2023 Wells Fargo Championship Picks, Odds: Rickie Fowler, Viktor Hovland, More Bets
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images. Pictured: Viktor Hovland.
The first time I ever covered a PGA Tour event at the Quail Hollow Club, I remarked to a colleague just how impressive it was in person, from course to clubhouse and everything in between.
“If Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones had looked a few hours further north,” he replied, “this could’ve turned into what Augusta National has become.”
I’ll save us from the honesty vs. hyperbole debate here and simply stick with this focus: While Quail Hollow might not be the most special place, it’s still pretty damn special.
That first journey covering the Wells Fargo Championship was a long time ago and maybe there’s some nostalgic reason I woke up thinking about older versions of this event. Specifically, the 2010 edition was front of mind – and while we’re on the subject of professional golf receiving the Netflix treatment, that one could use its own series.
In just his second start after a self-exile following his very public “private” scandal, Tiger Woods shot 74-79 to miss a cut for just the sixth time in his entire career. It wasn’t just that he played poorly, though. It was the first time we’d ever seen him completely disengaged, walking 100 yards ahead of his playing partners on Friday in hopes he could extricate himself from the property even quicker. For a man who’s forged a reputation for never giving up, it was the one time he actually did, despite what he insisted afterward.
Billy Mayfair held the 54-hole lead that week, which would’ve been a forgettable detail – for me, at least – if not for one of the stories he told, which had some betting implications. It was somehow revealed that Mayfair held the lowest handicap at Whisper Rock, a club overflowing with tour pros. That meant he’d been having to give Phil Mickelson a stroke per side in their home matches, despite the significant fact that Lefty had just won his third Masters title a few weeks earlier.
Speaking of Mickelson, he trailed by two strokes entering Sunday, posted a final-round 68 and lost by four. (More on that next.) But the lasting memory of him from that week was this diatribe, one rarely offered publicly, especially when a player is in contention: “For as beautifully designed as this golf course is tee to green, the greens are by far the worst-designed greens we play on Tour. Even though they’re in immaculate shape, I would say that 18 would be the worst green that we have on Tour, except that it’s not even the worst on this golf course. Twelve is.”
And then there was the winner – some kid named Rory McIlroy, who was just a few days shy of his 21st birthday. Entering the week, he owned odds of 50-1, but those must’ve ballooned in the live market after a few days. He needed a late-round eagle just to make the cut on the number Friday, then posted a third-round 66 and closed with a 62 to introduce himself to the American audience as a PGA Tour champion for the first time.
We can only hope for half as much drama at this week’s Wells Fargo, which has an elevated designation, if not a fully elevated field, as Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler, the top-two players in the world, are among those who have elected to skip this one.
Even so, there will be plenty of star power at Quail Hollow – and some intriguing trends, too. One week after Tony Finau turned his long streak of solid performances into a big-time result, a few other players are seeking the same type of so-called “positive regression” here.
Let’s dive right in.
Click arrow to expand 2023 Wells Fargo Championship odds via BetMGM
|Si Woo Kim||+8000|
|Byeong Hun An||+12500|
|Erik van Rooyen||+27500|
|W. Mack III||+100000|
2023 Wells Fargo Championship Picks
Outright Winner (short odds)
One player to win the tournament
Viktor Hovland (+2100)
There’s an all-too-simplistic formula here: Quail Hollow offers one of the stoutest tee-to-green tests that we’ll see all year, and Hovland has passed all previous tee-to-green tests with flying colors. He’s gained strokes off the tee in every start of 2023 and gained strokes with his irons in all but one. (And that one was the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which doesn’t measure every round, so he very well might’ve done it there, too.)
If there’s been a recurring, “Yeah, but…” to Hovland’s game, it’s his wedge play around the greens – and with full disclosure, I’ve been as critical about this part of his performance as anyone. (OK, it’s not so much critical as bewildered. I can’t remember a time when a top-10 player had such a glaring weakness in his game.)
Last season, Hovland ranked 191st out of 193 players in strokes gained around the greens. This season, he’s climbed to 168th, which might not sound like such a momentous move, but he’s losing 0.414 strokes per round less than he did a season ago – or in layman’s terms, he’s been about a half-stroke better each day.
For a guy who’s already world-class in every other aspect of the game, just inching closer to field average is a massive improvement that’s paying off to the tune of three top-10s in his last five starts.
Even so, it feels like bigger things are on the impending horizon for the Norwegian and it would stand to reason they could take place this week, on a course where he finished T3 two years ago. I’m worried this number will continue dropping as we move toward Thursday’s opening round, so get in early and take full advantage. (Note: Hovland was 25-1 when I filed on Monday morning, and he’s already down to 21-1.)
Pick: Viktor Hovland +2100
What is QuickSlip?
QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Outright Winner (Long odds)
One player to win the tournament
Rickie Fowler (+4000)
This is the spot. This is the one you’ve been waiting for, the week when Rickie’s resurgence is really going to pay off.
