Wells Fargo Championship 2021 expert picks: Is it finally time to back Rory McIlroy?

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Another week, another strong field, another unbelievably difficult golf course. The PGA Tour, which stops at Quail Hollow this week for the Wells Fargo Championship, remains a can’t-miss affair right now, and we’ve already got another major in the near future. There is no quit in this Super Season.

Last week, though, one of the elites didn’t get it done, though Sam Burns sure seems like an elite player in the making. He’ll get a much-needed—and deserved—break this week, opting to pass on Quail and potentially making way for another breakthrough winner, like, say, Tony Finau, who is at 28-1 to win this week on the William Hill Sportsbook. Or, perhaps Will Zalatoris at that same 28-1 number might have your attention. Maybe you are even ready to back Abraham Ancer, our guest on this week’s “Be Right” podcast, to notch his first career victory. He’s at 35-1, another attractive option in the just-past-the-favorites range that many golf bettors love to hammer.

Of course, bypassing the top of the board at a major championship venue like Quail Hollow could certainly prove costly. Justin Thomas, who won the PGA Championship here in 2017 and continues to put on a tee-to-green masterclass week in, week out, is a co-favorite along with Jon Rahm at 11-1. Bryson DeChambeau, making his first start since another disappointing Masters appearance, is next at 14-1. Then, it’s the impossible-to-ignore Rory McIlroy, whose struggles are well-documented but his history at Quail Hollow unmatched. Quail Hollow could prove to be his magic potion to escape that slump.

Read on to see who we like this week at the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship.

Wells Fargo Championship 2021 expert picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions (Odds from William Hill)

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Viktor Hovland (20-1) — Quail Hollow will play even longer than usual this year with the early week rains we got. Hovland hits the ball plenty far and ranks seventh in strokes gained/tee to green. He’s coming off a T-3 at the Valspar and a hot Sunday, plus a T-21 at the Masters. This feels like a perfect place for his game to thrive.

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Joaquin Niemann (30-1) — I would’ve liked a better number, but you’re getting an elite off-the-tee player with positive approach numbers in all but one measured event since October. The results keep stacking up, and it’s time to pay that off with a victory.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Bryson DeChambeau (14-1) — Quail Hollow’s key stats boil down to driving distance and gaining strokes off the tee and putting well, which is the DeChambeau special. Irons matter a little less here than usual, which is good news for Bryson even though he’s been striping it lately. He figured out Quail Hollow when finishing fourth here in 2018.

Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Jon Rahm (11-1) — Quail Hollow will reward golfers who are excellent off the tee, and few golfers can compete with the driver of Jon Rahm. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, he has gained strokes off the tee in 26 consecutive measured events, dating back nearly two years. That weapon has helped him earn 17 top-10 finishes and two wins during that stretch, and there’s little signs of it stopping anytime soon.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Viktor Hovland (20-1) — Hovland jumps off the page in terms of players who should do well at Quail Hollow. It’s a traditional venue that rewards great driving and iron play, which is Hovland’s game. He’s one of the most consistent drivers in the world, and he should love this ballpark. The number isn’t great, but I’m pulling the trigger on this proven winner.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Tony Finau (28-1) — Always tough to resist a Finau number north of 25-1, especially when he’s started to pop a bit again. After two uncharacteristic MC Hammers at Valero and Players, Finau tied for 10th at Augusta and got into contention at Zurich alongside Cam Champ before fading in the alternate shot format on Sunday. The actual experts in this column are telling me driving distance, SG/off-the-tee and SG/tee-to-green are key at Quail Hollow, and the past champions list here certainly backs up that theory. We know Finau does all those things well, and if he combines that with a hot putter you’ve got to love his chances this week, and just about any other week, for that matter.

Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Justin Thomas (11-1) — Thomas comes into this event ranked first in both strokes gained/tee to green over the past two months and Opportunities Gained. His excellent ball-striking means he also ranks third in the FanShareSports course-suitability ranking, too. Sure, he won the 2017 PGA here, but more so to me, this pick is about his hot form at a fair price.

Results from last season: Golf Digest’s betting panel is RED-HOT. Our experts have now predicted five of the past 12 winners—after going up 225.30 units last season. As we’ve said, our crew gets hot and tends to stay hot, so don’t miss out on our picks! Our Stephen Hennessey predicted Jordan Spieth (11-1) at the Valero Texas Open. At The Players, Christopher Powers called Justin Thomas’ victory (18-1) as did Rick Gehman. That’s each of their second accurate predictions of 2021, with Powers hitting Koepka (50-1) and Gehman calling Daniel Berger at Pebble Beach (14-1). Pat Mayo nailed Collin Morikawa at the WGC-Workday three events ago at 33-1 in addition to Koepka at the WMPO. And Brandon Gdula also called Berger’s win at Pebble Beach. We’ll stop there! Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!

