By Tom LaMarre
Tiger Woods captured the Wells Fargo Championship in 2007, when it was known as the Wachovia Championship, and it was thought he might play for the first time since winning the Masters this week at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C.
However, tournament director Gary Sobba broke the news the other day that Woods won’t be there, while adding that a strong field still is expected.
“Unfortunately, Tiger Woods is not gonna come this year, but we still have a loaded and deep field with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy,” Sobba said on a Charlotte radio program.
While there was hope Woods would play in the Wells Fargo after he claimed his 15th major title in the Masters at Augusta National early in April, rumors spread last week that he was injured after a video on GolfTV showed Tiger walking gingerly.
However his agent, Mark Steinberg, said the 43-year-old Woods simply was sore and tired after winning the Masters and isn’t quite ready to play again, and he seemed to be fine when seen playing a round at home in Florida.
It seems he might not play again until the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
Still, in addition to two-time champion McIlroy, Mickelson, Fowler and Rose, the Wells Fargo has defending champion Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, local favorite Webb Simpson, Henrik Stenson, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsyama, Danny Willett, Jimmy Walker, J.B.Holmes, Tony Finau, Nick Watney, Lucas Glover and Rory Sabbatini in a very solid field.
Justin Thomas was forced to withdraw because of a wrist injury and hopes to be healthy for the PGA Championship.
McIlroy is the only two-time winner in tournament history, taking the title in 2010 and 2015, while Fowler won in 2012 by beating McIlroy and D.A. Points in a playoff for the first of his five PGA Tour victories.
Last year, Day claimed a two-stroke victory over Watney and Aaron Wise, who went on to claim 2018 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors.
Other former Wells Fargo champions in the field include Glover (2011), Holmes (2014) and Brian Harman (2017).
But not the guy tournament officials wanted most.
- Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Rory won the Wells Fargo by four strokes over Phil Mickelson the first time he played it in 2010, and won by a whopping seven shots in 2015. He has four other top-10 finishes at Quail Hollow, including a tie for second in 2012. Won The Players in March, has seven top-10s and is third in FedEx Cup standings.
- Jason Day, Australia – After missing the cut with Adam Scott last week in the Zurich, Day defends the Wells Fargo title he won by two shots last year in his third appearance. He also tied for ninth in 2012 and tied for 22nd in 2019 at Quail Hollow. Day has five top-10s this season, including a tie for eighth in The Players and tie for fifth in Masters.
- Justin Rose, England – Missed the cut in his last start at Masters, but Rose won the Turkish Airlines Open and Farmers Insurance Open, tied for ninth in the WGC-Match Play and tied for eighth in The Players. After failing to crack the top 25 at Quail Hollow in his first five tries, he was fifth in 2014 and third in 2016, in his last two appearances.
- Phil Mickelson, United States – Lefty has never won the Wells Fargo in 15 tries, but he keeps coming back to Quail Hollow because he has finished in the top 10 on nine occasions, including second behind Rory McIlroy in 2010. Mickelson claimed his 44th PGA Tour title at Pebble Beach in February and tied for 18th in the Masters in last start.
- Sergio Garcia, Spain – Sergio and Tommy Fleetwood chased Jon Rahm and Ryan Palmer to the finish before settling for second last week in the Zurich Classic. He has three other top-10s on the PGA Tour this season, two in WGC events. Garcia lost to Vijay Singh in a playoff in the 2005 Wells Fargo, but that’s his only top-10 in eight tries.
- Rickie Fowler, United States – Rickie played the weekend in 67-69 and then beat Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points in a playoff for his first PGA Tour victory in the 2012 Wells Fargo. He also finished sixth in 2010 and tied for fourth in 2016. Fowler won in Phoenix earlier this year and is coming off a tie for ninth in the Masters in his last start.
- Paul Casey, England – Thanks to repeating his title in the Valspar Championship, finishing second at Pebble Beach and posting nine finishes in the top-25, Casey is fourth in the FedEx Cup standings. After missing the cut twice and tying for 41st in his first three starts in the Wells Fargo, he tied for 12th in 2017 and tied for fifth last year.
- Webb Simpson, United States – This is a home game for Simpson, who lives near Quail Hollow in Charlotte. Makes his 11th start in the Wells Fargo, with his best result second in 2015, and he was fourth in 2012, when he took the lead to the final round but closed with a 73. Coming off a tie for fifth in Masters and a tie for 16th in Heritage.
- Gary Woodland, United States – Even though he hasn’t won since last year in Phoenix, Woodland is eighth in the FedEx Cup standings with six finishes in the top 10, including seconds in the CJ Cup and the Sentry TOC. Making eighth start in the Wells Fargo and his best results were a tie for fourth in 2015 and a tie for 18th a year before.
- Aaron Wise, United States – The 2018 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year was in the chase all the way to the finish last year in the Wells Fargo before finishing two strokes behind winner Jason Day in a tie for second. Wise earned his first victory on the circuit soon after in the AT&T Byron Nelson, and finished 17th in the Masters in his last start.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Martin Laird, Scotland; J.B. Holmes, United States; Rory Sabbatini, Slovakia; Nick Watney, United States; Henrik Stenson, Sweden.
- Seamus Power, Ireland – After a tie for fifth with David Hearn in the Zurich, and a tie for sixth in the Heritage, Power is back at Quail Hollow, where he tied for 27th last year.
- J.T. Poston, United States – Following a T-22 in the Players, Poston finished T-6 in the Heritage before he and Stephan Jaeger slipped with a Sunday 73 to T-22 in Zurich.
- Joaquin Niemann, Chile – The 20-year-old rookie, former No. 1 amateur in the world, returned home recently and was third in Abierto de Chile on Lationamerica Tour.
- Trey Mullinax, United States – Skidded to a tie for 13th with a closing 77 alongside Scott Stallings in the Zurich Classic after tying for 16th a week earlier in the Heritage.
- Denny McCarthy, United States – Winner of the 2018 Web.com Tour Championship, McCarthy recently tied for ninth in Valspar, earlier tied for seventh in Sanderson Farms.
For first-round tee times visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html