For fourteen years, The Wells Fargo Championship has always been one of the premier nonmajor events on Tour. This year ought to be no different as golfers get one more week of preparation in before The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Last week on Tour we saw a new format. This week we get a new golf course. Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, North Carolina, less than a couple of miles from the Atlantic Ocean, will host the 15th edition of The Wells Fargo Championship, substituting for the traditional venue of Quail Hollow Golf Club. Quail Hollow will host the season's final Major Championship, The PGA Championship in August and with preparation for this event ongoing, a pinch hitter has been inserted into the lineup.
Eagle Point has been receiving high praise from the players that have visited here for a few practice rounds and from some of the local Tour players who are either familiar or are members at the club. It is a Tom Fazio design, as is Quail Hollow. The fairways are tree-lined for the most part but are relatively wide. Intracoastal waterways define much of the layout, coming into play on 8-holes on the golf course. The greens are in Augusta-like condition and feature a substantial amount of speed and undulation. Speaking of Augusta, long time golf course superintendent, Marsh Benson was brought in at Eagle Point to serve as a consultant and his Augusta National background has spilled over as many of the players are seeing the similarities in the two tracks.
With no course form or past history to rely on, we will look at some of the basics for what it ought to take to score well at Eagle Point. Strokes Gained Tee to Green and Driving Distance. A big hitter ought to fare well here with the generous fairways. A great putter should have success here this week, as they do at Augusta National. Eagle Point plays in the neighborhood of 7400-yards and is a Par 72, so scoring on the Par 5's will separate the contenders from the pretenders. With the golf course's proximity to the ocean, and in looking at the forecast, players will have to deal with some steady wind this week. Gusts over 20-miles per hour will blow on Thursday and Friday while the weekend should calm down a bit into the 15-mile per hour range. Finally, looking at a few courses that could serve as indicators of success at Eagle Point, we look at The Masters due to the aforementioned set up similarities and also The Shell Houston Open, which is also intentionally prepped to play like Augusta. With Quail Hollow also being a Fazio design, this too can be considered in one's handicap of the championship.
Dustin Johnson (+5.860 at Pinnacle) This will be our first time seeing DJ since he took a spill down the stairs in Augusta and injured his back. He has won 3-straight times on Tour, has finished 4th & 6th in recent trips to The Masters as well as two Top 5 finishes in his last three appearances at The Shell Houston. He is number one on Tour in SG: Tee to Green, Greens in Regulation, and Par 5 Scoring.
Jon Rahm (+12.600 at Pinnacle) While Eagle Point is a new course to The Tour, nearly every course is new to the 22-year old Spaniard but it hasn't mattered as he has five Top 10 finishes on the season. Rahm is 2nd in SG: Tee to Green, 16th in Par 5 Scoring, and finished 10th a little over a month ago in Houston.
Adam Scott (+1836 at Bookmaker) Scott is a former winner at The Shell Houston, finished 9th this year at Augusta and Aussies are typically very good wind players. He also finished 17th last year in The Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow.
Paul Casey (+1872 at Bookmaker) The Englishman continues to play great golf this season with two Top 10's in his last two starts, which were at The Masters and The Shell Houston. He has never fared particularly well at Quail Hollow but is 16th in SG: Tee to Green and 8th in Scrambling. As it often does for Casey, it will come down to his putting.
Kevin Kisner (+2451 at Bookmaker) Another player that arrives in very good form. Losing in a playoff last week in New Orleans, Kisner is yet to miss a cut in 2017. In the last six weeks, he has two 11th place finishes and two 2nd's and owns the combination of being excellent tee to green along with being a very good putter.
Webb Simpson (+34.350 at Pinnacle) Home field advantage this week goes to Simpson who is a member at Eagle Point. His knowledge of the course is tops in the field. He does not have great history at Augusta or The Houston but does have two Top 5 finishes at Quail Hollow in his last five appearances.
The Long Shots
J.B. Holmes (+5250 at Bookmaker) The big bomber from Kentucky won The Wells Fargo in 2014 at Quail Hollow and followed that up with a win in Houston in 2015. He was also 4th at The Masters in 2016. Holmes ranks 23rd on Tour in SG: Tee to Green.
Shane Lowry (+9000 at 5Dimes) An excellent wind player and it showed with his best finish of the season, the 14th place at Pebble Beach. He does not have a great track record at Houston or The Masters but is a solid putter and ranks 27th in SG: Tee to Green.
Brian Harman (+102.760 at Pinnacle) Harman has three Top 15 finishes in his last three starts and was 10th at Quail Hollow in 2013. Missed the cut at The Masters this year and also in two of his last three tries at The Shell Houston.
Daniel Berger (+3749 at Bookmaker) He has played The Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow twice now in his young career and has finished 17th and 28th. He has finished 27th and 10th at Augusta and has two straight 5th place finishes in Houston. He should fare well putting these greens if these results are any indication - and he is 19th on Tour in SG: Putting. His stats are very solid across the board including 24th in Scrambling, 49th in Par 5 Scoring, and 61st in SG: Tee to Green. Finally, with Berger being from Florida and playing golf at Florida State, he has also shown an ability to play in the wind. Ranked 37th in the world on what should be a challenging test of golf, among a relatively weaker field this week, I think Berger could shine making him warth as a betting pick.