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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wells Fargo Championship - Preview

Normally when I do a tournament preview, I go back and take a look at the previous year's preview to see if there is something that proved particularly accurate or inaccurate. While I've always started from scratch on all previews for the 2013 tournament, this year I'm going to copy a large chunk of last year's because it remains relevant.

Here's a large portion of last year's entry:

The Wells Fargo Championship is a tournament that is relatively new on TOUR, but has gained a reputation as a favorite among the top players in the world. When you look at the past winners and runner ups, you can see why. It produces major-championship caliber champions.

The Quail Hollow Club staged the first edition of this event in 2003, and here are the winners / runners up:
  • 2003 - David Toms (winner), Vijay Singh, Robert Gamez and Brent Geiberger (runners up)\
  • 2004 - Joey Sindelar (winner), Arron Oberholser (runner up)
  • 2005 - Vijay Singh (winner), Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia (runners up)
  • 2006 - Jim Furyk (winner), Trevor Immelman (runner up)
  • 2007 - Tiger Woods (winner), Steve Stricker (runner up)
  • 2008-  Anthony Kim (winner), Ben Curtis (runner up)
  • 2009 - Sean O'Hair (winner), Lucas Glover and Bubba Watson (runners up)
  • 2010 - Rory McIlroy (winner), Phil Mickelson (runner up)
  • 2011 - Lucas Glover (winner - playoff), Jonathan Byrd (runner up)
Wow. That's a high octane list of players. Also notice that this tournament identifies guys that are about to win majors. Immelman was runner-up in 2006 and then won the 2008 Masters. Glover finished runner up in 2009 just weeks before he won the U.S. Open at Bethpage. McIlroy won in 2010 and then won the 2011 U.S. Open. Watson was runner up in 2009 and won this year's Masters. Anybody want to buy some stock in J-Byrd at Olympic?

Knowing this, when you are looking at your fantasy options headed into the week, ask yourself these questions.
  • Has this guy won a U.S. Open or a Masters?
  • Could I see this guy winning a U.S. Open or a Masters?
It suits itself for U.S. Open / Masters combo in that it's a long course that requires some total driving skills, but you have to make birdies and get up and down. There are two par-4s that are basically drivable, or close to it, and the par-5s can be scored. So, like the Masters, you are going to see birdies. Like a U.S. Open, you can get in real trouble if are just a little bit off. You are also going to have to make some eight foot par putts.

So what's different about this year?

There are reports out there that Quail Hollow had to replace two greens within the last week. The par-4 eighth and the par-5 10th are what I'm hearing. If the greens are inconsistent, that may actually hurt the better putters and favor the ball strikers.

Another thing about Quail Hollow, the fairways are tough to hit and many of the holes require a good bit of length. Knowing that, it's not a surprise to see Rory McIlroy regularly in the mix here. He lost in a playoff (along with D.A. Points) to Rickie Fowler last season. Long and accurate tee shots allow a player to be aggressive.

The elephant in the room this week will be McIlroy. Given his win in 2010 and playoff loss last year, this is the perfect spot for him to pick up his first victory of 2013. I would be more comfortable with him if he had played the week before, but he really never has for this tournament.

We will take a hard look at the field and come back with power rankings tomorrow. Best of luck with your research!

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