Sam Burns had been the leader or co-leader at some point in nine PGA Tour events this season. Last weekend, he was finally able to keep the lead and won the Valspar Championship by three strokes over Keegan Bradley at a price of 70-1. The 24-year-old Burns earned his first PGA Tour victory and rose from 94 to a career-high mark of 44 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He rode a hot putter to victory having gained 9.1 strokes on the greens (third) on the field. Burns' next outing will be in two weeks at the AT&T Byron Nelson before taking part in the PGA Championship the following week.
Meanwhile, this week's Wells Fargo Championship has a nice pre-major feel with 11 of the world's top 20 players in Charlotte participating. Justin Thomas (10-1) is the favorite, and he does have a win at Quail Hollow Club with his victory in the 2017 PGA Championship. Thomas led the field for both Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green last week but finished only tied for 13th because he finished 67th for Strokes Gained: Putting among the 69 players who made the cut. He lost 6.44 strokes on the greens over a four-day span. World No. 2 Thomas is followed by World No. 3 Jon Rahm (11-1), who enters with four straight top-10 finishes.
Bryson DeChambeau (15-1) makes his first appearance since a disappointing 46th at the Masters. The bomber and gouger finished fourth in his last appearance here in 2018. Rory McIlroy (16-1), the 2015 Wells Fargo champion, is ranked 15th in the world, his lowest ranking since 2009. Nevertheless, he has a victory here and won the last PGA Championship held at Kiawah Island back in 2012. Xander Schauffele (18-1) is just four weeks removed from his third-place finish at the Masters and looks to keep that form in his last tune-up before the next major. Viktor Hovland (20-1) shot Sunday's low round at the Valspar to rally for a T-3 finish. North Carolina resident Webb Simpson (22-1) has a couple of top-5 finishes here but is seeking to win in Charlotte for the first time since his days at Wake Forest. Max Homa (35-1) has a two-year reign as the defending Wells Fargo champion because last year's tournament was canceled. He finished T-6 last week after a disappointing final round.
The Wells Fargo Championship has annually attracted one of the better fields on the PGA Tour since its inception as the Wachovia Championship in 2003. Wells Fargo acquired financial services company Wachovia in 2008 and has held the sponsorship of this tournament since. It has been held at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte each year since the beginning, except for 2017 when Quail Hollow hosted the PGA Championship and the Wells Fargo moved to Eagle Point Golf Club in nearby Wilmington. The event's charitable beneficiary is the non-profit organization Teach for America, and the tournament is organized by Champions for Education, Inc. Previous event winners include a who's-who of golf, including Vijay Singh (2005), Jim Furyk (2006), Tiger Woods (2007), McIlroy (2010, 2015), Rickie Fowler (2012), and Jason Day (2018).
Quail Hollow Club was founded as a private-member club in 1959 by James J. Harris and the course was designed in 1961 by George Cobb, who is most famous for designing the par-3 course at Augusta National. The layout has undergone several renovations under Tom Fazio in 1997, 2003, 2012 and 2016. For the 2016 renovation leading into the 2017 PGA, Fazio changed the layout to a par-71 of 7,521 yards for tournament golf, but it still plays as a par-72 for the members.
The first hole is now a 495-yard dogleg right par-4, which was previously a sub-420-yard birdie opportunity. The 178-yard par-3 second hole is no more (it was used to lengthen the first) and a new 167-yard par-3, namely the fourth hole, has been built to replace it. Consequently, the fifth has been shortened from a 570-yard par-5 to a 450-yard par-4. A 100% new green complex was built at the 11th and the par-4 has been lengthened by 35 yards, which now plays 462 yards.
Those renovations also entailed a changing of greens surfaces from MiniVerde Bermudagrass to Champion Bermudagrass overseededed with Poa Trivialis. Similar greens can be found at Sedgefield Country Club (Wyndham Championship), TPC Southwind (WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational) and the Country Club of Jackson (Sanderson Farms Championship). Last week had the tough finishing holes of "The Snake Pit." This week's closing sequence (holes 16-18) is known as "The Green Mile." There are 61 big bunkers on the course that mostly protect the greens, and water is in play on seven holes. Even with all the renovations, Quail Hollow is a typical Carolina, tree-lined design.
