler temperatures mean TPC Potomac will play longer than usual. There are not a ton of scoring opportunities on the course with just two par-5s, but there are a trio of short par-4s that should give players opportunities to use their wedges.
TPC Potomac features several creeks and streams, which can lead to some big numbers if players aren't careful both off the tee and on approach. Precision with irons and wedges should be the biggest key to success here. That's been confirmed with the victories by elite irons players like Stanley and Molinari. Short games will be tested with some bentgrass runoff areas around the greens and putting surfaces that feature ample undulation.
Guru Verdict: McIlroy is a Quail Hollow ace, winning three times at the Charlotte course. However, I don't see his game translating as well at TPC Potomac. Conners really has my attention because he is a player who has a game that lines up similarly to those who have had success here since the redesign in 2015. The Canadian ranks sixth in SG: Off-the-Tee, 13th in SG: Tee-to-Green, 13th in total driving, third in GIR percentage and 19th in proximity to the hole. Conners is also coming off a stretch that saw him notch four top-12s in six starts.
Guru Verdict: Leishman has been the most consistent player in this group, with just two finishes outside the top 40 in 13 starts this season. The Aussie is gaining strokes in every category and ranks 19th in SG: Putting and 46th in SG: Tee-to-Green. Leishman seems to really enjoy TPC Potomac, having notched a T5 in 2017 and a T13 the next year.
Guru Verdict: This category feels like a three-man race between Bradley, Woodland and Henley. All these players are elite ball strikers and were pretty consistent over the last couple months. I'm going to give the edge to Bradley, who recorded a top-5 finish here back in 2017 and posted four top-11 finishes over his last six starts on Tour. Bradley ranks 10th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 15th in proximity to the hole.
Guru Verdict: Power has cooled off after a torrid start to the season, but he still finished T33 or better in his last three individual events. Power has a game that should lead to success at a place like TPC Potomac, as he ranks top-40 on Tour in SG: Putting, driving accuracy, GIR percentage, scrambling and birdie average. The Irishman made the cut at TPC Potomac in both 2017 and 2018.
Guru Verdict: This is a very tricky category, and there are several different ways you could go. Mitchell stands out the most for me due to his consistent ball striking. The 30-year-old ranks second in SG: Off-the-Tee, 23rd in SG: Tee-to-Green and 27th in GIR percentage. Mitchell also ranks 35th in scrambling and 12th in scoring average. He tallied six top-13 finishes over his last 10 starts.
Guru Verdict: There are a lot of names here, but I don't think this category is too difficult to sort out. Vegas has had the most consistent season and picked up a total of five top-30s over his last 10 starts. Vegas ranks top-40 this season in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Tee-to-Green, driving distance, GIR percentage and scoring average. Lahiri is the only other player I'd consider here, as he tallied three top-15s over his last four starts.
Guru Verdict: The two players in this group who are really on the rise right now are Kuchar and Wu. I'm going to lean toward the veteran in Kuchar, who is coming off a three-tournament stretch that saw him go T16-T2-T3. His ball-striking numbers aren't on the same level as some of my other picks, but his short game has been too good to ignore. Kuchar ranks second in SG: Around-the-Green, 10th in SG: Putting, first in scrambling and 16th in scoring average this season.
(Editor's Note: here are additional thoughts from RW's Len Hochberg and Matt Hardy from PG)
Premium Picks: Corey Conners
World Elite: Marc Leishman
US Contenders: Keegan Bradley
European Stars: Seamus Power
Clutch Putters: Keith Mitchell
International Challengers: Jhonattan Vegas
Outside Chances: Matt Kuchar