This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $1.62M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Potomac, Md.
Course: TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm
2021 champion: Rory McIlroy (Quail Hollow)
The PGA Tour returns to the Washington, D.C., area this week. This will be a one-time-only stopover, though the Tour does always seem to find its way back to the nation's capital every few years. We're here because Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., the usual home of the Wells Fargo Championship, is readying for the Presidents Cup this fall. TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm is no stranger to the Tour, most recently as the host course of Tiger Woods' now-defunct Quicken Loans National in 2017-18. This change of courses is no small thing, as golfers are making their final preparations for the PGA Championship in two weeks.
TPC Potomac actually has been a part of the PGA Tour on and off since 1987, when the old Kemper Open debuted. That tournament ended after the 2006 edition in large part because – and how can we say this delicately? – the players hated the course. In hopes of getting the PGA Tour to return, there was a 2009 makeover that was so big they needed multiple famed architects to oversee it – Pete Dye and Tom Fazio, included – PLUS Davis Love III AND former University of Maryland golf coach Fred Funk. That all resulted in a massive transformation the likes of which the world hadn't seen since Kenny Rogers redid his whole face a while back. But we digress.
That's the backstory of how the Quicken Loans National, which had been around since 2007 mostly at nearby Congressional Country Club, played its final two go-rounds at TPC Potomac. So we do have the 2017-18 tournaments to aid us this week. There was also a Champions Tour major there in 2010 and Korn Ferry stopovers in 2012-13 in which some of those golfers will be in the field this week. What's a common thread? In four of those five post-renovation tournaments, the winner was in single digits, reminding us of how tough the course was/is. The only aberration was the 2018 National, and it was a big one, when Francesco Molinari soared to 21-under. Still, he won by eight strokes, so most of the golfers were still in single digits.
Okay, now that we've taken a bit of a history lesson, let's introduce the field before we get down to the specifics of the course. It's far better than last week's Mexico Open but still not great. Rory McIlroy is back to defend his title. That's the good news. Two weeks before a major is usually the final big tuneup, but it's not the case here, with McIlroy the lone top-10 golfer entered. You have to go all the way to No. 18 to find the next highest-ranked golfer, Tony Finau, followed by Abraham Ancer, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Paul Casey, Corey Conners, Patrick Reed and Max Homa. In all, there are five guys ranked in the top-25 and 16 in the top-50. Others of note include Sergio Garcia, Webb Simpson, Marc Leishman, Gary Woodland, Matt Kuchar, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley and, yes, we'll still mention Rickie Fowler. Why aren't more top golfers here, in this traditional major tuneup spot? Maybe because TPC Potomac is far different from Southern Hills, which will be super long at nearly 7,500 yards for a par-70. Next week's Byron Nelson Classic at TPC Craig Ranch isn't a close fit either, but presumably more top golfers will be there than here.
TPC Potomac returned to the PGA Tour in 2017 after an 11-year absence. One thing we knew before that 2017 National was that the course, despite being under 7,200 yards, was hard. And then it was confirmed when Kyle Stanley won in a playoff over Charles Howell III at 7-under-par. It was the hardest non-major track that year, and the par-4 470-yard 11th was the very toughest hole, majors included, on the entire PGA Tour. It played more than a half-stroke over par and yielded a scant 23 birdies all week. So when Hudson Swafford, who played both of those Korn Ferry-nee-Web.com events in 2012-13, said that Avenel was U.S. Open-like, he knew what he was talking about. The two KF events posted the same winning scores – David Lingmerth at 7-under in 2012 and Michael Putnam at 7-under in '13.
Even though there are eight par-4s in the 440-490 range, driving distance contributes little in getting onto the first page of the leaderboard. Avenel is pretty much a second-shot golf course, as long as it doesn't happen from the rough. Driving accuracy matters this week. The tournament website notes that the course is "known for its natural rolling terrain and Scottish-style bunkering." Rock Run Creek rolls through five holes on the back-nine, which also features the drivable 299-yard 14th. There are two other very short and perhaps even drivable par-4s: the 365-yard 5th and the 360-yard 13th. The four par-3s run the gamut, from 168 yards to 225. Since this is a par-70 track, there are only two par-5s. But one of them is a mouthful and a handful all rolled into one – No. 2, at 641 yards. The bentgrass greens are among the smallest the golfers will see all year at an average of under 4,300 square feet., and they run about 12.5 on the Stimpmeter. There are 81 bunkers and water on 10 holes.
