Wells Fargo Championship: Home in on Simpson

Webb Simpson has an obvious advantage this week
Webb Simpson has an obvious advantage this week

Dave Tindall is back to preview this week's PGA Tour event in North Carolina...

"A player getting to contest an event where he’s a member can often be a red herring but in Simpson’s case I don’t think it is."

Main Bet: Back Webb Simpson @ 34.033/1

Each-way terms: 1/4 odds, 5 places

Main Bet: Back Webb Simpson e/w @ 33/1

It's not as difficult a puzzle to solve as last week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans - did anyone, anywhere back Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith?! - but the switch to a brand new course makes this year's Wells Fargo much trickier than usual.

While Quail Hollow readies for this August's US PGA, the tournament heads to Eagle Point in Wilmington. Both are Tom Fazio designs, both are fairly meaty par 72s and and both are in North Carolina.

It may be wise not to overthink it so I'm looking for a player with a strong record in NC which includes big finishes at the Wells Fargo.

Step forward Webb Simpson.

Back in 2011, I had a 20/1 'win only' punt on Simpson landing the Wyndham Championship and he obliged, shooting 66-65-64-67 to secure his maiden PGA Tour title. It was hardly rocket science; just a case of him playing on home turf after showing plenty of good form that season.

That's pretty much the deal this week and I'm happy to back him at 33s.

Since 2011, Simpson has continued to perform well in his native North Carolina. Overall, he's made 13 of 14 cuts in his home State and posted a win, a second, a fourth, a fifth and a sixth.

That sequence includes finishing runner-up in this event at Quail Hollow in 2015 and also fourth at the same venue in 2012. Simpson is a member at QC so he clearly put the extra local knowledge to good use.

Hopefully it will be a similar story this week.

Simpson is also a member at Eagle Point and spent some of his childhood in Wilmington.

Speaking at a press conference to promote this week's event, he said: "Any chance I get to come to Wilmington I take it. I learned the game playing Landfall as a kid during the summer. Once they built Eagle Point, it was like Augusta National to me as a kid.

"My birthday a few years ago, my wife said to take my friends and go golf. I'm going to Eagle Point," he said. "So twice a year now I take a trip with my friends to Eagle Point. There's no better event on the PGA Tour.

"It's a perfect world for me and dream come true to be able to play a PGA Tour event here. Wilmington is a great golf town. I think this is an area that understands golf. There's excitement and buzz here," Simpson added.

A player getting to contest an event where he's a member can often be a red herring but in Simpson's case I don't think it is. A man who showed his mental strength by winning the 2013 US Open in over par, he has the personality to handle the added expectations this week.

He arrives on the back of T11 at The Heritage in neighbouring South Carolina (third with 18 holes to play) and earlier this season he lost a playoff at the Phoenix Open.

His suspect putting would be the obvious Achilles heel but surely his local knowledge will level the playing field more, and perhaps even tilt it in his favour, against the vast majority of rivals who are seeing this venue for the first time.

Next Best: Back Bill Haas @ 33/1

I'll keep the local theme going with a punt on Bill Haas at 33/1.

Haas has huge connections with the Carolinas. He was born in Charlotte, NC, went to college at Wake Forest (NC) and now lives in Greenville (SC).

That's all very nice but does he play well when the PGA Tour comes to his neck of the woods?

Well, he's finished 22-6-2-20-7 in the last five editions of the Wyndham Championship (also T10 in 2009) and he has a pair of top fours at Wells Fargo (2006 and 2011) although admittedly not close to winning since.

As you might expect, he's no stranger to Eagle Point either. Last year, the local Wilmington Star newspaper said described Haas as a "frequent visitor".

With Haas, it goes beyond just the local affiliation.

He's shown plenty of good form this season, highlighted by his third place at the WGC-Dell Match Play in Texas at the end of March.

That persuaded some to back him for the Masters but T36 wasn't the desired result although hardly a disgrace.

He'd started 2017 with a trio of back-to-back top 20s and, of course, is a six-time PGA Tour winner.

It's sometimes worth remembering that, as those half-dozen wins compare very favourably to 22/1 Paul Casey's sole victory, the Shell Houston Open, which came back in 2009.

And at a similar price, Louis Oosthuizen and Francesco Molinari have not a single victory on American soil between them.

As for the stats this season, Haas is 13th in Greens In Regulation, 15th in Scoring Average, 25th in Sand Saves and 5th in Scrambling.

He also appears on Future of Fantasy's top 25 performers on Bentgrass greens (since 2013-14) and those are the surfaces in play this week.

Final Bet: Back Bud Cauley e/w @ 40/1

With no competitive course form, there's obviously plenty of logic in siding with those who have the best current form.

There are two players this week who come into the event having posted top 10s in their last three starts.

One is Dustin Johnson, whose last three starts are all wins. And then, of course, he fell down the stairs at Augusta.

He's a fairly similar price to win here as he was the Masters so, in theory, the 5/1 could look a gift. With those injury doubts, I'm willing to let him go there.

The other player with a hat-trick of top 10s is Bud Cauley.

Okay, they're of a different variety and one was even in a pairs event last week when he finished T5 alongside Justin Thomas in New Orleans.

That added to T10 (Texas Open) and T9 (Heritage) in his two previous starts so, without question, the man from Daytona Beach, Florida is playing some excellent golf.

Looking at Cauley's scorecards, in Houston he was T10 for Birdies, 6th in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and 14th in SG: Putting. At Hilton Head, he was T3 for Birdies and 8th for Strokes Gained: Tee to Green.

All the signs were that he continued that fine play in New Orleans last week.

As for location form, Cauley has played well in North Carolina before. Last year he shot 67-69-64-67 to tie for 10th at the Wyndham Championship and he was third in that same event in 2012.

Shoulder problems have hampered him in recent years but this year he's had a clean bill of health and it's making a big difference.

As he said at Hilton Head: "It's been nice this year to be able to plan a schedule a little bit and come to places like I like like Harbour Town.

"Just kind of playing a schedule and being able to prepare the way I like to or the way that I felt I could my rookie year or my second year and just come out and take away all the other variables, just go play golf."

On this form, he's well worth following and 40/1 looks okay.

As for the other market leaders, Jon Rahm could win anywhere and is obviously very adept and hitting the ground running on new courses. The 12/1 is not particularly enticing though.

Adam Scott's T9 at Augusta looks okay but he didn't strike it well on Sunday and his game really hasn't been there this season.

Dave's 2016/17 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £700
Returned: £1619.06
P/L: +£919.06

(After the Zurich Classic of New Orleans)

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