Wells Fargo Championship: Mickelson can shine again on one of his favourite tracks

Justin Thomas is fancied to go well on his Quail Hollow debut this week
Justin Thomas is fancied to go well on his Quail Hollow debut this week

Dave Tindall brings us his each-way tips for this week's PGA Tour event at Quail Hollow in North Carolina...


Back Phil Mickelson @ 26.025/1

"After a second, two thirds, two fifths, a seventh and a ninth, this could be his year."

Each-way terms: ¼ odds, 5 places


Favourites: Back Phil Mickelson @ 26.025/1

Looking at the top six in the betting, Rory McIlroy is certainly the standout option in terms of being the most likely winner but 3/1 really is short.

So, instead, let's turn to Lefty.

One amusing little story that emerged at Sawgrass last week was Mickelson, on the way to a missed cut, assessing the tight course and wondering how on earth he once won there. But Quail Hollow, like Augusta National, is a completely different test and one that Mickelson relishes.

In fact, outside of the Masters, this may well be the course on which he's had most success.

Phil certainly finds it easy to eulogise. "I love getting in contention here. This is one of my favourite tournaments and one of my favourite golf courses anywhere. The way the course turned out with these greens (revamped by Tom Fazio ahead of last year's event) now, it just is beautiful. It's just beautiful! It's one of the best courses in the world, and I just love that we get to play here every year."

Looking at the Wells Fargo record books, he's had more top 10s there than anyone (seven in 11 appearances) and is second on the tournament's all-time money list with earnings of $2.6 million. Not surprisingly, he owns the course record of 63. He set that in the third round last year when shooting a front-nine 29.

Mickelson could 'only' finish T11 in 2014 and said after firing 67-75-63-76: "I had two great rounds and I had two pathetic rounds this week."

He was certainly struggling for consistency at the time and had just come off a rarer than rare missed cut at Augusta.

By contrast, he was runner-up at Augusta last month and, as pointed out by Steve Rawlings, there is even more room off the tee at Quail Hollow this year due to trees being removed to allow more light onto the greens.

After a second, two thirds, two fifths, a seventh and a ninth, this could be his year.


Mid Range: Back Justin Thomas @ 41.040/1

Another big hitter, who could thrive at Quail Hollow is Justin Thomas. The word 'could' applies as this is the rookie's course debut but he's certainly a fast learner.

Thomas has been in the top seven for Driving Distance in each of his last four tournaments and is 18th overall for the year with an average bash of exactly 300 yards.

But it wasn't just big hitting that helped him figure prominently at The Players Championship last week; Thomas was also ranked 1st in Putting Average.

The highlight of his week was a sensational 10-birdie 65 in round three and, given the way these things pan out, it was not exactly a huge surprise that he lost the magic touch 24 hours later when shooting a 75 to drop to T24.

That effort followed a T12 in the Zurich Classic and a T11 at The Heritage while he's already had top 10s this year at the Valspar, Humana and Sony.

He also played in the final group on the weekend in three straight events on the West Coast (Sony, Humana and Phoenix) so has banked some valuable experience which will stand him in good stead when he gets in the same position again.

Thomas beat Jordan Spieth for college golf's player of the year in 2012 so who knows how high he'll reach.

Back him to have another big week at a price which may not look great now but could look large when we have the benefit of hindsight.


Long Shot: Back George McNeil @ 101.0100/1

I did initially plough the Driving Distance stats to try and pick out a longshot and considered Brendan Steele (13th in DD), Martin Laird (27th) and Morgan Hoffman (34th).

But I don't want to be held hostage to that idea as any leaderboard usually has a mix of short and long hitters.

So the best option is a short hitter, George McNeill, who gets the nod for other reasons.

One of those is current form as the 39-year-old has banked four top 20s in his last seven appearances, including T17 at Sawgrass and T12 at the Zurich Classic. He was third for Greens in Regulation at The Players Championship so ignore his overall season position of 139th.

The other big appeal of McNeill is discovered when drilling down a level after looking at his results at Quail Hollow.

On the face of it, finishes of T16 (2013), T15 (2012), T18 (2009) and T22 (2008) are pretty solid. But two years ago he was second at halfway and third with a round to go, in 2012 he was eighth after 54 holes, in 2009 he was second with 18 to play while he was third at halfway in 2008.

Speaking in 2013, he said: "I've played well here in the past and I like the way this course sets up and I like the way it looks."

McNeill is a two-time PGA Tour winner (2007 Frys.com and 2012 Puerto Rico Open) while he lost two play-offs in the space of three weeks at the back end of 2009.

A top five finish is certainly within reason and he could just sneak under the radar and pinch a win.


***


Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveTindallGolf


Dave's 2015 P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection)

Staked: £480
Returned: £202.50
P/L: -£277.50

(Includes last week’s Players Championship)

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