Other Tom Fazio designs that have been featured on the PGA Tour:
• Atunyote GC: 2007-10 Turning Stone Championship
• Conway Farms GC: 2013, 2015, 2017 BMW Championship
• Corales GC: Corales Championship
• Eagle Point: 2017 Wells Fargo Championship
• Raptor Course Greyhawk GC: 2008-09 Fry’s.com Open
• Shadow Creek Golf Course: 2020 CJ Cup
Fazio has also had redesign input into:
• Merion: 2013 U.S. Open
• Oakmont: 2016 U.S. Open
• Seaside Course at Sea Island: RSM Classic
2019: Max Homa (-15/269); 500-1
2018: Jason Day (-12/272); 20-1
2017: Justin Thomas (-8/276); 35-1*
2017: Brian Harman (-10/278); 80-1**
2016: James Hahn (-9/279); 500-1***
2015: Rory McIlroy (-21/267); 7-2
2014: J.B. Holmes (-14/274); 66-1
2013: Derek Ernst (-8/280); 500-1****
2012: Rickie Fowler (-14/274); 50-1*****
2011: Lucas Glover (-15/273); 110-1******
2010: Rory McIlroy (-15/273); 66-1
* 2017 PGA Championship
** held at Eagle Point Golf Club
*** playoff win over Roberto Castro
**** playoff win over David Lynn
***** playoff win over Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points
****** playoff win over Jonathan Byrd
STATS AND ANGLES
While the last three winners at Quail Hollow have averaged only 20th in the field for the category, Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee will be important as this is as long a par-71 layout as you will find on the PGA Tour.
Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee
1. Bryson DeChambeau 26.8
2. Emiliano Grillo 20.3
3. Sungjae Im 19.3
4. Viktor Hovland 18.1
5. Jhonattan Vegas 15.4
6. Corey Conners 15.2
7. Jon Rahm 14.7
8. Joaquin Niemann 12.9
9. Patrick Cantlay 12.8
10. Rory McIlroy 12.6
11. Jason Day 12.2
12. Cameron Davis 12.1
Note: Last 24 rounds
Eight par-4s at Quail Hollow measure 450 yards or longer and two of them are over 500 yards.
Strokes Gained: Par-4s 450-500 Yards
1. Corey Conners 15.8
2. Sungjae Im 13
3. Lanto Griffin 12.3
4. Xander Schauffele 11.9
5. Emiliano Grillo 11.6
6. Michael Thompson 10.6
7. Max Homa 10.5
8. Justin Thomas 10.2
9. Shane Lowry 10.1
10. Jason Day 9.9
11. Patrick Reed 9.5
12. Viktor Hovland 9.4
Note: Last 24 rounds
There will also be numerous approach shots of 200 or more yards, plus three of the par-3s measure 200-plus yards.
Proximity Feet Gained 200+ Yards
1. Bryson DeChambeau 40.1
2. Max Homa 25.9
3. Keegan Bradley 23.7
4. Emiliano Grillo 23
5. Viktor Hovland 22.4
6. Justin Thomas 22.4
7. Sungjae Im 21
8. Tom Hoge 17.3
9. Cameron Percy 17.3
10. Cameron Davis 16.9
11. Rory McIlroy 15.8
12. Gary Woodland 15.6
Notes: Last 24 rounds; feet gained per shot
The last three winners at Quail Hollow have rated first (Homa, 2019), second (Day, 2018) and fourth (Thomas, 2017) for Strokes Gained: Putting.
Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermudagrass)
1. Denny McCarthy 24.5
2. Zach Johnson 23.5
3. Sungjae Im 22.3
4. J.T. Poston 21.2
5. Chesson Hadley 19.8
6. Brendon Todd 19.7
7. Brian Harman 18.1
8. Vaughn Taylor 17.1
9. Michael Thompson 15.9
10. Xander Schauffele 15
11. Joaquin Niemann 14.9
12. Bryson DeChambeau 14.8
Note: Last 24 rounds
The last two champions at Quail Hollow have rated seond in the field for Scrambling during their respective winning weeks.
Strokes Gained Scrambling
1. Denny McCarthy 17
2. Abraham Ancer 13.5
3. Cameron Tringale 13.1
4. Wyndham Clark 12.9
5. Webb Simpson 12
6. Brian Harman 11.7
7. Zach Johnson 11
8. Robert Streb 10.4
9. Jason Day 10.3
10. Troy Merritt 9.6
11. Jason Dufner 9.6
12. Camilo Villegas 9.6
Note: Last 24 rounds
Bryson DeChambeau 15-1
DeChambeau's length off the tee will prove to be a major advantage this week. He ranks first in SG: Off-The-Tee, SG: Ball Striking (Off-The-Tee + Approach), SG: Tee-To-Green and Proximity Gained from 200+ Yards.
In addition to the par-5s (2nd SG: Par-5s), he could also be dangerous on the par-3s this week as he ranks fifth in SG: Par-3 from 200-225 yards.
Viktor Hovland 20-1
Hovland looks to be peaking at the right time. He shot the low Sunday round of 65 last weekend to finish T-3 at the Valspar Championship.
He now sits just one spot outside the OWGR Top 10.