I usually reserve this category for a player who’s 50-1 or longer, but I couldn’t leave him out of my first two plays of the week. Either you’ve bet Fowler in some form this year or you’ve contemplated betting him. And for the most part, other than outrights, he’s provided a pretty decent ROI. He hasn’t missed a cut in his last 11 starts, a six-month period that’s included three top-10s and eight top-25s.
But much like with Finau last week, there’s reason to believe Fowler’s performance has outweighed those results. He’s gained strokes overall in each of his last 10 stroke-play starts and gained strokes on approach shots in his last 12. Now, he returns to the site of his first career PGA Tour victory back in 2012, plus three other top-10s, which doesn’t even include a T5 finish in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow five years ago.
There are plenty of reasons to like Fowler on a regular basis these days, but there isn’t a better spot for him to come full circle than this event, where he once won an electric, eclectic playoff against McIlroy and D.A. Points.
Pick: Rickie Fowler +4100
Potential selections for one-and-done pools
Rory McIlroy (+800)
I’m gonna start out this one with a little caveat emptor: Don’t blindly lock in McIlroy at the beginning of the week. This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it situation.
Four weeks ago, Rory appeared frustrated to the point of delirium at Augusta National, chuckling to himself after bogeys, perhaps to keep from crying on his way to a missed cut. If that was the initial sign of some sort of mental exasperation at the event he’s always most wanted to win, the next sign came a few days later, when he decided to withdraw from the RBC Heritage, essentially forfeiting a potential $3 million in PIP money based on the decision. We haven’t seen nor heard from McIlroy publicly since then and I wouldn’t touch him in any format until we do.
On my SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio show “Hitting the Green,” we do a segment every Wednesday called “Press Conference Interpretations,” during which we dissect what players really think about their own prospects that week. I’m really looking forward to parsing through McIlroy’s interview session with the media, trying to gauge whether he’s actually refreshed and ready to win again or just paying lip service to the idea.
If indeed it’s the former and we hear some optimism in his voice, well, there are plenty of reasons to back him in OADs and other formats. He’s won this event twice and owns a mind-boggling eight top-10s in 10 starts at Quail Hollow. And with both Rahm and Scheffler sitting this one out, he becomes the default favorite.
The ceiling, as a man who’s spent some time in North Carolina once famously explained, is the roof. Just take your time and do your due diligence before locking him in.
Sungjae Im (+2500)
Even though he’s been playing some world-class golf lately, a play on Sungjae might be two weeks too early, if you catch my unsubtle drift. The last time he played an individual round on this golf course, he posted a second-round 82 on his way to trunk-slamming two years ago, but he was impressive in a losing effort for the International team at last year’s Presidents Cup, posting a 2-2-1 record while defeating Cameron Young in Sunday’s singles match.
With nothing outside of 21st in his last five starts, I have a hard time believing there will be anything close to an 82 this week. Again, though, he might be even more valuable a few weeks from now.
Sahith Theegala (+4500)
Sort of the same deal for Theegala, who I’ve targeted for next month’s Memorial Tournament. (Hey, can you tell I’ve started scripting my OAD plays for the summer?)
Understandably, he’s gone from totally undervalued to perhaps a bit overpriced, though I’m certainly not hopping off the bandwagon anytime soon.
If there was a reason to avoid him this week – other than his price – it might be his driving stats, as he ranks a meager 126th in strokes gained off the tee. Look deeper, though, and you’ll find that he’s gained in this category in each of his last half-dozen starts and eight of his last nine.
I can see not wanting to chase this number, but if you still want some investment, then OAD might be the way to go.
Keith Mitchell (+6000)
Oh, fine. I’ll just list all of my usual faves in the same section.
Two years ago, he finished T3 at Quail, based largely on a driving performance that ranked second in the field. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, either. Mitchell is enjoying another brilliant season off the tee. He doesn’t just rank first in total driving; he ranks first by a good measure.
The official statistic is easy to discern – it simply adds a player’s rank in driving distance and his rank in driving accuracy. At 16th in the former and 21st in the latter, his total number is 37. For comparison’s sake, only Patrick Cantlay and Scottie Scheffler also have total driving numbers below 70.
Like with Theegala, I don’t love the outright number here, but I do love the player and the fit so I’ll want him in some platforms.
One player to finish top-five
Cameron Young (+500 for top-five)
Since joining the PGA Tour just over 1 1/2 years ago, Young has played 38 events around the world. He’s finished in the top five in 10 of those starts – and yes, just for good measure they’ve all been inside the top three. I’m still not sure the world (outside diehard golf bettors, of course) quite realizes just how impressive and talented he really is, as if a 26.3 top-three percentage is just some fool’s gold without a win.
That first “W” is coming, though, and a place that requires length and accuracy off the tee is as good a candidate as any. I’ll play him for a top-five here just because I like Hovland a little better in the outright markets, but I’ll have plenty of confidence using Young in DFS, OADs and aggressive props such as this one, which he keeps cashing over and over.
One player to finish top-10
Jason Day (+260 for top-10)
My condolences to the large number of bettors who were on Day at the Masters, as he posted ascending scores of 67-72-74-80, entering the final round inside the top 10, only to finish in a share of 39th. He hasn’t played since then and deserved the break, considering he had seven straight top-20 results to start the year before that.
