Quail Hollow is the venue for the 2014 edition of the Wells Fargo once again - and a stellar field will tee it up on Thursday morning. Last year we saw numerous big name drop outs pre event as the greens at Quail were in poor condition and more than a handful of pros decided it wasn't ideal preparation for the surfaces and test they would face the following week at Sawgrass.
Marquee names are back in force this week though and Rory McIlroy - winner in 2010 - headlines the field at 8.50. There is a key trend at Quail Hollow and it's one of driving ability, so it's no coincidence that Rory thrives here. Same can be said for Lee Westwood - 17.00 - who has standout course form and his confidence is high, fresh off a return to the winners enclosure. Little known (to the masses) Derek Ernst - 501.00 - will defend and I made a tweet on Monday referencing the fact he tops the total driving stat in 2014.
The course - Quail Hollow
Playing in excess of 7,500 yards, Quail Hollow boasts some of the more difficult fairways to hit on tour. Premium is very much on total driving ability as well as scrambling / three putt / bogey avoidance on and around large green surfaces which have now been torn up and replaced with Bermuda grass. Rivalling the "Bear Trap" for the toughest three hole stretch in golf is the "Green Mile" which incorporates holes 16,17 and 18 - a triumvirate of holes where par is a great score over the four days. Charlotte, North Carolina is the location and there will be a home based theme around my selections this week. Indeed, Quail Hollow is a solid all round test of golf.
Three from the pack
Huge priced Jonas Blixt - 51.00 - was put up on Unibet for the Shell Houston predominantly for his driving ability, an ability which isn't portrayed in the stats, and it was a case of premature tipulation - sadly a phrase I can not coin as my own - as he turned on the jet engines just one week later at The Masters. This will be his first outing since the T2 at Augusta and with confidence sky high, he must be chomping at the bit to get back out there. I'm a little surprised by the general quote on a track where the multiple winner owns a top 10 in 2012. The Swede ranks 24th in scrambling and 29th in three-putt avoidance.
Jason Kokrak is a resident of Charlotte, NC and there were a few unhappy people on Twitter last week after his withdrawal from the Zurich Classic. Many, including myself, fancied him to overpower the TPC of Louisiana and were surprised he pulled out of that event. Kokrak has some hidden form at Quail though where he opened with a 68 in 2013 and stood just one shot off the eventual two playoff competitors, and 3 off the 72 hole winning total after 54 holes. The power hitter ranks 7th in total driving but also an eye catching 16th in the all round and went close at the tough Bay Hill. Don't rule him out around this track at 67.00 or 14.00 the place.
Next up is another of the North Carolina guys: Chesson Tyler Hadley was born in Raleigh, NC, and the two time 2013 webdotcom winner, and money leader is going to be a character on the PGA Tour. Already victorious on the main circuit with his famous 'finger snap', the lanky string bean has been simmering form wise with only poor final rounds at the Valero and API upsetting the figures. Hadley is available at 81.00 or 17.00 the place.
Quick mention for two more guys with Carolina ties and Wells Fargo winner and Clemson University alum Lucas Glover - who has a self-confessed affinity with Quail Hollow - is often a must back for me at a price round here. One of the best and most consistent drivers of the ball for years, Lucas' game is perfect for the track. Ben Martin's coach is none other than the head instructor at Quail Hollow. Martin was up there practising and tweaking his swing just a few weeks ago and hit top form with a third place at Hilton Head. Another Clemson University (in South Carolina) boy, Martin then went on to shoot the lights out with a course record round 1 in Zurich and looks an option at 71.00 or 15.00.