Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, NC has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship every year since the event started, in 2003. While the field represents a drop-off from The Players, somewhat obviously, this track still attracts some of the best players in the game, so you have plenty of top-end options for your rosters. This is just a look at some of the factors to consider on this course, on this weekend, as you piece together your lineup – including how those kinds of changes to the field can impact your choices.
With a tournament like this one, that is able to attract some of the best players in the game, but not many, the choices you are presented with in building your lineups become very clearly delineated. Essentially, everyone becomes more expensive in this situation – top end guys who might have cost you twelve-thousand and change last weekend now cost you $14,000 (Rory McIlroy), and guys you could get for mid-level prices all of sudden cost almost five figures. It’s the second piece of that equation that makes decision-making harder. You are used to knowing getting those top players onto your roster requires a real sacrifice elsewhere, but sacrificing cap space down the line in order to get less obvious talents (like Bill Haas for $9,700) is harder to stomach. When you are going to impact future decisions for a guy, you want him to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside – you want to feel like you are getting a sure thing. This is going to push you in one of two directions – either spending a bigger % of your cap on a single player in order to get those warm and fuzzies with McIlroy or the like, or the opposite, forgoing all top options in favor of a more balanced lineup that doesn’t require any real sacrifice at the back end.
No matter which of these approaches you use, you can be successful if you choose wisely, so what does a player need to do well to conquer Quail Hollow? The course is an interesting mix of holes that can yield birdies, and a bunch of holes that average over-par scoring for pros. Last year’s winner J.B. Holmes bogeyed nine times, and that was among the lowest totals of the weekend. To make up for those holes, though, players will need to capitalize on the opportunities they do have, and that comes mainly on the par-5’s. A couple of places to look if you want a couple of stats to back up your decision-making, therefore, would be driving distance and, even more appropriately, par-5 scoring. Those figures will enable you to feel good about some choices you might already like, like a Phil Mickelson, who has had a ton of success here, or a Justin Thomas, who is having a ton of success lately.
Another issue to consider with this course are the putting surfaces. These greens are well-known for having a lot of movement – changes in elevation, and wide breaks. For that reason, they are usually kept slow, which will be especially true if they run into some weather over the weekend, as predicted. While you would think this might improve the putting percentages for almost all players, it’s one thing to mean you leave your first putt close, and another to mean you drain it from 10+ feet consistently. The players who are able to take advantage of this to create birdie opportunities where they might not exist on another course will reap the rewards, so you could look at something simple like one-putt %, or just call it another opportunity to take advantage of my new favorite stat, Strokes Gained, Putting.
But as always, whatever method you use to build your lineups, whatever quality you emphasize, you can make it work if you choose wisely, so good luck.