This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $1.458M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Charlotte, N.C.
Course: Quail Hollow Club
2020 champion: None
At more than 7,500 yards for a par-71, Quail Hollow has often been the biggest brute on the PGA Tour calendar, an absolute behemoth that closes with the famed Green Mile. This year, however, it won't be the very biggest of the brutes – that's because in two weeks the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island will check in at an all-time record of 7,876 yards for the PGA Championship. Yes, a mere pitching wedge shy of 8,000. Unreal. But Quail Hollow will serve as a pretty good tuneup for the year's second major.
Six of the top-10 and 10 of the top-15 in the world will be on hand, led by No. 2 Justin Thomas and No. 3 Jon Rahm, plus Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Viktor Hovland, Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau and Rory McIlroy, who at No. 15 is at his lowest point since 2009. In all, almost half of the top 50 players in the world are part of the maxed-out 156-man field. Some other bold-faced names in the field that are no longer highly-ranked include Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and 2018 champion Jason Day.
The tournament was a pandemic casualty last year, but Quail Hollow, the 1961 George Cobb design with a 2016 Tom Fazio renovation, normally ranks among the top-10 hardest courses on Tour. In 2019, it ranked eighth and the year before, fifth. And in 2017 when it hosted the PGA Championship, it was the No. 1 hardest. Of course, the highlight is the closing three-hole stretch known as The Green Mile: two par-4s of about 500 yards sandwiching a long par-3 over water. Just about everyone would sign up right now for four straight days of par-par-par. The 17th usually is the hardest of the trio. In the past it was 221 yards on the scorecard but this year it's listed at 190, which explains most of the 33-yard drop in total distance from 2019's 7,554 to 7,521. In 2019, there were almost as many double bogeys (26) as birdies (29) on the hole. And when you factor in the dreaded "double bogeys or worse," then it overtakes the birdie total with 31. No. 18 played as the second hardest hole.
Half the holes are par-4s of at least 450 yards (okay, one of them is 449) – and five of those are 480-plus. Three of the par-3s are 190 or more, with No. 6 topping out at a just-not-fair 249. The key to Quail Hollow success was always the par-5s – birdie the heck out of them, take your pars most everywhere else. But three years ago at the PGA, they turned a par-72 into a par-71, and now there are only three par-5s. It's still critical to score on those holes, none of which reaches 600 yards. Even when there were four par-5s, sometimes the winning score was single digits. That tells you all you need to know about Quail Hollow. Jason Day won at 12-under in 2018 and, while Max Homa won at 15-under in 2019, he was three clear of second place. Homa backers should take note that only two of the previous 10 defending champs finished in the top-25 the next time. Those were Day in 2019, when he tied for 24th, and McIlroy in 2016, when he finished fourth.
The Bermudagrass greens are of average size, averaging 6,578 square feet, according to the official golf course superintendents sheet, with 61 bunkers and four water hazards encompassing seven holes.
Weather-wise, it should be a comfortable week for the golfers, with temperatures in the 70s most of time, with almost no chance of rain and mostly light winds.
Fun Wells Fargo factoid: This is the 18th edition of the tournament, and only one guy in the field has played in every one of them: Rory Sabbatini. J.J. Henry played in the first 17 but is not here this year. Mickelson has played in all but one and though he has 12 top-12s through the years, has never won it.
Key Stats to Winning at Quail Hollow
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Driving Distance/Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
• Ball Striking/Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Par 4 Efficiency 450-500 yards
This track is long, long and long. Did we mention long? Quail Hollow favors the biggest hitters. Three of the past six winners there – Holmes, McIlroy and Justin Thomas (at the 2017 PGA) – led the field in driving distance. While Day was only 14th in the field in driving distance, he averaged a hefty 325 yards off the tee. Imagine that, 13 guys better than 325? Homa averaged "only" 312 yards and ranked 21st in the field, but here's what was the difference for Homa: He ranked first in the field by a wide margin in Strokes Gained: Putting and made more than 380 feet worth of putts. Day also had his short game going, ranking second in both scrambling and SG: Putting, which alone will put you in contention just about every time. At the PGA, Thomas ranked fourth in the field in SG: Putting. So in the three tournaments since Tom Fazio's renovation, the winners have ranked first, second and fourth in putting. McIlroy shot a tournament-record 21-under and won by a whopping seven strokes in 2015, but those days are likely over since he shot 13-under on the four par-5s. Now with only three of them, it's still the same plan of attack. What we've seen since the change is Thomas scored 7-under on the par-5s en route to winning the PGA at 8-under, while Day was 9-under on the par-5s and won at 12-under. Homa was also at 9-under on the par-5s, meaning he was 6-under on the other 60 holes – which is a great score. If you can pick up a few strokes on the par-4s over the course of the week, that's the difference between winning and contending. Golfodds.com puts the over/under for the winning score at 269.5 – 14.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $11,300 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
Thomas was the first golfer to win at Quail Hollow after Tom Fazio's 2016 renovation, capturing the 2017 PGA Championship for what remains his lone major title. He tied for 21st at the 2018 Wells Fargo and skipped it in 2019. Last week, he quietly tied for 13th at the Valspar.