Wells Fargo Championship 2021 expert picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win (Odds from William Hill)

Caddie: Talor Gooch (100-1) — This tournament has produced four maiden winners in its past 10 occurrences. Talor has knocked on the door a number of times the past couple of years, and this could just be the time he punches through.

Mayo: Joel Dahmen (70-1) — Dahmen and Max Homa were tied heading into the final round at Quail Hollow in 2019—and a 1-under 70 was enough for a T-2 finish for Dahmen, but not that elusive trophy. Of course, Dahmen now has his PGA Tour title, having won in Puntacana. Now he’ll tee it up at a course that suits him with his game at its best. There’s a lot of upside with this bet.

Gdula: Bubba Watson (55-1) — Watson lacks experience at this course (one missed cut in 2013), but it’s been kind to fellow lefty Phil Mickelson (five top-12s in seven starts). He has the distance to figure it out, though.

Gehman: Keegan Bradley (50-1) — Many will look at Bradley’s runner-up finish last week as a disappointment, but I’m encouraged by it. He gained over 12 strokes from tee to green at the Valspar and was a small positive putter. That’s the exact foundation that Bradley needs to build to contend on a weekly basis. The Valspar wasn’t an outlier either—Bradley has gained strokes putting in four of his past five starts, something he has rarely done in his career. You can find a better number elsewhere.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Cameron Davis (100-1) — Like you’ll read all week, the key to success at Quail Hollow is elite driving and ball-striking. Davis has been inconsistent of late, but the off-the-tee game hasn’t left him. And he’s had a few really bad around-the-green weeks, which have brought down those results. Quail Hollow should reward what he does best.

Powers, Golf Digest: Matt Wallace (66-1) — I searched far and wide for the quote, but it turns out it was just a tweet, and a simple one at that – “I love the PGA Championship.” – Matt Wallace, before TPC Harding Park last August. Of course, he went on to finish 77th that week, but prior to that he finished third at the 2019 PGA at Bethpage and 19th in the 2018 PGA at Bellerive. Those two courses, just like Quail Hollow, are very long and very hard (so, very PGA-like), which seems to be the Englishman’s specialty. Other difficult venues he’s had success at include Muirfield Village (T-4 last July in the Memorial, AKA the week it played harder) and Bay Hill (three top 25s in three appearances).

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Matt Wallace (66-1) — Wallace ranks 10th in FanShare’s course-suitability ranking this week, due to the fact he plays great on long, difficult courses. He hasn’t played competitively at Quail Hollow, but his game matches the venue. And his game is in fantastic form, ranking third in the field in SG/tee to green over the past two months.

Wells Fargo Championship 2021 expert picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)

Caddie: Max Homa (30-1) — Homa has been a trendy pick lately, and people will back him here after a nice week at Valspar and him winning here in 2019. But don’t understand the extra duties as a defending champion. My guy’s been there, it really can be a lot. After a Sunday in which he struggled, plus him defending, this might be a good week to stay away from him. And look closer at the stats: His play last week was bolstered by a really hot putter, which could be very hard to duplicate.

Mayo: Xander Schauffele (20-1) — As I continue to say, he keeps getting priced around players who have won recently, whereas Xander is in a winning slump. So I will continue to not bet him.

Gdula: Rory McIlroy (20-1) — Rory’s form is getting better despite the missed cuts at the Players and the Masters, but it’s not good enough to like him relative to the others in his odds range. The course history and name value make the number too short.

Gehman: Patrick Reed (30-1) — Reed missed the cut at the Valspar Championship last week and now travels to Quail Hollow, which doesn’t look like a great fit on paper. While Reed possesses the shot shape, a draw, to play well at this course, I worry about his lack of distance. On top of that, he often relies too heavily on his short game, which has proven to be volatile over the years. This isn’t saying Reed cannot find success but that his path to success has narrowed.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Will Zalatoris (28-1) — The young phenom was getting touted by every Tom, Dick, Harry on gambling Twitter on Monday. I get it. And hey, I even get the Augusta corollary with Quail Hollow—the pine needles outside the fairways have an Augusta feel to them. But I still just haven’t seen Zalatoris truly contend enough to back him. Yes, of course he was great at Augusta. But think about it: That was really one time where he contended. You can make a lot of narrative leaps with Zalatoris—I think he’ll be trying to prime his game for the upcoming majors.

