Sports Betting Weekly


When: Thursday, 14 May 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: Quail Hollow Club
Having witnessed wins of the USPGA Tour this season for dynamic up-and-comers like Jordan Spieth, well-established pros like Justin Rose and supposedly fading stars like Rickie Fowler, there can be no denying that the 2015 campaign has hit full swing in recent months – and the 13th instalment of the Wells Fargo Championship this week promises to be every bit as enthralling.

The event takes place at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina on a course first designed by George Cobb in 1961. The venue underwent extensive renovation by Tom Fazio long before the inaugural event took place in 2003, and there were also a number of further changes made to prepare the course for the USPGA Championship, which will take place at Quail Hollow in 2017.

The various alterations have resulted in the 8th hole being straightened and reduced to 343 yards, while the 16th and 17th holes – part of the course’s infamous ‘Green Mile’ – have both been lengthened, with water being brought into play on the former. Already reckoned to be two of the three most difficult holes at Quail Hollow, the changes should play further havoc for the Green Mile’s stroke average, but there is some consolation for players in the form of aggressive trimming.

Before the start of last season, a number of trees were removed to allow more light through to the greens and this has significantly decreased the need for accuracy off the tee. Instead, driving distance has become an even more important factor than it already was – which is saying something given Lucas Glover is the only previous winner in the last six to rank outside the top 13 for that stat.

In contrast to Glover, defending champion JB Holmes is famed for his wayward bombing off the tee – ranking just 53rd for driving accuracy last year – but his inability to hit the fairways had little impact on his tournament, as he was able to easily play to the green from the rough. Holmes’ performance last time out also highlights the importance of secondary stats like Greens In Regulation (GIR) and scrambling at Quail Hollow, but generally you’ll want to side almost exclusively with big hitters here.

Two final considerations to make when picking a winner at Quail Hollow are players’ performance at the Shell Houston Open and their general standing in the World Golf Rankings. Over the years, Vijay Singh, Anthony Kim and Holmes have all won both the Wells Fargo Championship and the Shell Houston Open, while Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and D.A. Points have all come mighty close as well. Similarly, the event has always favoured elite golfers, with Jim Furyk, Rory McIlory and Lucas Glover all having won majors before tasting success in North Carolina, so stick to the favourites in this one.


Unsurprisingly given our build-up, it is the big names who dominate the outright winners’ market for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship – and currently it’s McIlroy who sits top of the pile at short odds of 7/2. The world #1 is very much suited to this venue and will fancy his chances of becoming the first man to win the title on two occasions, but it is worth noting that the Irishman’s putting has generally let him down at the event over the years and such a price may offer little-to-no value here.

At last year’s tournament, McIlory went off at prices of 8/1 and was hampered by distinctly average putting as he finished 8th, but 12 months prior to that he was well in contention before missing countless chances on poorly conditioned greens. McIlory finished 10th that year, and given he goes into this year’s renewal having ranked 48th, 24th and 48th for putting in his last three stroke play events, you may want to exercise a degree even though he is widely considered a very solid pick.

Similarly, prices of 20/1 on Henrik Stenson also look wide of the mark given the Swede’s poor track record at the event and generally indifferent form of late. True, Stenson has suffered with illness in recent weeks and we can forgive him a few less than stellar performances, but he has played the event four times and only made the weekend once (finishing 69th in 2007), missing the cut entirely in three consecutive years between 2011 and 2013 and generally struggling to find his best form here.

Also available at odds of 20/1 is another man looking to land his second Wells Fargo Championship, Furyk. The American had a rather limp finish in the Players Championship last time out, but prior to that he’d looked in great shape – reaching the semi-finals of the WGC Match Play and defeating Kevin Kisner in a play-off at RBC Heritage. Furyk also loves the course and has strong form in all the right stats here, so of the top three favourites, he is perhaps the man to back going into the event.

Below that trio sits Hideki Matsuyama at odds of 25/1 – and given the season he’s had so far, he’ll have plenty of backers in North Carolina. The Japanese golfer has finished inside the top 10 in half of the 14 events he’s played on the tour this season and has solid rankings for par-4 and par-5 performance (2nd and 23rd respectively), which will again be important here. Concerns over the 23-year-old’s putting remain, but a solid showing at Sawgrass suggests he’s now found some rhythm.

Rounding out the top five at identical odds of 25/1 is Mickelson who, having finished inside the top 10 in seven of his 11 starts at Quail Hollow, will be absolutely desperate to add the title to his C.V. A former Shell Houston Open winner, Mickelson really should have won this event two years ago, but made a complete hash of things on the final day. Nevertheless, the veteran pro rates Quail Hollow as one of his favourite courses and has the record to suggest a maiden win is just around the corner.


As mentioned above, venturing too far down the outright winners’ list and backing a rank outsider at Quail Hollow isn’t advisable, but there are several options in the mid-price bracket that may warrant a second look. First up in that category is defending champ Holmes, who goes off at prices of 33/1 ahead of this year’s event. The 33-year-old Kentuckian has fared reasonably well since winning the Shell and also tends to perform strongly at events where he has already previously been successful.

True, the historic lack of a two-time champion at Quail Hollow – let alone a back-to-back winner– will count against him here, but having won the Phoenix Open in both 2006 and 2008 and featured in two play-offs in Houston, it seems that once Holmes gets to grips with a course, he doesn’t let it go easily. As such, his odds look reasonably juiced ahead of this year’s Wells Fargo Championship and providing his putting is on-song in opening round, he looks worthy of at least an each-way punt.

Trading behind Holmes at odds of 40/1 apiece are Kisner and Patrick Reed, and both merit our attention on the grounds that recent events seem to have artificially inflated their prices. Kisner, of course, finished runner-up at the Players Championship last time out, but there was no question of the 31-year-old pro bottling the play-off with Fowler; he simply came up against an opponent who was that little bit better on the day and his performance still puts him in fine fettle for Quail Hollow.

Having finished sixth at the tournament last year and recorded two second-place finishes in his last three events, there can be no denying that Kisner has the perfect mix of underlying stats and recent form to mount a serious challenge this weekend – and it is hard not to draw the conclusion that were he a more familiar name among tour punters, his odds would be significantly shorter here.

Like Kisner, Reed is another player who seems to have benefitted from flying slightly under the radar this season, despite his otherwise formidable record on the UPSGA Tour. The 24-year-old pro is already a four-time title winner and came incredibly close to make it five at this year’s Valspar Championship, where he was pipped to the post by Spieth. Going off at identical prices at this year’s Masters, Reed was never truly in contention but still finished a respectable T22 and his ranking for par-4 and par-5 performance plus strokes gained tee-to-green bodes well for him in North Carolina.

One final player worthy of consideration ahead of this year’s Wells Fargo Championship is Ryan Moore, who is also available at starting prices of 40/1. Moore missed the cut at the Players Championship last time out, but don’t let that detract from the fact that he has had another solid year on the tour, with three top 20 finishes in recent months. The American pro has also finished inside the top six on his last two visits to Quail Hollow and has the type of short game to suggest that if he can get the requisite distance off the tee, he’ll easily be able to make up the shots elsewhere.