Weather-wise, we have some dicey conditions in the forecast. There's a chance of rain every day, notably Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The weekend could be downright chilly, with temperatures hard-pressed to reach the mid-50s. The wind should be light to moderate all week.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Potomac
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Driving Accuracy/Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee/Ball Striking
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation/Approach from 175-200 yards
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Par-4 Efficiency: 450-500 yards
• Bogey Avoidance
2021 - Rory McIlroy (Quail Hollow)
2020 - None
2019 - Max Homa (Quail Hollow)
2018 - Jason Day (Quail Hollow)
2017 - Brian Harman (Eagle Point GC)
2016 - James Hahn (Quail Hollow)
2015 - Rory McIlroy (Quail Hollow)
2014 - J.B. Holmes (Quail Hollow)
2013 - Derek Ernst (Quail Hollow)
2012 - Rickie Fowler (Quail Hollow)
We're not looking for any cowboys or thrill seekers. Slow and steady wins this race. There's a lot of water. The rough is penal. The greens are tiny. The first four tournaments here after the 2009 makeover all resulted in single-digit wins, including Kyle Stanley at the Quicken Loans National in 2017. Yes, Francesco Molinari blew up that narrative with a 21-under total in 2018, but he won by eight and there were still guys on the first page of the leaderboard in single digits. Stanley ranked first in the field in SG: Off-the-Tee, fourth in Approach and first in Tee-to-Green. He was 32nd in Around-the-Green and 52nd in Putting. Molinari was seventh in Off-the-Tee and first in both Approach and Tee-to-Green. He also excelled closer to the hole – eighth in Around-the-Green and 17th in Putting – explaining why he was able to run away. The over/under on the winning score as determined by golfodds.com is 268.5 – 11.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Rory McIlroy - $11,500 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +800)
We saw what happened last week when the top-ranked golfer in the field by far, Jon Rahm, won the Mexico Open. McIlroy is playing well this season, this course is a decent fit, he's coming off a runner-up at the Masters. The only thing that struck us was McIlroy's price, which was $200 more than Rahm's in a significantly weaker Mexico field.
Corey Conners - $10,100 (+1600)
What a perfect fit for the stud iron player/weak putter. Conners is ranked sixth on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, third in greens in regulation and 20th in par-4 450-500. Plus he's been 12th or better in four of his past six starts, including T6 at the Masters.
Matt Fitzpatrick - $10,000 (+2000)
Fitzpatrick endured a rare missed cut last time out at Harbour Town, one of his favorite tracks. It was just his second in eight starts in 2022. Here's another track where he should thrive, one where the winner shouldn't come anywhere close to 20-under. He is top-50 in every strokes-gained stat, highlighted by his elite ranking of fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green. Fitzpatrick also sits nicely in bogey avoidance at 16th on Tour.
Keegan Bradley - $9,600 (+2800)
As with Conners, this is right in Bradley's wheelhouse. He tied for fifth here in 2017 (and didn't play in 2018 – why the heck not??). Bradley is ranked top-25 in SG: Approach and Approach from 175-200 yards. He's missed only one cut in 2022 and has been 11th or better in three of his past five starts.
Tier 2 Values
Russell Henley - $9,300 (+2000)
We're loading up on strong iron players. Henley checks off just about every box – first in SG: Approach, ninth in greens in regulation, sixth in SG: Tee-to-Green and 26th in driving accuracy. He's also missed only one cut in all of 2022, with a runner-up at the Sony and three other top-15s.
Sergio Garcia - $8,700 (+3500)
Garcia is not what he once was over the past two decades, but he's still ranked in the top-50 in the world and remains an elite driver of the golf ball, ranked fourth in SG: Off-the-Tee. He's even putting well this season, ranked 26th. Garcia is coming off a top-25 at the Masters and hasn't missed a cut since the Sanderson Farms in the fall.
