10 to Watch at Quail Hollow

1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland — Even though he never really challenged the leaders last week in the Players Championship a week after winning the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, Rory’s tie for eighth was his third consecutive top-10 finish on the PGA Tour and his fourth in six starts this season. He has a stellar record in the Wells Fargo Championship, finishing in the top 10 in four of his five starts, including a victory in 2010 that was his first in the United States. McIlroy nearly won again at Quail Hollow in 2012, when Rickie Fowler beat him with a birdie on the first playoff hole. He also tied for 10th in 2013 and tied for eighth last year.

2. J.B. Holmes, United States — His victory in the Wells Fargo Championship last year was only a prelude to what J.B. is doing this season. He won the Shell Houston Open in a playoff over Jordan Spieth and Johnson Wagner, lost to Jason Day of Australia in a playoff at the Farmers Insurance Open and finished second behind Dustin Johnson in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Last year at Quail Hollow, he took the lead by shooting 67-66 in the middle rounds and closed with a 1-under-par 71 that included a 3-foot bogey putt on the final hole to hold off Jim Furyk, who finished with a 65. Holmes also tied for ninth in Charlotte in 2011.

3. Jim Furyk, United States — Following a disappointing tie for 56th in the Players Championship after his first victory in nearly five years in the RBC Heritage and a fourth-place finish in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, Furyk figures to get back on track in the Wells Fargo Championship. He won the tournament in 2006, beating Trevor Immelman with a par on the first playoff hole after closing with a 6-under-par 66, a year after he lost to Vijay Singh on the fourth extra hole. Furyk has three other top-10 finishes at Quail Hollow, including last year, when he shot 65 in the final round to finish one stroke behind winner J.B. Holmes.

4. Adam Scott, Australia — The Aussie, who held the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings for 11 weeks last year, fell out of the top 10 last week after his tie for 38th in the Players Championship. He slid to No. 11 and will try to climb back in this week at the Wells Fargo Championship, but to do so he will have to regain his touch with the long putter. Scott hit more than 70 percent of the fairways and greens at TPC Sawgrass, but he finished near the bottom of the field at minus-1.313 in strokes gained putting. He played six times previously at Quail Hollow, finishing solo third in 2006, four shots out of the playoff in which Trevor Immelman beat Jim Furyk, and he tied for eighth in 2008.

5. Phil Mickelson, United States — Lefty left his best stuff at the Masters, where he tied for second for his only top-10 finish of the season. He missed the cut last week in the Players Championship. He hopes to rediscover his game in the Wells Fargo Championship, which he has played 11 times previously and might have won at least three times. Two years ago, he took the lead at Quail Hollow by starting 68-67 and still was ahead after a 1-over-par 73, but he closed with another 73 and finished third. Last year, Mickelson was two strokes out of the lead after a third-round 63 but closed with a 76 and tied for 11th. He also finished second in 2010, four shots behind Rory McIlroy.

6. Bill Haas, United States — If not for a couple of missed putts that were in the gimme range, Haas might have added a victory in the Players Championship to the title he won earlier this year in the Humana Challenge. He finished one stroke out of the playoff won by Rickie Fowler, and he hopes to take that form to the Wells Fargo Championship. A Carolina boy who is making his 12th appearance at Quail Hollow, his best finishes in the event were a tie for fourth in 2006, when he shared the first-round lead with a 4-under-par 68, and solo fourth in 2011, when he was alone at the top after an opening 64. Haas also has missed the cut five times in Charlotte.

7. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan — The 22-year-old rising star might be close to his second victory on the PGA Tour after winning the Memorial last year. In his past three tournaments, he finished solo fifth in the Masters, tied for ninth in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship and tied for 17th in the Players Championship after sharing the first-round lead with a 5-under-par 67 and closing with a 69. Matsuyama has seven finishes in the top 10 and 11 in the top 25 in 14 events in the United States this season. He is making his second start in the Wells Fargo Championship, having tied for 38th last year in his first trip to Quail Hollow.

8. Kevin Kisner, United States — Not many people had heard of Kisner until he lost to Rickie Fowler in a playoff in the Players Championship last week, even though he acted as if he had been there before. Actually, he was, two weeks earlier when he lost to Jim Furyk in a playoff at the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head, not far from his home in Aiken, S.C. Kisner, who won twice on the Web.com Tour, is back in the Carolinas this week for the Wells Fargo Championship. He is making his fourth start at Quail Hollow, and after missing the cut in his first two, he shot 66-68 in the middle rounds last year before closing with a 1-over-par 73 to tie for sixth.

9. Henrik Stenson, Sweden — The No. 3 player in the World Golf Rankings is hoping that a closing 4-under-par 68 that left him in a tie for 17th in the Players Championship will give him some momentum to finally play well in the Wells Fargo Championship. He has not teed it up at Quail Hollow since missing the cut for the third straight time there in 2012, and the only time he made it to the weekend in four starts in Charlotte came when he tied for 69th in 2007. The Swede has never broken 70 in eight rounds on the course. Stenson is playing well coming in, with four top-25 finishes in his last five starts, including second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

10. Justin Thomas, United States — The 22-year-old rookie from Alabama, another of the young guns making noise on the PGA Tour, set a TPC Sawgrass record with 10 birdies in a 7-under-par 65 in the third round of the Players Championship, but he struggled to a 75 in the final round and tied for 24th. It was his worst finish among three straight top-25 finishes to give him nine this season, including four in the top 10. Thomas is making his first appearance in the Wells Fargo Championship, and Quail Hollow is a course where experience usually counts, but he is proving to be a quick study. And remember that Rory McIlroy won in his first appearance there in 2010.

–Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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