Rickie Fowler took the headlines at Sawgrass last week and his extra-time win was good news for Seamus Clerkin. He led our Fantasy Golf game for the week with 228 points as his ‘RoundtheRimandIn’ team included Fowler, runner-up Sergio Garcia and early pacesetter Kevin Na.
Victory at the Players Championship was Fowler’s second on the PGA Tour with his first coming back in 2012 at this week’s event, the Wells Fargo Championship. That success also required a play-off with the Floridian beating Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points at the first extra hole to claim the Quail Hollow crown.
The North Carolina layout has seen plenty of changes from George Cobb’s original design with Tom Fazio amongst those to give it major pedigree – it will host the 2017 US PGA and 2021 Presidents Cup. The greens were revamped last year to wide acclaim while the closing three holes (the ‘Green Mile’) sees it rank as one of the toughest tracks on the calendar. The cream often rises to the top here with Fowler, McIlroy, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods all winning since the first staging in 2003.
At 7,562 yards, this par 72 would seem to suit those who open their shoulders with last year’s winner JB Holmes leading the field in driving distance but finishing 53rd for driving accuracy. However, the ‘short but straight’ Furyk finished behind him proving there is more than one way to win. Where these two shared excellence was in the short game stats. Holmes was fourth in strokes gained-putting and sixth in scrambling for the week. Those categories were led respectively by Kevin Kisner – who finished sixth – and Furyk.
McIlroy and Furyk are joined by Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson as this week’s headline acts and here’s who I’m backing to star…
Rory McIlroy, £7.5m
Blamed the greens after finishing eighth at the Players last week but clearly likes the putting surfaces at Quail Hollow. Four top-10s in five starts here, including a win in 2010 when he shot a closing course-record 62.
Phil Mickelson, £3.0m
‘Lefty’ got the backing of John Daly this week who said the five-time major champ ‘isn’t done yet’. Usual mix of brilliance and disappointment so far this term but his missed cut at Sawgrass can be overlooked as he rarely goes well there. Quail Hollow is a different story, though and he’ll be desperate to win this for the first time. Record is awesome with seven top-10s and no missed cuts from 11 starts.
Webb Simpson, £2.0m
The sole survivor from last week’s Players line-up. Got off to a good start at Sawgrass before two poor rounds. Has still only missed one cut all season, ranks highly in scrambling and par five scoring and lives just a mile from the clubhouse. Held the lead going into the final round here in 2012.
Jason Kokrak, £0.9m
Missed cut at the Players but had recorded four top-20s in his five starts before that. Another Charlotte resident who should enjoy home comforts with his length off the tee (11th on PGA Tour) and low scoring average. Was 23rd here last year.
Kevin Kisner, £0.7m
Knocking on the door. Two of his last three starts have yielded runner-up finishes with 10 of his last 12 rounds in the 60s. Sixth here last year.
Lucas Glover, £0.5m
Small price for a former champion. The 2009 US Open winner claimed this title two years later and will be looking to build on a closing 66 at the Zurich Classic in his last appearance. Long game is good (fourth in greens in regulation this season) and he can contend again if the putter fires.