If Tiger Woods is going to win his first event since 2013 at this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, he is going to have to beat a fairly strong field. Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Rickie Fowler are all entered in this event, which begins Thursday at Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte, NC.
Those three, along with Patrick Reed, Jason Day, and Hideki Matsuyama, all have lower odds than Woods, according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. McIlroy is the favorite at 7/1, followed by Thomas and Fowler at 10/1, Day, Matsuyama and Reed at 20/1. Woods is listed at 25/1, along with Tommy Fleetwood, Phil Mickelson, and Paul Casey.
The last tournament those golfers all played at was the Masters. Every golfer in that group, except for Mickelson, finished higher than Woods at the first major championship of the year.
New Irons, New Outcome?
It has been six years since Woods has played this event, mostly because he has been recovering from various back surgeries. He is playing his first full season since his fourth procedure, a lumbar fusion surgery performed a year ago.
His schedule has been a full one so far this year. He has played in six events since January, including two series of back-to-back tournaments. This is the first of two consecutive weeks he’ll be on the golf course. He’s set to play at the Players Championship next week.
He will be doing so with new irons. The longtime Nike VR Pro Irons have been replaced with TaylorMade prototype clubs that are tentatively called TW Phase 1. He told USA Today Sports on Tuesday he was ready for the change.
“It’s not a big deal to me because I’ve been working on this for months and now I can hit the ball the correct numbers and the correct shape,” Woods said before heading to the first tee for a 9-hole practice round. “It’s just a nice transition and a nice fit.”
Woods talked about his frustrations at Augusta National with his irons and how he was struggling with them. This week he feels confident he has the right equipment.
Favorites Expect to Shine
McIlroy’s record at Quail Hollow is the main reason he’s the top pick. He has won here twice, 2010 and 2015, and has four other top 10 finishes. He won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March and finished tied for fifth at the Masters, the last event he played.
Thomas won the PGA Championship here last year and has three top 10s at Quail Hollow. Missing the cut last week at Zurich shouldn’t be too alarming since it was a team event.
Fowler could be the sleeper pick this week. He has never missed the cut here, won in 2012, and has two other top 10 finishes. A second-place finish at the Masters should be factored in as well.
The most appealing longshot could be Tony Finau at 30/1. He hasn’t wowed at this event, his best finish a tie for 16th in 2015, but he has been playing strong golf this year. He has six top 10s, including the Masters and has recovered from dislocating his ankle a month ago.