Max Homa - $8,600 (+2800)
What always strikes us about Homa is how consistent he is virtually across the board, making him a good fit in a lot of places: 30th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 35th in Approach, 59th in Putting, 32nd in Tee-to-Green. Homa had a good start to the year with a top-15 at Phoenix, a top-10 at Riviera and another top-15 at THE PLAYERS.
Seamus Power - $8,300 (+2500)
Somebody over at the Sportsbook really likes Power, because look at those odds, 25-1, which definitely don't jibe with an $8,300 DFS price. And we understand it. He's got two top-10s and three top-15s already in 2022, as well as a good showing at Augusta (T27). Among his notable stats, Power is ranked fourth in greens in regulation and 10th in bogey avoidance.
Tier 3 Values
Keith Mitchell - $7,800 (+4000)
Mitchell has had a lot of time off. Outside of two rounds at the Zurich, he's been idle since the Match Play in March. He's ranked second on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, 27th in GIR and 23rd in Tee-to-Green. Mitchell is also ninth in par-4 450-500 and even above average Around-the-Green and Putting. So he checks off a lot of boxes. He missed the cut here in 2018, but he's a far more accomplished golfer now.
Sepp Straka - $7,600 (+4000)
While not an exact match, Potomac does remind us a bit of PGA National, a par-70 with a lot of water requiring great iron play and the need to avoid trouble. Straka, of course, won the Honda there in February. He's continued to play well, following up with a top-10 at The PLAYERS, a tie for 30th at this first Masters and a top-five last time out at the RBC Heritage. Straka is ranked 31st in Approach 175-200.
Alex Smalley - $7,300 (+13000)
We turned to Smalley last week, he delivered a top-10 and we're coming back for more. This will be a sterner test for the PGA Tour rookie, but he should be up to it, having made cuts at a lot of tough tracks already this season – Torrey Pines, Rivera, PGA National and Bay Hill. Smalley is ranked top-50 in SG: Off-the-Tee and GIR and top-60 in bogey avoidance.
Matthias Schwab - $7,200 (+8000)
Joining Straka in this Austrian-laden Tier 3 is the under-the-radar Schwab. He's made six of seven cuts so far in 2022, three of them top-10s, including at PGA National. He's top-50 in both SG: Approach and GIR, and top-25 in Around-the-Green and Putting. Schwab is also ranked 10th in par-4 450-500.
Martin Laird - $7,100 (+13000)
There are two guys at $7,100 we like a lot. We're highlighting Laird, and not Luke List, because we think List will be the higher owned. Laird has played here twice before, finishing third in 2017 before missing the cut in 2018. He remains a straight shooter in 2022, ranking 30th in driving accuracy, 36th in GIR and 25th in SG: Tee-to-Green. He's also top-25 in Approach 175-200. The tiny greens should mitigate Laird's poor putting.
Sung Kang - $6,900 (+20000)
Kang has played TPC Potomac three times in the past decade and finished top-6 every time – who are we to argue? He was third in 2018, fifth in 2017 and sixth at the Korn Ferry event in 2013. Kang is ranked 30th on Tour in par 4 450-500, which might explain his success there. This has not been a good year by any stretch for Kang, who has missed eight of 12 cuts. But one of the four makes was last week in Mexico.
Hayden Buckley - $6,500 (+30000)
We really try to identify at least one golfer $6,500 or under every week. This was a hard week to do it, but we landed on two. Buckley's numbers on and around the greens are scary bad, but we're thinking the rest of his game can at least get him to Saturday: he ranks 14th in SG: Off-the-Tee – including 15th in driving accuracy – plus 28th in GIR and 65th in par-4 450-500. We know those numbers are front-loaded from the fall season, but Buckley has still made four of his past six cuts, including last week.
Vaughn Taylor - $6,300 (+30000)
We should start out by saying Taylor withdrew last week mid-tournament with a shoulder injury. The fact that he's here is somewhat promising. In seven starts in 2022, he's missed only one cut – plus the WD. Some stats of note: 20th in driving accuracy, 40th in Around-the-Green and a pretty impressive 79th in Tee-to-Green. Taylor is also in the top-60 on Tour in both par-4 450-500 and Approach 175-200. This all should add up to hanging around for the weekend.