PGA Championship: Quail Hollow, Charlotte, North Carolina
The PGA caravan heads to Charlotte, North Carolina for the 2017 PGA Championship to be played at Quail Hollow. The venue will be well known to golfers since it usually hosts the Wells Fargo Championship every year with the exception of this year for obvious reasons.
Quail Hollow is a 7600 yard Par 71 that has one of the toughest sequences of holes (the 16th,17th ,18th) on the tour. It was designed by George Cobb and has undergone some pretty extensive renovation this year with most people estimating that the course will play even tougher.
The fairways are narrow, the Par- 4’s relatively long, the Par 5’s reachable and the rough is not expected to be too deep. The greens have also been completely revamped this year and the bentgrass has been changed up with champion ultradwarf bermudagrass.
The course has been playing a bit firm because of the dry conditions leading up to the tournament but the Wolf is not sure how much that will matter with rain being predicted for every day of this tournament. The 1st, 4th and 5th holes are completely new while modifications have also been made to the 9th and 11th holes.
The PGA Championship is the last major of the season and it is extremely well attended. All of the top players in the world including Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia will be playing the tournament. The top 70 players plus ties will make the cut after two rounds.
Some of the biggest names of golf make up the list of previous champions. Rory has won it twice (2014, 2012), Jason Day won it in 2015 and Tiger Woods won it four times (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007) with Jimmy Walker the defending champion. Jimmy Walker held off Jason Day and beat him by one stroke eventually ending up with 14 under Par. He had 19 birdies and just 5 bogeys to help him reach that score.
There are plenty of players in form heading into this tournament but the Wolf believes it is going to be one of the world class bombers that is going to win this tournament. Hitting the ball long is going to be absolutely essential and the difference maker is going to be the iron play. Make no mistake. Quail Hollow will test every single aspect of the players game.
Stats That Matter
The Wolf is sticking with the following stat categories as the ones to watch for this tournament:
– Ball Striking
– Par 4 Scoring
– Strokes Gained Putting
Bogey avoidance was another stat category that the Wolf looked at but the fact that players who are aggressive, hit the ball cleanly and make their putts on some difficult greens are more likely to win made him exclude that category.
Course history is also something that the Wolf is going to be looking at seeing as certain players like Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson seem to put to step up a notch every time they come here.
Rory McIlroy has been installed as the bookies favourite at $8.00 with Open champion Jordan Spieth just behind at $9.00. It is easy to see why they would be rated so highly especially after strong performances at the WGC Bridgestone last week. At those prices though, the Wolf has a hard time recommending them as betting options. They could be an In-Play option if they get off to a slow start but currently the Wolf has some other options to recommend.
The Wolf’s says that the time has come for Rickie Fowler ($17.00) to end his major drought. Rickie Fowler finished T9 in last weeks WGC Bridgestone Invitational and has everything a golfer needs to win the PGA Championship. His T9 last week meant that his last five starts have resulted in 4 top-10 finishes. From a statistical perspective it is hard to look past Rickie Fowler. 13th in Ball Striking, 44th in Par 4 scoring, 9th in scrambling and 1st in strokes gained putting. A difficult course like Quail Hollow will help Fowler stand out over the course of the tournament. His best finish at the PGA Championship was a T3 in 2014, something that the Wolf expects him to better this week.
This week’s value pick is Daniel Berger at $61.00. Berger is a fantastic player that absolutely crushes the ball off the tee. He is also a proven performer in tournaments with tough fields and is carrying some excellent form with him. Berger won the St.Jude Classic a little over a month ago and has another two top-5 finishes since then. Finished T17 at the Bridgestone Invitational, another very tough course, and stacked field, will have given him a lot of confidence as well. Berger is 27th in ball striking, 18th in Par 4 scoring, 28th in scrambling, and 26th in strokes gained putting. Berger just needs to be on his best putting game this weekend to be close the top of the leaderboard.
For the outside pick, the Wolf has Jamie Lovemark at $126.00. He has been steadily gaining a reputation as one of the best strikers on the PGA Tour and has really improved since his back issues came under control. A T3 at the Greenbrier showcased what he can do when he is at his best but there are definite issues with his game. Putting is his weakness and it is questionable whether he will be able to handle the greens at Quail Hill better than his competitors. He is, however, 5th in Par 4 scoring and 49th in both ball striking and scrambling. The Wolf thinks he is well worth a punt at the price he is being offered.
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