Powers, Golf Digest: Rory McIlroy (20-1) — I’ve seen a lot of “you have to bet Rory at this number” takes this week, and normally I’d agree, especially with the elite course history factor. But it feels like we’ve been saying that since last summer and it consistently ends in disappointment. My betting card will disappoint me enough without the added pain of another Rory dud on it.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Xander Schauffele (20-1) — Schauffele enters this week in poor form, ranking just 83rd in this field in SG/tee to green over the past two months. He also loses strokes to the field when putting on fast Bermuda greens.

Wells Fargo Championship 2021 expert picks: Matchups

Caddie: Cameron Tringale (-125) over Max Homa (DraftKings) — Tringale has been one of the most consistent players each week, and you can find him against my fade of the week. His T-3 at the Valspar and T-9 at the Valero were both at ball-striking paradises, which is what Quail Hollow is, so we should see him continue that steady play.

Mayo: Jon Rahm (-125) over Justin Thomas (DraftKings) — Rahm has been so consistently good over a larger sample size than JT’s hot play over the past month and a half. And JT’s balky putter could pop up at any time, like it did at the Valspar. I’ll take Rahm’s elite driving over JT’s here.

Gdula: Joaquin Niemann (-118) over Sungjae Im (FanDuel) — Niemann is the better tee-to-green player and the longer driver in this matchup and is striping it lately. Im is finding it again, but Niemann is the better play here.

Gehman: Bubba Watson (-114) over Shane Lowry (DraftKings) — Watson will certainly lean into his driver around Quail Hollow. While he hasn’t played this event since 2013, he did finish runner-up here in 2009. He’s been on a great stretch of golf, including a deep run at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, a T-26 at the Masters and a T-13 last week at the Valspar Championship.

Hennessey: Matt Wallace (-118) over Rickie Fowler (DraftKings) — On this week’s “Be Right” podcast, I admitted to burning some money on Rickie to win outright. That doesn’t mean I can’t pick against him in a match up. Rickie will be boom or bust, whereas a top-20 finish for Wallace—with how well he’s been striking the ball—seems very likely. This feels like stealing.

Powers: Harold Varner III (-120) over Kevin Streelman (DraftKings) — Believe it or not, the short-hitting Streelman actually has a strong record here. But the recent numbers, particularly the SG/tee-to-green ones, favor HV3.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Bryson DeChambeau (-120) over Xander Schauffele (William Hill) — As you can see above, the stats suggest Schauffele will struggle this week. DeChambeau, on the other hand, ranks third in SG/tee to green over the past two months and eighth in our FanShare’s course-suitability ranking. ​

Matchup results from the Valspar Championship: Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Justin Thomas (-120) over Dustin Johnson); Gdula: pushed (Lanto Griffin over Erik Van Rooyen); Caddie, Mayo, Gehman, Hennessey, Powers: 0 for 1.

Matchup Results this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Alldrick: 17-11-1 (up 4.6 units); Hennessey: 15-11-1 (up 3.7 units); Gdula: 15-13-1 (up 1.09 units); Powers: 12-13-4 (down 1.76 units); Mayo: 13-14-1 (down 2.02 units); Gehman: 10-17-2 (down 6.55 units); Caddie: 9-17-3 (down 7.38 units).

Wells Fargo Championship 2021 expert picks: Top 10 (Odds from William Hill)

Caddie: Rory McIlroy (+210) — With softer conditions this week, McIlroy’s length off the tee should help him return to form. And he’s a horse for this course, with two victories, a T-2 and a slew of top 10s here.

Mayo: Will Zalatoris (+275) — The kid is second in this field in SG/approach over the past 50 rounds per FantasyNational.com and ninth in SG/tee to green. That’s a formula that should have him near the top of the leader board.

Gdula: Tony Finau (+260) — I love Finau to win at 28-1, but you know, it’s Tony Finau. He rates out as a positive value to top-10 even at +260 in my model given the skill set for Quail Hollow. He’s made all four cuts here in his career.

Gehman: Joaquin Niemann (+320) — Niemann notched another top-10 finish last week, marking his third such finish over his last nine starts. Maybe even more impressive, Niemann hasn’t missed a cut since the 2020 Northern Trust, 18 starts ago. He shouldn’t be intimidated by Quail Hollow as Niemann bombs it off the tee, ranking eighth in driving distance and 11th in SG/off the tee. This appears to be the convergence of course fit and recent form, which is a recipe for success.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Matt Wallace (+700) — Powers and Alldrick made the case for me under sleeper picks. I think this number offers a ton of value, too.