I think a little recency bias – even if the Masters wasn’t all that recent anymore – will keep the masses from betting him again this week, but he makes as much sense here as just about anywhere, with two top-10s (including a win in 2018) in five starts, plus a T7 result at the 2017 PGA Championship.
One player to finish top-20
Cam Davis (+400 for top-20)
As I’ve written previously, Davis was one of the players I was most bullish on entering this year, but a lengthy illness prevented him from playing his best golf for a few months, as he posted five MCs in a row. That changed dramatically with a T6 at The Players and since then, he’s gone 17th-MC-7th in three subsequent starts.
Now trending in the right direction once again, I love Davis for yet another top-20 – and don’t mind a small sprinkling on a big 130-1 number outright.
One player to finish top-30
A native of North Carolina, the two-time PGA Tour winner might not be the model of consistency with four MCs in 11 starts this year. When he plays well, though, he plays pretty well, as five of those made cuts are top-30s. That’s a solid percentage, and he did finish top-30 in his most recent of three appearances at Quail, as well.
One player to finish top-40
Following a week in which he finished T10 in Mexico, Bramlett’s strong tee-to-green game should again suit him well at this one. Last week, he ranked fifth in strokes gained in this category, which has always been a strength. With top-40 results in four of his last eight starts, this number feels more than palatable.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
I’ve always believed that JT – much like Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka – plays his best golf when he’s mad. He tends to excel when he has a chip on his shoulder or when he’s trying to prove people wrong, which is maybe something he’s gleaned from his buddy Tiger Woods over the years.
What we’ve noticed from Thomas lately, though, is more frustration than anger. It goes beyond that, really: There’s some undying dissatisfaction that continues to linger, even though he’s won a pair of major championships and has established himself as one of the game’s best players.
It can be argued that perhaps this is what makes the best players even better, this ability to never become complacent with their own success. However, it also feels like “playing mad” has morphed into “playing frustrated” for JT, a fine line on which he’d rather be on the right side.
After a missed cut at the Masters and T25 at the RBC Heritage – and without a top-10 since mid-February – don’t be surprised if he rekindles some good vibes from his first career major at this course and makes a run at this title.
A medium-priced option for DFS lineups
As far as lovable characters around Quail on a daily basis are concerned, Simpson might not live up to the standard set by Johnson Wagner, but the local resident and longtime club member certainly knows his way around this property.
I’ve always believed that the sleeping-in-his-own-bed narrative is overblown, especially for a player who’s going to wake up to a house full of kids and probably has some other real-life responsibilities before he heads to the course each day. That said, Simpson has handled it well in the past, posting two top-10s and five top-25s in 10 career starts at his home club.
I’m wading into this one with a little trepidation, just because I believed ex-caddie Paul Tesori was so critical to Webb’s success over the years, but I do believe this will ultimately be a solid – if not spectacular – week for him.
A lower-priced option for DFS lineups
If the most impressive thing about Griffin’s career was the fact that he’d quit professional golf to work as a loan officer less than two years ago, then the second-most impressive thing is that he’s become such a consistent player here in his first full year on the PGA Tour.
Griffin has made the cut in 15 of 19 starts, with six top-25 finishes so far. When we’re spending down in our lineups, we essentially want to assure ourselves of four rounds, with anything more being just gravy. As a Chapel Hill, N.C., native and UNC grad, he should have plenty of hometown folks on hand rooting for him this week.
One player to post the lowest score Thursday.
Gary Woodland (+8000 for FRL)
Most of the better players in this week’s field are fresh off a week or two at home, away from the competitive life. We shouldn’t be so naïve as to think that a player who’s been resting/relaxing/recharging can’t play a few practice rounds here and post Thursday’s best score, but I don’t hate the idea of playing one of the few top players who competed in last week’s Mexico Open and might be a little sharper in the opener.
Even though Woodland only finished T39 last week, his ball-striking numbers were impressive once again, so there’s reason to believe he can start hot. Also, he was in a group just one stroke off the lead after the first day of the 2017 PGA, so there’s some history here.
One player who should beat comparable players.
Max Homa (+1800)
The public loves Max, especially at very Max-type places like this one. He’s the defending champion this week, which means very little since last year’s edition of this event wasn’t held at Quail, but he also won here in 2019 and looked fearless in going 4-0-0 at last year’s Presidents Cup.
I won’t play him outright at this number, but I can certainly understand the appeal. If I can get Homa in plus-money matchups against McIlroy and Finau, I’d take a chance
Also Receiving Votes
Other players who should provide value
Collin Morikawa (+2000), Keegan Bradley (+5500), Matt Kuchar (+9000), Davis Riley (+11000), Harris English (+15000), Akshay Bhatia (+15000), Seamus Power (+15000), Adam Schenk (+15000), Sam Ryder (+15000), Mackenzie Hughes (+20000), Taylor Pendrith (+20000), Sepp Straka (+30000)
How would you rate this article?
This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.