Wells Fargo Championship Predictions: Conservative/Aggressive Plays for Every Type of Bettor

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Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts on the second green during the final round of The Players Championship golf tournament Sunday, March 17, 2024, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
(AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelGolf May 07, 2024, 8:41 AM

After a brief respite for many of the PGA Tour’s best players, get ready for a fortnight with plenty of fireworks, as this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, a PGA Tour signature event, serves as a tasty appetizer into the year’s second major at next week’s PGA Championship.

In most instances, a big-time event devoid of the most big-time player would be reason for a downgrade, but the absence of Scottie Scheffler at Quail Hollow Club might actually add to the allure, considering he’s had a recent tendency to, you know, win every time he plays.

What we’re left with is a more wide-open field, though one which could portend a similar result, with the pre-tourney favorite cruising to victory.

That’s where I’ll start this week’s selections, as the top of the board is simply too enticing to pass up.

Wells Fargo Championship Outright Picks

Conservative: Rory McIlroy (+750)

If last week’s CJ Cup Byron Nelson presented a perfect opportunity to chase a few triple-digit numbers (with 100/1 longshot Taylor Pendrith eventually winning), this week might be one where we go with the single-bullet theory that’s been popularized by Scottie Scheffler outright bettors in recent months. 

With the world No. 1 skipping this one, our weapon of choice this time is McIlroy, the pre-tourney favorite who’s fresh off a Zurich Classic win alongside Shane Lowry two weeks ago. We can debate whether that victory will be the springboard he needs to win a first major championship in a decade – and I’ll be writing on that very topic this week – but it’s tough to believe he won’t ride that momentum at one of his favorite tracks. In a dozen career starts at Quail Hollow, Rory owns three wins (2010, 2015, 2021), a playoff loss and nine top-10s. 

It’s tough to envision another T-47 type of result like he had here last year, especially when he comes in running hot already. My advice is to jump on this price early because I can envision him closing at something closer to +650 by opening tee time on Thursday. (It already has moved after opening at +900.)

If you’re still reluctant to play him at this short number, though, don’t be afraid to wait a day or two into the tournament. In each of his three victories here, he opened with a score in the 70s before going low on the weekend.

Aggressive: Harris English (+5000)

So far this year, English’s performance reminds me of Lowry last year – which is to say, he’s playing at a consistently high level without really having a peak week, as his seventh-place finish at Riviera remains his best result, but he does own seven top-25s in 11 starts. The bright spots have been his chipping and putting, as he’s gained strokes on the field in both categories in each of his last seven tourneys. 

Couple that with a career-best T-3 at Quail Hollow last year, and the four-time champion should own some win equity in this shortened field. If you’re not going the Rory route and putting all of your eggs in that basket, English should be on the short list of longshots who have a chance to win here.

Wells Fargo Championship Top 5 Picks

Conservative: Max Homa (+400)

Welcome to the No Duh portion of this week’s preview, as Homa should be a popular play this week for a few different reasons. He won this event in both 2019 and 2022, each time posting three rounds in the 60s en route to the title. Those are his only top-fives in a half-dozen career starts here, but he was T-8 last year and posted an unblemished 4-0-0 record at the Presidents Cup two years ago, becoming the catalytic sparkplug of the American team in the process. 

Then there’s the fact that he’s been trending in the right direction for a while now, posting five top-20s in 10 appearances this year and gaining strokes with his irons in 17 consecutive measured tournaments. As a course-horse type of player, Homa often plays his best golf in the same spots each year, so it makes perfect sense to back him for another contention at this one.

Aggressive: J.T. Poston (+900)

After starting the year red-hot, with top-20s in five of his first six, Poston cooled off to the tune of four straight finishes of 30th or worse. That ended when he went T-5 at the RBC Heritage in his most recent start, and another Southeast appearance should be the perfect place to chase that result. 

His best finish at this event was a T-9 two years ago, but I’d argue that Poston is a more complete player right now than he’s ever been at any previous point in his career, so it makes sense to play him for a title contention, though top-10/20 tickets are obviously viable, as well.

Wells Fargo Championship Top 10 Picks

Conservative: Sahith Theegala (+225)

A rising superstar who ranks fourth on the FedEx Cup points list, I love everything about Theegala’s game. Well, almost everything. The one thing I don’t like – from a betting perspective – is the fact that his all-around performance has rendered him largely unpredictable on a regular basis. 

Earlier in his career, I tended to favor him at his native West Coast events, but he’s proven that his game can travel and now offers value pretty much anywhere, no matter course length, grass type or any other variables. In his first start at Quail Hollow last year, he finished a mere T-56, but he’s blossoming before our very eyes right now, already with a pair of runner-up finishes this year and five top-10s in a dozen starts. 

If there’s a type of venue where we’d favor him, it might be at a big ballpark of major championship proportions, which means this one certainly fits.

