The Masters never fails to get everyone excited for a summer of titanic golf, but just as fast as it comes around it goes and a month of uninspiring action takes centre stage again.
Well, with the Wells Fargo Championship this week, we really are hitting the front end of the golfing season.
In this month alone, we start in North Carolina before venturing to TPC Sawgrass for the ‘fifth major’ – THE PLAYERS Championship – and by the end of the month Wentworth will play host to the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW PGA Championship.
Before you know it it’s June and the US Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship are within touching distance.
And this week kicks off the anticipation with the best field since Augusta National with 12 of the world’s top 20 in action including Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.
That lofty trio will be joined by the likes of Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Masters-champ Patrick Reed, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods for his first outing since the year’s opening major.
It took a gutsy 28-foot birdie putt for Brian Harman to see off challenges from Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Pat Perez to win this event last year and he will be back for more this time around. So too will past winners James Hahn (2016), McIlroy (2015 and 2010), J.B. Holmes (2014), Derek Ernst (2013), Fowler (2012), Lucas Glover (2011), Sean O’Hair (2009), Woods (2007) and Vijay Singh (2005).
Fun fact: J.J. Henry and Rory Sabbatini are both making their 16th Wells Fargo start each; with 30 appearances at this event between them, they have never missed an outing.
The field alone not enough to excite you? Well the event itself should.
It’s one of the newest (only established in 2003), but one of the weightiest of tour. Outside of the majors, WGCs, FedExCup play-offs and THE PLAYERS it has the third biggest purse on tour. And its winners list includes Woods, McIlroy, Fowler, Furyk and Singh. Winning around Quail Hollow Club is no mean feat.
In fact the winning score usually sits in the low teens (we’ll just ignore the anomaly of McIlroy’s 21-under seven-stroke victory in 2015). And Quail Hollow was deemed enough of a challenge to host last year’s PGA Championship. That will be a big boost to the chances of Thomas who ran out winner by two shots, at eight-under, at that event.
If Thomas will take spirit from being the last winner at Quail Hollow, McIlroy will take perhaps more from being the holder of the course record 61 (2015) which broke his own record 62 (2010).
Due to its role as PGA Championship host, Quail Hollow took a Wells Fargo hiatus last year as the tournament moved to Eagle Point Golf Club. But back this year the course, infamous for its ‘Green Mile’ closing stretch that tests the players as well as anywhere else on tour, will be welcomed with open arms.Embed from Getty Images
The purse sits at $7.7million which is the second highest for a non-major or WGC in 2018 so far, but the FedExCup points sit at a standard 500 for the winner.
But, as exciting as this event is, it’s hard not to start looking forwards to the weeks and months of golf ahead.