After a fun little team event in NOLA, the PGA TOUR now heads to North Carolina for the Wells Fargo Championship. Instead of the usual course (Quail Hollow) we will take a slight detour to Wilmington to take on Eagle Point Golf Club this year.
The course change is due to Quail Hollow hosting the PGA Championship later this summer, but it will return to the host role of the Wells Fargo next year. As for the one-year fill-in, Eagle Point is a well-manicured par 72 designed by Tom Fazio that stretches out to 7,400-ish yards.
One important aspect of the course prep is the hiring of Marsh Benson. He was the superintendent of Augusta National for 27 years and he’s been put in charge of getting Eagle Point ready for the TOUR to roll through. Last October they overseeded the entire course with ryegrass, which is the primary grass at Augusta National. They also have bentgrass putting surfaces just like ANGC, although I highly doubt they get them rolling anywhere near as fast. Given the course par, course length, grass types, and superintendent link, it’s no surprise to see Augusta National being thrown around this week as a correlated course.
As for the hole lengths this week, 1/3 of the holes will be par 4s between 410-and-450 yards. Golfers who score well on these medium-range par 4s include: Paul Casey, Jon Rahm, DJ, Pat Perez, Soren Kjeldsen, Willy McGirt, Fran Moli, Daniel Berger, Lucas Glover, and Jim Furyk.
It’s also worth noting the PGA Director of Golf at Eagle Point, Billy Anderson, had this to say, “We may add a tee box or two, but we are not going to go crazy and add 6-10 tee boxes and make it 7,800 yards. We want the tour player to have fun here.” They want golfers to enjoy themselves this week, so they may be generous on the pin placements and rough setup. Perhaps this is an audition to negotiate themselves into a future hosting gig.
Looking for a top 5 list of correlated courses, I grabbed some lengthy par 72 layouts with ryegrass being featured somewhere on all five of these: Augusta National Golf Club, GC of Houston, Quail Hollow, TPC San Antonio, and Bay Hill Club and Lodge.
For more course angles and golfer quotes check out the Fantasy Golfanac.
Players to Watch
Adam Scott… If Augusta National is a relevant link this week, why not go with the Aussie who has six top 20s including a win over his last eight Masters starts. The only downside is his play this year has just been mediocre as he tries to juggle playing all across the world while also being a father in Australia during his off weeks. A T9 in his last start is prehaps a good start that he’s ready to kick things into full gear.
Dustin Johnson… Returning from the back & elbow injury that knocked him out of the 81st Masters, DJ is the favorite (on paper) but the big wildcard is the rust/momentum factor. He’s won each of his last three starts but that last win came more than a month ago.
Phil Mickelson… Since 2014, Lefty has gained the most strokes in the field on Tom Fazio designs. That’s not saying much since they are played so infrequently, but add in the Augusta National link, and Mickelson may be one to target this week.
Harold Varner III… Has the Carolina connection, so may feel more comforatable compared to most weeks. Still a little boom-or-bust from round to round, but definitely worth a long look in R1-2 on FanDuel.
Luke List… Speaking of boom or bust, List has been more Boom than Bust this season. However, back-to-back missed cuts may leave him way underowned, especially compared to the last few events he’s played in. A great bounceback candidate.
Webb Simpson… Will likely gain a lot of steam by week’s end since he’s a member at Eagle Point GC and also entered the RBC Heritage finale in a share of third place. That local knowledge should be worth stroke or two over the field by week’s end.
Carl Pettersson… is also a member at Eagle Point. The Big Swede finally had a good showing two weeks ago at the Valero (T16) so he may be a lively sleeper at a venue where he owns the course record. Just remember he’s still Carl Pettersson.
Emiliano Grillo… Took an instant liking to Augusta National, so maybe that will translate this week, as well.
Byeong Hun An… Finished T33 at the Masters, despite SEVEN three-putts. If he replicates that tee-to-green play on a similar layout this week, but manages just field-average putting, then BINGO, BANGO, BONGO! That is asking a lot though since he hasn’t gained strokes putting for the week since the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Daniel Berger … Gets the reputation for be being a stud on Bermuda, but his bentgrass stats are just fine. In fact it seems the rare start on poa or paspalum seem to be the only time his performance dips. Was a major letdown at the Zurich last week, but I expect a nice rebound this week in Wilmington.
Jason Kokrak… The Charlotte resident has 14 career top 10s but still no hardware. If you’re targeting upside over reliability, Kokrak is your man this week.
My Top 25 for the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship
1. Dustin Johnson
2. Jon Rahm
3. Adam Scott
4. Daniel Berger
5. Paul Casey
6. Francesco Molinari
7. Phil Mickelson
8. Louis Oosthuizen *TUESDAY WD* (Add Stewart Cink to the Rankings)
9. Emiliano Grillo
10. Luke List
11. Webb Simpson
12. Bill Haas
13. J.B. Holmes
14. Kevin Kisner
15. Patrick Reed
16. Graeme McDowell
17. Jason Kokrak
18. William McGirt
19. Shane Lowry
20. Hudson Swafford
21. Byeong Hun An
22. Jim Furyk
23. Bud Cauley *TUESDAY WD* (Add Martin Laird to the Rankings)
24. Harold Varner III
25. Zach Johnson