Aggressive: Adam Schenk (+450)

Scores of 66-67-68-66 were somehow only good enough to yield a T-13 at TPC Craig Ranch last week, but it shouldn’t take away from the fact that Schenk is starting to hit his stride. He’s the type of player who doesn’t do any singular thing great but does everything pretty well, ranking between 27th and 60th in strokes gained numbers off the tee, around the greens and putting. 

His season-long approach stats aren’t too special, but he’s now been positive with the irons in four straight starts, which uncoincidentally has corresponded with improved results. With a T-9 finish here two years ago, he’s already proven he can post a top-10 at Quail Hollow – and that was a much bigger field.

Wells Fargo Championship Top 20 Picks

Conservative: Tommy Fleetwood (-110)

Sure, taking the world’s 11th-ranked player for a top-20 in a 70-man field might be stretching the notion of conservatism, but we’ll take a cashed ticket wherever we can find it. Fleetwood has finished T-14 and T-5 at this event in his past two starts, the latter of which started with a first round-leading 65 last year. 

Still without a win on U.S. soil, the Englishman is a guy I’ll usually recommend fading in outright markets but often like for finishing position bets. If this top-20 play is too conservative for you, though, check out Corey Conners (+150), Akshay Bhatia (+130) and Cam Davis (+280). 

Aggressive: Mackenzie Hughes (+275)

Years ago, before the implementation of advanced data in golf betting prognostications, the sleeping-in-his-own-bed theorem would carry a decent amount of weight. It’s an easy connection: Essentially, those players with local ties not only carried greater motivation to succeed in front of the home crowd, but they’re also more attuned to things like the type of grass on which a tournament in their proverbial backyard is being played. 

We’ve learned through both results and anecdotal evidence that this often isn’t the case. A player being hounded by neighbors for tickets, one who still must take out the trash before he leaves for work, might not be completely focused on the task at hand like another player who’s stuck in a hotel thinking wholly about golf. 

All of that said, it’s still difficult to completely fade the nearby residents, especially when they’re playing their home course. That’s the case for Hughes, who recently became a member at Quail Hollow and can be found playing money games with fellow members during his weeks at home. 

Fresh off a final-round 64 at The CJ Cup Byron Nelson, his game just happens to be coming around in time to put on a show for the Charlotte galleries. One of the better fast-greens putters around, don’t be surprised to see Hughes use his local knowledge on these putting surfaces to climb the leaderboard throughout the weekend.

Wells Fargo Championship First Round Leader Picks

Conservative: Alex Noren (+4000)

It wasn’t until he was 3-under through his first five holes on Thursday morning of last week’s CJ Cup Byron Nelson that I was reminded of the recent golden rule about sprinkling a little on Noren for an FRL bet. His opening 64 left him one stroke shy of first-round leader Matt Wallace, but it was his sixth sub-70 opening total already this year and led to a solo third-place finish. 

As I wrote in last week’s preview, despite being a 10-time DP World Tour winner and former Ryder Cup team member, Noren might be playing the best golf of his life right now, finishing inside the top-25 in each of his last half-dozen starts. I like the idea of single-round investments here, just because he’s proven to be a hot starter, but if you want to keep riding him for top-10/20 finishing position bets, I certainly don’t dislike that plan, either. 

Aggressive: Denny McCarthy (+5000)

There’s admittedly not much price differential between this week’s conservative and aggressive FRL advisements, but McCarthy is a guy I often like in this market. Both the stats and his peers suggest that he’s one of the best putters on the planet and on a tough course where something in the mid-60s should cash these tickets, I like the idea of my chances on a guy who’s known to roll in a bunch of mid-range birdies than one who grinds out a result with ball-striking over four days. 

In fact, two years ago he opened with a 65 here, and while it wasn’t good enough for the early lead, it at least proves he can post a number.

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About the Author

Jason Sobel

Read More @JasonSobelGolf

Jason Sobel is a Brand Ambassador for BetMGM. He joins after six years with Action Network. Prior to Action, Jason spent a total of 17 years in two stints at ESPN (1997-2011; 2015-18) and four years at Golf Channel (2011-15). He also currently works as a host for "Hitting the Green" on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio and contributes to the channel's on-site coverage during major championships. He's won four Sports Emmy awards, more than a dozen Golf Writers Association of America accolades and has earned an honorable mention in the Best of American Sportswriting series.

Jason Sobel is a Brand Ambassador for BetMGM. He joins after six years with Action Network. Prior to Action, Jason spent a total of 17 years in two stints at ESPN (1997-2011; 2015-18) and four years at Golf Channel (2011-15). He also currently works as a host for "Hitting the Green" on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio and contributes to the channel's on-site coverage during major championships. He's won four Sports Emmy awards, more than a dozen Golf Writers Association of America accolades and has earned an honorable mention in the Best of American Sportswriting series.