Wells Fargo Championship Preview

Derek Ernst defends Wells Fargo Championship
Derek Ernst defends Wells Fargo Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The PGA Tour is in North Carolina this week for one of the most prestigious events on the schedule. Derek Ernst is defending champion of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.

Lowdown: The PGA Tour is in North Carolina this week for one of the most prestigious events on the schedule. Derek Ernst is defending champion of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.

A very impressive field has assembled for this big money event, with many of the top players aiming for a good week before next week’s Players Championship. Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler will all tee it up at Quail Hollow.

Founded by James J. Harris in 1959, Quail Hollow is a private member’s club, but it has been host to this tournament since 2003. There’s an illustrious list of winners in the event, formerly known as the Wachovia Championships. David Toms came out on top in 2003 and, since then, Joey Sindelar, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Tiger Woods, Anthony Kim, Sean O’Hair, Rory McIlroy, Lucas Glover and Rickie Fowler have been victorious.

Last season, Derek Ernst took the title. He came through a playoff against England’s David Lynn.

Ernst only made it into the tournament as the fourth alternate. He was in a car headed towards a Web.com Tour event when he received a phone call to say he had made it into the Quail Hollow field. He turned around, headed back to Charlotte and five days later he was the champion.

The course at Quail Hollow is one of the toughest visited by the PGA Tour each season. Last year the average score in the tournament was 73.043 – the second highest of any par 72 outside of the Majors. In fact, this course does play like a Major track and that’s not surprising. The George Cobb/Tom Fazio layout will play host to the PGA Championship of 2017.

The weather forecast for this week looks reasonably stable so, with luck, the tournament will be completed without any delays.

Venue: Quail Hollow Club, Charlotte, North Carolina Date: May 1-4 Course stats: par 71, 7,101 yards Purse: $6,900,000 Winner: $1,206,000 Defending Champion: Derek Ernst (-8)

Player Watch: Rickie Fowler – He may have missed the cut last week but he was sixth in Houston, tied fifth at the Masters and was champion in this event in 2012.

Jonas Blixt – Tied second at The Masters, Blixt will be looking to build on that to try and move closer to securing a place in Paul McGinley’s Ryder Cup squad.

Brian Harman – One that might just sneak in under the radar. He was tied 10th here last year and has four top-10s on this year’s PGA Tour including a tie for 7th in his last start at Harbour Town.

Key holes: 17th. A par-3 where the ball must be carried all the way to the green over water. There’s a new tee for this season that increases its maximum distance to 221 yards. When the pressure is on, this hole is bound to produce some drama.

Holes 16-18 here are known as “The Green Mile.” The 17th has been described above and the 16th has also been lengthened this year – now 508 yards. The 18th though is the pinnacle of the challenge. It’s one of the hardest finishing holes on the PGA Tour – a 478 yard par 4, uphill with a creek on the left and bunkers on the right.

Skills required: Playing the par-5s. It’s imperative here to make the most of the four par-5s on the course. It’s a tough layout  and there are few “gimmie” birdies out there. The winner will play the long holes well and pick up some shots. To do that they will have to drive the ball well.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?