Jon Rahm - $10,800 (12-1)
Rahm has been a top-10 machine, with eight of them in his past 10 starts. He's been idle since the Masters, so he should be fully recharged. Rahm is one of the straightest of the long hitters, a huge advantage this week. He played the 2017 PGA (T58) but hasn't been back to Quail Hollow since.
Xander Schauffele - $10,500 (18-1)
Schauffele hit a few bumps in the road after all but giving away the tournament in Phoenix in February. It wasn't until the Masters that he looked like his usual self. Now let's see how he responds after that soul-crushing finish at Augusta. Quail Hollow sets up well for Schauffele, a sneaky long hitter who is also a superior putter.
Viktor Hovland - $9,800 (20-1)
Hovland's short game is vastly improved, and he was already one of the best ball strikers, so he definitely belongs on your radar this week. He returned to his top-5 ways with a tie for third last week at the Valspar.
Tier 2 Values
Will Zalatoris - $9,400 (30-1)
Zalatoris continued to excel week after week with nary a break. It seems the sky's the limit now that he's taken a couple weeks off since Harbour Town. He is ranked top-20 on Tour in both driving distance and greens in regulation, so his inaccuracy off the tee has not been hurting him. Zalatoris may need to putt better to win, but would that surprise anyone?
Joaquin Niemann - $9,100 (35-1)
Niemann – still only 22 – has played Quail Hollow twice already, tying for 38th in 2019. He has made 17 straight cuts dating to last year's playoffs, including a very quiet tie for eighth last week at the Valspar. Niemann is ranked eighth on Tour in driving distance, 14th in greens in regulation and 27th in SG: Putting.
Max Homa - $9,000 (35-1)
Homa is the defending champion, but that was long, long ago. It was his maiden win, and he's recently won a second time at Riviera. He has been remarkably consistent, finishing in the top-25 10 times among his 13 made cuts. Homa is above average across the board in the six major strokes-gained categories without being elite in any one area.
Brian Harman - $8,700 (40-1)
Lack of distance has not hurt Harman, one of the smallest golfers on Tour at 5-7, 150 pounds. He's finished top-25 in seven of his 17 starts, missing just one cut. In his past four starts, he's finished T3, T5, T12, T13. He tied for 24th here in 2019. He was the 2017 Wells Fargo champion, but not at Quail Hollow.
Tier 3 Values
Brendan Steele - $7,700 (100-1)
One of the premier ball strikers on Tour, Steele has not missed a cut in nine starts in 2021, including top-5s at Waialae and PGA National. He's ranked 44th in SG: Tee-to-Green, but his putting, which was much improved earlier this season, has started to revert to normal.
Harold Varner III - $7,600 (80-1)
Varner is coming off a co-runner-up at the RBC Heritage, continuing a run of strong play. He has top-25s at the Honda, Bay Hill and Phoenix. He's not super long off the tee but not short either. He's ranked in the top-40 on Tour in SG: Approach, Around-the-Green and Tee-to-Green. Oh, and he's also a member at Quail Hollow.
Matt Wallace - $7,500 (80-1)
Wallace has been playing quite well of late, with top-20s at Bay Hill and Harbour Town and a tie for third at the Valero. He's not a long hitter, but he is ranked top-10 on Tour in SG: Approach, top-20 in SG: Putting and is fifth in par-4 450-500 efficiency. This will be his Quail Hollow debut.
Adam Hadwin - $7,200 (150-1)
Hadwin certainly is not a bomber, but that doesn't mean can't be part of a successful lineup. He's been hot and cold of late. In his past seven starts he has four top-30s and three missed cuts. Included in there is a top-10 at the Honda. Hadwin played Quail Hollow in both 2018 and '19, making the cut both times with a tie for 18th in '18.
Aaron Wise - $7,100 (125-1)
Wise was one of the few golfers to put back-to-back good showings at Quail Hollow in 2018-19, tying for 18th last time and co-runner-up in '18. His putter is really holding him back, because he's ranked seventh on Tour in greens in regulation. He has four top-25s this season including a tie for 13th at the Honda.
Jhonattan Vegas - $7,000 (150-1)
Vegas has made his last four cuts at the Wells Fargo, twice since the Fazio renovation, with a tie for eighth in 2019. He's still one of the longer hitters (top-50 in driving distance). He's made seven of his nine worldwide cuts in 2021, including last week at the Valspar.
Wyndham Clark - $6,800 (200-1)
Clark certainly gets his money's worth every times he pulls out driver – he is ranked fourth in distance and 210th in accuracy. For a guy who grips-it-and-rips-it, he has a pretty good short game, ranked 31st in scrambling. His putting is way off so far this season but was excellent in years past – 16th last season and 8th the season before that. Clark tied for 32nd earlier this year at another very long track, Torrey Pines. And he had a top-10 at Riviera.
Bronson Burgoon - $6,500 (300-1)
Burgoon has made seven of his past eight cuts, with the best of them being last week's tie for 13th at the Valspar. He's ranked a respectable 60th on Tour in greens in regulation and 63rd in SG: Around-the-Green.