Wells Fargo Championship Preview – Picks to Win
When: May 3rd-6th, 2018
Where: Quail Hollow GC – Charlotte, NC
TV: The Golf Channel/CBS
By Evergreen, Golf Betting Analyst, Predictem.com
Mother Nature has finally seen fit to allow Spring to happen in 2018 and what a fun day that was. Seriously, the reason I live in the Upper Midwest is to have four distinct seasons, each with their own enjoyable aspects. Two weeks ago, there was snow on the ground. Not ideal for mid-April but surely there would be the reward of a mild spring. Nope. I turned off the furnace on Monday morning and had the air conditioner running in the car by Tuesday afternoon. What are you going to do? That’s life in the Big Ten as they say. With the temps literally heating up, the PGA Tour figuratively heats up as well. The Players Championship and a trip to Jack’s place are just around the corner and The U.S. Open is not too far off either. Players head to North Carolina this week for the Wells Fargo Championship. The tournament moved to Eagle Point last year to allow Quail Hollow to host the PGA Championship but the Wells moves back to the Hollow for 2018. Brian Harman defends his 2017 Wells Fargo title but Justin Thomas is the last man to win here as he took down his first Major last season. Rory McIlroy headlines the top of the field with former champs Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods also teeing it up. Veteran champs like Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh join the mix with Phil Mickelson and Masters champ Patrick Reed also among the favorites.
Quail Hollow is one of the toughest courses in the PGA Tour rotation. Rory McIlroy solved the puzzle in 2015 to set the course record at 21-under but most winning totals are in the low double digits under par. Four rounds in the sixties is almost unheard of at this nearly 7,600 yard, par-71 track and there will be few that have a stress-free week in general. The course has been tweaked and re-designed on a fairly regular basis over the years, with larger scale changes coming in 1986 and again in 2003. That has helped keep the Hollow on the cutting edge of championship golf and consistently providing a Major-level challenge. Players will need to be both long and straight off the tee to set up volume birdie opportunities and also have a good feel around the greens as no one is going to have an easy time hitting greens all four days. The putter is always important but this event has not been dominated by the best putters as a rule. The tee-to-green game plays a big part in setting the leaderboard and those that can get hot on the greens at the right time will push to the lead.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values on the board. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that are featured at just about every golf betting outlet. Here are our predictions to win the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship.
Jason Day (20 to 1 odds to win)
Day has been a bit quiet by his standards over the last year or so but 2018 has seen him make every cut in eight starts with a win at the Farmers and a runner-up at Pebble. He ran T9 here last year at the PGA Championship and Day playing anywhere near his peak form is an absolute steal at 20 to 1. Driving the ball is important here so who better to have than the #1 total driving man on Tour? Day is 19th in distance, 37th in fairways and has the putter to make the tee-to-green work count. He enters with the 5th best birdie rate and is solid with the par saves at 31st in scrambling. He isn’t the top dog in the field but he has made it through plenty of events with strong fields so this won’t be a surprise if he is in serious contention.
Louis Oosthuizen (35 to 1)
Oosthuizen should always be a factor at ball striking-centric events as he is simply one of the better iron players in the world. He is probably off his A-game just a bit but still nets the 20th best approach proximity stat. Hitting it close is a solid predictor of scoring so you always have that in your back pocket with Louis. He was part of the 2nd place team at the Zurich last week and was T12th at Augusta with a T9 at the Match Play. Those are three very different events and seeing Oosthuizen perform well in each shows he can handle just about anything. He is a solid enough putter to produce the 35th best scoring average and he comes in at 2nd in scrambling so the clutch putting is there as well. He should be in good shape of the tee in just about every case so a vintage-Louis week with the irons will have him on the front page.
Brooks Koepka (66 to 1)
It has been a long time since we have seen the 2017 U.S. Open champ tee it up. Brooks returned last week after a wrist injury sidelined him for 15 weeks. Playing in back-to-back weeks is a good sign as far as his health goes and he mentioned that it was going to take more than three months off for him to forget how to play and win. I think a win would be a little surprising given the amount of rust that tends to collect on dormant players but you will not see this longshot value attached to him for long either. Koepka finished 2017 as the 7th longest player on Tour and bookends that length with a top-20 putter. That added up to the 5th best birdie average last season and the 14th best scoring average. He is sneaky good around the greens so he should be able to survive some less-than-sharp approaches. He won the HSBC in addition to the US Open last season so he was poised to make a run to the top of the OWGR before the injury. I think he is motivated to get back on that path and it would pay nicely if he started this week.
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with your favorite online betting site for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Ryan Moore v. Alex Noren (pick to win: Moore)
Noren is a tough player to beat as he is a top-40 birdie man with a top-10 scoring average but I think Moore is playing very near his best. In the last two events both men have played, Moore has won this head-to-head and it really hasn’t been close with a 5th at the Palmer and T28 at the Masters while Noren was 36th and missed the cut respectively. Noren has a big edge in the power game but Moore is one of the more accurate players off the tee on Tour. Both hit about the same amount of greens and are ranked closely with the putter as well. Moore is the much better par-saver and that is a big reason why he is right there in scoring with Noren despite having a lower birdie per round mark. This is a grinder event and Moore is a prototypical grinder. Stay with him this week and really until he moves off this run that has seen him average a top-15 finish over the last month.
Hideki Matsuyama v. Patrick Reed (pick to win: Reed)
It will not surprise anyone if Reed falters a bit over the next month or so as winning your first Major is not often followed up by a long string of good play. I think Reed can handle it as he is not bothered by the naysayers and seemed to enjoy the fanfare that came with his Green Jacket. He and Matsuyama shared the field at the Palmer, Match Play and the Masters with Reed notching nothing worse than a T9 while Hideki could do not better than a T19. I think Reed gets another head-to-head win because he has been turning in top-30 birdie and scoring marks despite several ballstriking stats outside the top-100. He is turning chicken you-know-what into chicken salad and Quail Hollow is a perfect course for someone with that ability. Matsuyama hits more greens and is the better player around the greens but hasn’t scored particularly well in recent events and just seems to be off his game. Reed is doing the opposite so you can stick with him until he proves otherwise.
Good luck and good golf!