The Wells Fargo Championship has a history of producing young winners like Anthony Kim (2008), Rory McIlroy (2010), Rickie Fowler (2012) and Derek Ernst (2013). At over 7,500 yards, Quail Hollow typically favors those who can hit the driver the longest and straightest (often the younger, more fit players)—but a deeper dive unveils another key statistic to winning the PGA Tour’s Charlotte stop.
Dating to McIlroy’s victory in 2010, three of the last five winners have led the field in average distance of putts made on the way to victory. Last year, J.B. Holmes ranked T4 in total putts, fifth in putts per GIR and fourth in strokes gained/putting en route to a one-stroke victory over Jim Furyk and his first PGA Tour win since undergoing brain surgery four years ago. And while Holmes' putting during last year’s final round wasn’t exactly stellar, he did sink an eight-footer for par on the 71st hole that preserved a two-shot lead and helped clinch the win. Holmes needed 30 putts during the final round, but only 26, 24 and 23, respectively, for the first three.
So with putting statistics as our anchor, here are this week’s picks. Also included are odds from GolfOdds.com and a look at each player’s putter.
Kevin Kisner 30/1
Kisner’s T2 finish at the Players Championship has him at the forefront of our minds, especially after the clutch 14-footer he made for birdie on 17 that eventually got him into the playoff. The 31-year-old former Georgia Bulldog finished third in average distance of putts made at TPC Sawgrass, and he notched a T6 at Wells Fargo last year, even after a disappointing final-round 73. With two playoff losses in his last three events (the first at the hands of Furyk at the RBC Heritage), Kisner is primed for a breakthrough victory if his putter stays hot.
Kisner is putting with an Odyssey White Hot Pro #7.
Justin Thomas 40/1
If you only first heard the name Justin Thomas during the Players, you haven’t been paying attention. Thomas has four top-10s this season and was closing in on another last week in Ponte Vedra until a final-round 75 left him T24. During the Players, Thomas led the field in putts per GIR and was 12th in average distance of putts made. For the season he’s ninth in putting average and 13th in one-putt percentage. Also helping the cause are Thomas’ driving numbers: fourth in distance and T4 in total driving, which combines distance and accuracy. Long and straight is always an advantage, but as Holmes showed last year, that combo is particularly beneficial at Quail Hollow.
Thomas is putting with a custom Scotty Cameron Timeless.
Rory McIlroy 3/1
McIlroy’s resume at Quail Hollow is undeniable: four top-10s in five tries, including a win in 2010 and a playoff loss to Rickie Fowler in 2012. McIlroy’s overall putting numbers aren’t shockingly impressive, but he’s proven that even when the rest of his game is mediocre, he can ride a hot putter to victory as he did at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. The 26-year-old also leads the tour in total driving and is coming off a T8 at TPC Sawgrass. Other than a missed cut at the Honda Classic, Rory hasn’t finished worse than T11 (Arnold Palmer Invitational) in six starts on the PGA Tour this season.
McIlroy is putting with a Nike Method 006, the same putter he used for British Open and PGA Championship wins last season.
Check back Monday to see how our picks fared, and which club(s) played the biggest role in determining a champion.