Powers, Golf Digest: Patrick Cantlay (+250) — Going for the rare back-to-back top-10 hit this week after hitting Ancer at Valspar. A prime candidate to help me pull off that feat is Cantlay, normally a top-10 machine who hit a bit of a rough patch in late March/early April. He seemed to bounce back nicely alongside Xander Schauffele at Zurich, though, and he often pops at long and difficult courses like Muirfield Village, where he’s won and finished in the top 10 twice, and Bethpage Black, where he finished third in 2019.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Cameron Tringale (+450) — I cashed this ticket last week, and Tringale should have a chance to make it three top-10s in a row at this ball-striking venue. Tringale ranks seventh in the field for SG/tee to green over the past two months, which is the key to playing well at Quail Hollow.

Top-10 results from the Valspar Championship: Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Cameron Tringale, +450); Powers: 1 for 1 (Abraham Ancer (+250); Everyone else: 0 for 1.

Top-10 results from this season: Gehman: 7 for 26 (up 15.85 units); Powers: 3 for 26 (down 5.5 units); Gdula: 3 for 26 (down 7.5 units); Hennessey: 3 for 26 (down 11 units); Mayo: 2 for 26 (down 11 units); Tour caddie: 3 for 26 (down 13.45 units); Alldrick: 1 for 25 (down 19.5 units).

Wells Fargo Championship 2021 expert picks: One and Done pick

Gehman: Viktor Hovland — Hovland held his name in contention all week long at the Valspar Championship, firing rounds of 69-69-68-65 en route to a T3 finish. He was excellent from tee-to-green, gaining the third most strokes in that category for the week. When Hovland starts getting on a roll, watch out!

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Joel Dahmen; U.S. Open: Jon Rahm; Corales: Denny McCarthy. Sanderson: Sebastian Munoz. Shriners: Matthew Wolff. CJ Cup: Xander Schauffele. Zozo: Bubba Watson. Bermuda: Rasmus Hojgaard. Houston: Lanto Griffin. Masters: Rory McIlroy. RSM: Webb Simpson. Sentry TOC: Patrick Reed. Sony: Abraham Ancer. AMEX: Patrick Cantlay. Torrey: Jon Rahm. Waste Management: Webb Simpson. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis Invitational: Rory McIlroy. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Bryson DeChambeau; Honda Classic: Sungjae Im. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Jordan Spieth. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Daniel Berger. Valspar: Paul Casey.

Hennessey: Max Homa — Given his hot stretch of play, this is a perfect place to use Homa if you have him still (which you probably do).

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Phil Mickelson; U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Harris English. CJ Cup: Kevin Na. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Doc Redman. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Tyrrell Hatton. RSM: Brian Harman. Sentry TOC: Justin Thomas. Sony: Ryan Palmer. AMEX: Scottie Scheffler. Torrey: Sungjae Im. Waste Management: Daniel Berger. AT&T Pebble Beach: Francesco Molinari. Genesis Invitational: Tony Finau. WGC-Workday: Xander Schauffele. The Players: Jordan Spieth. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Webb Simpson. Valspar: Charley Hoffman.

Powers: Patrick Cantlay — Talked myself into this one while typing out my top 10 selection. Think he recovers from that late March/early April slump with a big performance in a big-time event this week.

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Brendan Steele; U.S. Open: Louis Oosthuizen; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Jason Kokrak. CJ Cup: Daniel Berger. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Bubba Watson. RSM: Brian Harman. Mayakoba: Corey Conners. Sentry TOC: Harris English. Sony: Zach Johnson. AMEX: Matthew Wolff. Torrey: Tony Finau. Waste Management: Sungjae Im. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis: Hideki Matsuyama. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Tommy Fleetwood. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Matt Fitzpatrick. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Jordan Spieth. RBC Heritage: Kevin Kisner. Valspar: Patrick Reed.

Courtesy of Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com:

7 strokes The largest margin of victory in tournament history in 2015 by Rory McIlroy, who is the only two-time winner of this event.

10 — The number of top 10s by Phil Mickelson at the Wells Fargo Championship, most of any golfer in the field by three.

1.63 — The number of strokes gained per round by Corey Conners in 2021, the most of any golfer in this field.

17 — The number of consecutive cuts made by Joaquin Niemann, behind only Jon Rahm (22).

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.

Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.

Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.

Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.

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