T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
2014 Wells Fargo Championship | Five players to watch
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 | 9:07 a.m.
The PGA Tour is in Charlotte, N.C., this week for the Wells Fargo Championship at breathtaking Quail Hollow, a course that will play host to the 2017 PGA Championship.
Since it's a major championship course, it's no surprise that the list of winners at Quail Hollow since the tournament began in 2003 includes major winners David Toms, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods (twice), Jim Furyk, Rory McIlroy and Lucas Glover.
Little-known Derek Ernst -- the fourth alternate in 2013 -- was the surprise winner a year ago.
Will we have another surprise winner this week? Maybe. But, it will more than likely be another established player hoisting the hardware come Sunday.
Here are five players to keep an eye on.
5. Sean O'Hair
Best finish in 2013-14 season: T10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Reason to watch: For a time, it seemed O'Hair was going to be the next superstar on the PGA Tour. In the last few years, however, he's gone through a significant slump. I like him at Quail Hollow this week not because of how he's played lately -- just one top 10 in 14 starts this season to go along with six missed cuts -- but because he returns to a course where he won in 2009 (he's missed the cut twice at Wells Fargo since then and tied for 15th in 2012. He's going to turn a corner eventually, so why not this week?
4. Webb Simpson
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Reason to watch: Simpson got off to a white hot start this season, finishing in the top 10 at six of his first eight events, highlighted by a win in his first start -- the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The last four starts, however, have been tough -- T47 at Doral, a missed cut in Tampa, T61 in Houston and a missed cut at the Masters. This week though, Simpson will enjoy some home cooking (he lives in Charlotte) and some local knowledge (he's a member at Quail Hollow). Simpson desperately wants to win this tournament, his home game. His best finish was alone in fourth in 2012.
3. Rickie Fowler
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Third at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Reason to watch: Hard to believe, but the Wells Fargo Championship remains Fowler's lone PGA Tour victory. He did that in 2012. After making some swing changes this season, everything looked to be coming together for Fowler. Following that third-place showing at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, he also finished sixth in Houston and tied for fifth at the Masters. This week, we find out if last week's missed cut at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans was an aberration. I think it was.
2. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2013-14 season: T12 at the Shell Houston Open
Reason to watch: You might not believe this, but Mickelson is still without a top-10 finish in 2014. That's insane. He's withdrawn due to injury twice this season and has missed the cut twice, most recently in his last start -- the Masters. When you're as talented as Mickelson, slumps can't last as long as this one has. He finished third at Quail Hollow a year ago, second in 2010, tied for fifth in 2009, tied for third in 2007, tied for seventh in 2005 and tied for fifth in 2004. In other words, this course fits his eye.
1. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Playoff loss at the Honda Classic
Reason to watch: In case you missed it, McIlroy dropped out of the top-10 in the Official World Golf Ranking recently. That, of course, was based largely on his poor play in 2013. In 2014, with limited starts, he's been pretty good. He's finished in the top 10 four times in six starts. In 2010, McIlroy picked up his first PGA Tour win at Quail Hollow. Since then, he's won five times, including two majors. The only thing left for McIlroy to do in order to forget the disaster that was 2013 is to win on the PGA Tour. He's been knocking on the door a lot lately. This might be the week he kicks that door in.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
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