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Fantasy Preview: 2018 Wells Fargo Championship

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Having moved to Eagle Point GC for the 2017 edition, the Wells Fargo Championship returns once more to the familiar Quail Hollow Club. The switch was due to Quail Hollow hosting the 2017 PGA Championship, and its ability to host a Major Championship tells you all you need to know about the difficulty of the course.

At over 7,500 yards, the course is very challenging. As you can imagine, those who possess great length off the tee will have a significant advantage over the shorter hitters this week. Along with distance off the tee, accuracy with long irons will be vital this week. At the PGA Championship last year, Justin Thomas claimed his maiden major, while James Hahn emerged victorious in 2016 at the Wells Fargo. In both of these events, single-digits under par was enough to prevail.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rory Mcilroy 8/1
  • Justin Thomas 10/1
  • Rickie Fowler 10/1
  • Jason Day 20/1
  • Patrick Reed 20/1
  • Hideki Mastuyama 22/1
  • Phil Mickelson 25/1

Despite a loaded field this week, Rory McIlroy (8/1, DK Price $11,800) jumps out from the card. His affinity with Quail Hollow is not quite at the level of Tiger Woods and his favorite courses, but it’s still mightily impressive. McIlroy has two wins and four other top-10 finishes at this championship in his seven appearances here.

It will be McIlroy’s first appearance since he struggled on Sunday at the Masters and let slip another opportunity to complete the Grand Slam… but already the signs are there that this year his game is in far better shape than it has been over the last two years. His win at Bay Hill and his week in contention at Augusta should serve him well this week at a course he can dominate.

With performance off the tee this week being so important on a long golf course such as this, McIlroy will be more confident than anyone in the field at producing his best in this department. At four of the last five Wells Fargo Championships he’s played, McIlroy has led the field in Strokes Gained-Off the Tee — sometimes by inordinate numbers, too. His Strokes Gained-Total on the course in this event is spectacular. McIlroy leads the field in Strokes Gained-Total here, and he has gained more than double the amount of Strokes Gained-Total than that of third-place Robert Streb despite only playing in four of the last five tournaments.

One item in the bag that has stifled McIlroy repeatedly in the past is also behaving itself recently, too. The Irishman’s putting has been rock solid lately. In his last 12 rounds, he ranks 10th in Strokes Gained-Putting. On a course that fits his eye more than any other on Tour, there is nothing to suggest McIlroy won’t be right in the thick of it come Sunday afternoon.

Another man who has performed well at Quail Hollow in the past is Webb Simpson (40/1, DK Price $8,400). It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise either, since Simpson is a member of the course. The U.S. Open Champion has finished in the top-5 at this event twice in his last five visits. Simpson has also been enjoying a great stretch of form. In his eight stroke-play tournaments, he has managed to finish in the top-10 on four occasions.

Performance on the greens has never been a strong point of Simpson’s game, but this season has been a revelation in that regard. Simpson has only failed to post a positive Strokes Gained-Putting statistic in one event so far this season. He ranks fourth in Strokes Gained-Putting and 2nd in Strokes Gained-Short Game over his last 24 rounds in this field.

Simpson ranks 14th in Strokes Gained-Total at Quail Hollow over the past five years and 12th for Strokes Gained-Total in this field over his previous 12 rounds. With his game in excellent shape, good course form and local knowledge to lean on — and now armed with a hot putter — Simpson looks good to have another good week at his home course.

It often surprises people when they hear it, but Bryson DeChambeau (50/1, DK Price $8,000) is one of the best players in the world off the tee. DeChambeau is ranked 13th in Total Driving for the season, and recently his iron play has been superb. Over the past 12 rounds, DeChambeau leads the field this week in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green.

Over his last six events, DeChambeau has three top-5 finishes to his name. He will be looking to re-enter the winner’s circle again soon while his game is in such good shape. Over his last 24 rounds, DeChambeau ranks fifth in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and sixth in Strokes Gained Total. All of this has brought a lot of joy to DraftKings players who have been using him in this stretch, as DeChambeau sits third in DraftKings points earned in the same period.

DeChambeau finished T-33 on this course at the PGA Championship last year, and he has the ideal combination of power and strategic nous to improve on that this week. He looks slightly undervalued, and there’s no reason for DraftKings players to desert the Californian at this juncture.

Recommended Plays

  • Rory Mcilroy 8/1, DK Price $11,800
  • Webb Simpson 40/1, DK Price $8,400
  • Bryson DeChambeau 50/1, DK Price  $8,000
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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