By Tom LaMarre
Max Homa is the latest PGA Tour player who finally will get the chance to defend a title he won in 2019 when the Wells Fargo Championship is played for the first time since then this week at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C.
The Wells Fargo was another tournament cancelled because of the Coronavirus pandemic last year, but Homa (pictured) showed his victory was no fluke when he captured the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles earlier this season.
“After much deliberation, I’ve decided to play in the 2021 Wells Fargo Championship,” Homa, from Valencia and Cal, said recently via Twitter. “I remember walking up (the 18th fairway) and how electric it was, how much fun it was. In real time, that’s very rare to be able to have that feeling. It felt like a dream.
“It’s the most disappointing thing that has happened for me during all that’s gone on, during all this turmoil (because of Covid-19). This was the biggest one that hurt. I was really excited to try and defend at Quail Hollow.
“ … Now I will finally get the chance.”
Tournament officials answered Homa’s post on Twitter with one of their own: “Committed! Excited to have our 2019 and defending Champion Max Homa back at Quail Hollow. Our 2010 & 2015 Champion Rory McIlroy is back as well, and Charlotte local Webb Simpson is joining the fun!”
Homa, who finished tied for sixth on Sunday in the Valspar Championship, will defend his title against a strong field loaded with players from the top 20 of the World Golf Rankings, including No. 2 Justin Thomas, No. 3 Jon Rahm of Spain, No. 4 Xander Schauffele, No. 5 Bryson DeChambeau, No. 7 Patrick Reed, No. 9 Webb Simpson, No. 11 Viktor Hovland of Norway, No. 12 Patrick Cantlay, No. 13 Tony Finau, No. 15 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and No. 19 Sungjae Im of South Korea.
Other former Wells Fargo champions in the field are McIlroy (2010, 2015), Jason Day of Australia (2018), Rickie Fowler (2012), Brian Harman (2017), James Hahn (2016), J.B. Holmes (2014), Lucas Glover (2011) and Sean O’Hair (2009).
Among the major champions in the field are Phil Mickelson, who is making his 17th consecutive start in the tournament, Thomas, McIlroy, Day, DeChambeau, Reed, Simpson, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Davis Love III, Francisco Molinari of Italy, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Gary Woodland and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.
“This is a wonderful group of players who are committed to coming back to the Wells Fargo Championship,” Tournament Director Gary Sobba said. “We couldn’t be more pleased with the field … and are grateful to the players for supporting this event this year, in particular, and through the years.
“The hospitality of Quail Hollow Club, the spirit of the volunteers and the community is tremendous, and the players recognize this.”
Thomas, who won the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, probably is the player to beat.
- Justin Thomas, United States – Second-ranked JT is coming off a tie for 13th in the Valspar on Sunday, which lifted him to the top of the FedEx Cup point standings. He missed a sixth top-10 this season, but has 10 top-25s, including a victory in the Players. Won the 2017 PGA at Quail Hollow, and tied for seventh in the Wells Fargo that season.
- Webb Simpson, United States – The ninth-ranked Simpson has four top-25s in the Wells Fargo in his hometown of Charlotte, tying for second in 2017, and finishing fourth in 2012, when he took the lead to the last round but closed with a 73. He has five top-10s this season, including a tie for eighth in the U.S. Open and a tie for 10th in the Masters.
- Jon Rahm, Spain – The third-ranked Rahm hasn’t won this season, but has been close with nine finishes in the top 10 on the PGA Tour, including ties for fifth and seventh in the two Masters, plus a tie for second in the Zozo. He played the Wells Fargo once, when he was second after 54 holes but closed with a 71 to finish two back in fourth in 2017.
- Viktor Hovland, Norway – Recorded his fifth top-10 this season, including victory at Mayakoba, by tying for third in the Valspar and is third in the FedEx Cup standings. Hovland also tied for second in the WGC-Workday Championship and the Farmers Insurance Open. Hovland is playing in the Wells Fargo Championship for the first time.
- Max Homa, United States – Finally getting a chance to defend his 2019 Wells Fargo title, Homa warmed up by finishing in a tie for sixth in the Valspar Championship. He won by three strokes two years ago at Quail Hollow and showed his first PGA Tour victory was no fluke by winning the Genesis Invitational at Riviera earlier this year.
- Bryson DeChambeau, United States – Lost his lead in the FedEx Cup standings to Justin Thomas and will try to get it back in the Wells Fargo, in which he finished fourth last season, shooting 66-65 in the middle rounds. DeChambeau has five top-10 results this season, including victories in the U.S. Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
- Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Rory has been struggling, but Quail Hollow might be the place find his game since he won the Wells Fargo in 2010 by four strokes, and again in 2017, by seven. McIlroy, No. 13 in the world, tied for eighth in the U.S. Open and tied for fifth in the Masters late last year, but missed the cut in the recent Masters.
- Xander Schauffele, United States – The fourth-ranked player in the world has six results in the top 10 this season, including a tie for third in the Masters and runner-up finishes in the CJ Cup at Sherwood, the Farmers and the Phoenix Open. Schauffle’s best finish in the Wells Fargo was a tie for 24th in 2017, when he shot 76 in round three.
- Patrick Reed, United States – The seventh-ranked Reed tries to bounce back from a missed cut in the Valspar, but he has four top-10s, including a victory in the Farmers this season. His best result in seven starts in the Wells Fargo was a solo eighth in 2018, and he tied for 12th the year before, when he closed with a 75 after holding the 54-hole lead.
- Patrick Cantlay, United States – Having fallen out of the top 10 in the World Golf Rankings, Cantlay will try to climb back in with his debut in the Wells Fargo. Now No. 11, he has four finishes in the top 10s this season, including his third PGA Tour title in the Zozo at Sherwood, solo second in the AmEx and a tie for third at Pebble Beach.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Will Zalatoris, United States; Joaquin Niemann, Chile; Bubba Watson, United States; Francesco Molinari, Italy; Zach Johnson, United States; Corey Conners, Canada; Phil Mickelson, United States; Keegan Bradley, United States; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Shane Lowry, Ireland; Jason Day, Australia.
- Abraham Ancer, Mexico – Still has not won on the PGA Tour, but recorded his third top-5 finish this season and 11th in the top-25 by finishing fifth in the Valspar last week.
- Cameron Tringale, United States – Another non-winner knocking on the door, his T-3 in the Valspar was fourth T-10 this season and eighth T-25. T-27 in 2018 Wells Fargo.
- Erik van Rooyen, South Africa – Three-time winner as a pro was T-9 in WGC Match Play, T-14 in Valero Texas Open and T-17 in Zurich Classic of New Orleans recently.
- Hank Lebioda, United States – The left-hander, who has won once as a pro, is coming off a T-13 in Valspar after opening 69-66, and also was T-16 in Bermuda Championship.
- Bronson Burgoon, United States – Two-time winner as a pro finished T-13 in the Valspar Championship last week, T-6 at Sanderson Farms and T-15 in the RSM Classic.
For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html