Will Zalatoris 30-1
Zalatoris had a tough time following up his runner-up finish at the Masters with a 42nd at the RBC Heritage. He has had two weeks off and returns to North Carolina, where he played his collegiate golf at Wake Forest.
A victory is coming soon for the 24-year-old Zalatoris, and the Wells Fargo Championship has provided the venue for several maiden, young PGA Tour winners including Anthony Kim in 2008, Rory McIlroy in 2010 and Rickie Fowler in 2012.
Joaquin Niemann 35-1
Niemann could not make a move on Sunday and had to settle for a T-8.
He ranks eighth for SG: Off-The-Tee over the last 24 rounds.
Sungjae Im 50-1
A disappointing weekend led to a T-29 at the Valspar Championship, but Im drifts up to as high as 50-1 this week.
He is one of the better Bermuda putters on tour and always seems to gain off the tee, which should prove to be more beneficial than approach this week.
Emiliano Grillo 66-1
Grillo was T-2 after the first round last week with a 66, but then shot a 76 on Friday to miss the cut by one shot. Before last week, Grillo finished second at the RBC Heritage and sixth in the Dominican Republic.
The Argentine ranks top 5 in this week's field for SG: Off-The-Tee, SG: Par-4s 450-500 Yards and Proximity from 200+ yards. If the putter is better than last Friday, he should be an off-the-radar contender.
Rickie Fowler 80-1
Fowler finds himself ranked 116th in the world and needed a special invitation from the PGA of America to participate in the PGA Championship in two weeks.
His last start four weeks ago at the Valero Texas Open was a T-17, his best of 2021, so maybe that’s something to build on. Fowler is a former winner here and has three top-5s in his last four starts at Quail Hollow. If there is a place where he could show progress, you have to think it would be here.
Canary Islands Championship
The European Tour wraps up a three-week stretch in the Canary Islands by playing the Golf Costa Adeje course for a second consecutive week. A South African player was victorious on the Canary Islands for a second consecutive week with Dean Burmester shooting a Sunday 62 en route to 25 under par to win the Tenerife Open at 60-1. Burmester followed countryman Garrick Higgo, who won in Gran Canaria the previous week.
Not surprisingly, Higgo (11-1) and Burmester (16-1) are the top two choices on the board this week for the Canary Islands Championship. Fellow South African Justin Harding (18-1) won seven weeks ago in Kenya and has finished 12th and 15th the last two weeks. A quintet of players follow at 25-1, including Kalle Samooja (third last week on this course), Adri Arnaus (eighth), Laurie Canter, Sean Crocker and Sami Valimaki.
The Canary Islands Championship concludes the three-week swing on the islands off the coast of Spain on the same Golf Costa Adeje track.
Golf Costa Adeje serves as this week's venue for the second straight week. Before this year, the track last hosted a European Tour event in 2003 for the Canarias Open de Espana, won at 22 under par by Kenneth Ferrie. The course was designed by José Gancedo and opened in 1998. Like the course two weeks ago in Gran Canaria, this is another shorter resort track that caters to Canary Islands tourists. It goes back to a par-72 this week of 6,857 yards. Fairways are wide and laid to Paspalum grass that is firm and should have plenty of rollout. The greens are huge and have been upgraded from Bentgrass to TifEagle Bermuda since the 2003 event and will run at around 12 on the stimpmeter. The only defense for this track would be a hard-blowing wind, which is not expected this week, so more low scores should be in order.
Justin Harding 22-1
Harding has finished 12th and 15th the last two weeks on the Canary Islands. He showed improvement over the weekend rounds, gaining 3.6 strokes tee-to-green versus just + 1.16 in the first two rounds. He also lost 2.72 strokes on approach in the first and second rounds vs. gaining 2.80 over Rounds 3 and 4.
Laurie Canter 25-1
Canter finished a disappointing 48th last week but was perhaps rusty after six weeks off. Last week was only his third event in three months. He ranks sixth on the European Tour for SG: Off-The-Tee.
Louis de Jager 50-1
De Jager, another South African, ranked fourth for SG: Tee-To-Green last week, but the putter let him down and he settled for T-12.
Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez 63-1
The Spaniard finished T-8 last week, ending with a disappointing 1-under 70. He ranked sixth in last week’s field for SG: Approach.
Gavin Green 81-1
Green has had five weeks off, so he could have some rust, but a wide course like this will not penalize his sometimes-erratic driving.
The Regions Tradition is the first of five major championships on the PGA Tour Champions. Defending champion Steve Stricker is the favorite at 5-2, and two-time winner Bernhard Langer (2016, 2017) follows at 8-1.
David Toms 18-1
Scott Parel 20-1
Tim Petrovic 25-1
Shane Bertsch 100-1