A fair Wynd could help Clark sail to another Hollow victory

Wyndham Clark is looking to keep himself ahead of the chasing pack on moving day at Sawgrass (Lynne Sladky/AP)
Wyndham Clark won his first PGA Tour title at Quail Hollow last season and could well defend his Wells Fargo Championship title in Charlotte this week (Lynne Sladky/AP)

All sports-people at the top level tend to have favourite places or venues where they perform well time and again.

Something about a certain place turns them on and leads to a higher performance, and that has very rarely been more the case than for Rory McIlroy at Quail Hollow.

The Holywood man made his PGA Tour breakthrough at the Wells Fargo Championship on this former dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2010, flying through the field with a closing 62 to pip Phil Mickelson.

He won again in 2015, romping home by seven shots after a course record 61 in the third round, before making it a hat-trick in 2021, standing firm to hold off a chasing pack that included Viktor Hovland.

The world number two will also recall a play-off loss in 2012 and four other top-10 finishes as he returns to Quail Hollow this week, and he surely thinks there is a great opportunity to lift some silverware and head to next week’s US PGA at Valhalla in the best possible fettle.

McIlroy’s mood will also be lifted by the fact Scottie Scheffler is one of two high-profile absentees as he awaits the birth of his first child, with the injured and much-fancied Ludvig Aberg the other.

That should make his quest for a four-timer a bit easier, although there is still a huge amount of quality elsewhere in a 69-man Signature Event field.

He will go to post as the favourite here at no bigger than 15/2, and after winning the Zurich Classic alongside Shane Lowry last time out, confidence should be high.

I’m hoping Rory takes a fair deal of beating, and that course record suggests he should, so shrewd punters might decide he is an each-way banker with 7/1 and 10 places on offer with Ladbrokes.

I’ve been back and forwards about whether to select him, and if the carefree player from New Orleans turns up, he could win with a bit in hand.

Unfortunately that player isn’t around all the time, and all things considered I feel there’s better value to be had in Charlotte.

The first example of that comes in the shape of defending champion Wyndham Clark, who would be the stand-out player of 2024 if Scheffler didn’t exist.

Clark was available at 100/1 when he won here last term, but he quickly showed that was no fluke by seeing off McIlroy at the US Open in Los Angeles, and has won at Pebble Beach this season as well.

He also chased home Scheffler for second at both Bay Hill and Sawgrass, before finishing third at the RBC Heritage last time out.

A missed Masters cut in the middle of that run can be forgiven as it was his Augusta debut, and I’m expecting a big defence from a player who is firing on all fronts.

It might be a slight negative that this is the first time he’s teed it up as a defending champion, but everything about Clark over the past 12 months suggests he should cope fine, and he loves a tough test, as Quail Hollow certainly is.

Big hitters have tended to have the edge here over the years, with accuracy off the tee not a big requirement, and Clark can definitely give it a rip, while he knows how to get the job done if he’s in the hunt and Scheffler is not on the scene.

At twice the price of McIlroy here, he might be a more reliable proposition and leads the shortlist at 16/1 generally.

Max Homa is another past Quail Hollow champion, taking his first PGA Tour title here in 2019, and he has grown in stature since by winning five more times.

The world number 10 tends to save his best for tough courses, as wins at Riviera and Torrey Pines underline, while he is coming into form after bubbling under for much of 2024.

Max Homa watches his tee shot on the 12th hole during the first round of the 88th Masters (George Walker IV/AP)
Max Homa can build on a fine performance in The Masters by going close in the Wells Fargo Championship (George Walker IV/AP)

Homa put in his best Major effort to date when sharing third at Augusta last month, and he will be relishing getting back to Quail Hollow, where he was eighth last term and also excelled in the 2022 Presidents Cup.

The Californian actually won the Wells Fargo for a second time earlier that summer to seal his place in the US team – although it was played in Maryland that year – and he made the most of his chance by winning four points from four, including seeing off International team talisman Tom Kim in the singles.

Homa is a strong contender here and his long game has been much improved of late, so at 20/1 (Ladbrokes) there is plenty to like about him.

Cameron Young was also in that US team in 2022, and while he had an up-and-down week and is yet to prove his liking for Quail Hollow, there is little doubt he will shine there in time.

Still a PGA Tour maiden, Young continues to bang on the door and his first victory is likely to come on a tough, Major-type layout just like this.

A ninth at Augusta last month was his fifth top-10 in his last eight Majors, and that came after a second at the Valspar Championship.

Young is packed full of power and won’t be scared of this long par-71 test, while he went to college in North Carolina, at Wake Forest, and could go close at 25/1 here.

Finally, Sungjae Im actually beat Young in the Presidents Cup singles in 2022, and might just be worth a bet here at 45/1 (Boylesports).

The Korean claimed 2.5 points in a losing battle that week, before finishing eighth on his return to Quail Hollow last term.

Im has had a quiet year by his standards so far, but something definitely clicked with his long game when 12th at the Heritage, while he won in his homeland the following week.

That victory came in a weak field, but the importance of confidence can’t be overlooked, and neither can returning to a favourite place.


Wyndham Clark, e/w, 16/1 (General);

Max Homa, e/w, 20/1 (Ladbrokes);

Cameron Young, e/w, 25/1 (Ladbrokes);

Sungjae Im, e/w, 45/1 (Boylesports); top Asian, 4/1 (General)