The leading seven contenders and key stats at the Wells Fargo Championship

For the first time in two years the PGA Tour returns to the Quail Hollow Club, giving Max Homa a belated opportunity to defend his title.

Quail Hollow is a tough test.

A par-71 that can be stretched to 7,600-yards it is very much a modern championship examination.

True, the Wells Fargo Championship is a regular PGA Tour stop, but the venue hosted the 2017 PGA Championship and it requires Major Championship qualities to conquer it.

Tee shots need to be moved in both directions and those initial blows also need to be crashed long distances or short-hitters need one of the approach-shot weeks of their lives.

Nine of the 17 winners on the course in the 21st century were Major winners, 12 of the 17 have finished top three in a Major. The cream rises to the top, but so, too, do the odd surprise packages - Derek Ernst and James Hahn were winners straight out of leftfield.

But let's focus on the top of the market and take a closer look at the leading contenders.

Key stats

Four of the last five winners at Quail Hollow led the scoring on the Par-4s and the exception was fifth.

A hot putter helps too. The last four winners had good SG Putting stats but also very good Putting Averages for the week - the last three were top two in that category, the other was fifth and the man he defeated in a playoff was ranked first.

Finally, Driving Distance - big hitting helps because short hitting places enormous strain on the approach game.

The rankings below relate to performance so far in the 2020/21 season.

Jon Rahm

Key stats: P4s 7th, PA 81st, DD 22nd

Two ticks from the stats, but the lack of one in the putting is a concern at the prices.

It's not just that his seasonal average is, well, average, it's also that in 2021 he hasn't once had a PA below 1.70 or ranked better than 13th. Moreover, in his only course appearance, at the 2017 PGA Championship, he finished a lowly T58th and wasn't helped by ranking 65th for PA.

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Eight finishes of T7th or better in his last 10 starts reminds us how good he is, however - and also how much better he will be when he regains his touch with the flat stick.

Best price 11/1 with Bet365.

Justin Thomas

Key stats: P4s 20th, PA 2nd, DD 52nd

A fine package and, moreover, there is nothing to be concerned about regarding his DD ranking because Thomas can hit it plenty far enough - to be 52nd this year merely proves that he's spent a lot of time keeping his fire dry.

Moreover, he's a course winner (in the 2017 PGA Championship), finished T7th on debut in this tournament in 2015 and has learned to let himself off the leash from the tee here - he ranked first for DD in the win and third when he last visited in 2018.

Finished T13th last week at Innisbrook courtesy of his best ball-striking display there in four visits.

Best price 11/1 with Bet365.

Bryson DeChambeau

Key stats: P4s 112th, PA 87th, DD 1st

No surprise that length is not an issue, but his other rankings are somewhat askew and in three previous visits he has struggled to shine on the greens.

DeChambeau didn't enjoy the Masters.
DeChambeau didn't enjoy the Masters.

His course record is travelling in the right direction, however. He missed the cut on debut in 2016, was T33rd at the 2017 PGA Championship and, despite being T114th after a first round 75 in 2018, raced through the field to finish T4th.

Last seen putting in another baffling performance at Augusta National. Is the Green Jacket his green kryptonite? And, if it is, when away from it will we see a swift return to the form that saw him win at Bay Hill?

Best price 14/1 with Bet365.

Xander Schauffele

Key stats: P4s 30th, PA 17th, DD 27th

The only leading contender to rank top 30 for all three categories and he's also fresh off a genuine tilt at a first Major victory (at Augusta) followed by a decent effort at the pairs event in New Orleans.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that he's played here twice, has always carded 74 in round one, at the 2017 PGA Championship he added an 81 to miss the cut, in 2018 he never broke par when T72nd, and his Greens in Regulation numbers in those two visits read a dismal 33.3 and 51.4%.

Best price 20/1 with Bet365.

Rory McIlroy

Key stats: P4s 174th, PA 65th, DD 3rd

An absolutely intriguing case this week, albeit one the stats don't like. But we know that McIlroy has the game to win on this course: he's done it twice and in 10 visits he's only two times finished outside the top 20.

McIlroy completing his first win in 2010.
McIlroy completing his first win in 2010.

The key for him is rediscovering his mojo. His last four performances have been dreadful, left him looking bereft, and he has turned to Pete Cowen for swing advice.

Can a return to a very happy hunting ground, plus the tough love of Cowen, reap a swift turnaround? Golf is an odd game that needs very little to transform hopes. He was 6/1 to win here in 2019 and now ...

Best price 20/1 with Bet365.

Webb Simpson

Key stats: P4s 18th, PA 94th, DD 138th

Simpson is a member at the Quail Hollow Club who's finished second in 2015, tied fourth 2012 and T33rd or better in seven of his 11 visits.

But is his (relative) lack of distance the key difference between consistency and lifting the trophy? He's also struggled a little with the greens, ranking top 10 for PA just twice in all those appearances.

Was last seen finishing tied ninth at The Heritage.

Best price 22/1 with Bet365.

Viktor Hovland

Key stats: P4s 20th, PA 46th, DD 57th

A course debutant, but otherwise a solid option.

Can he pound it from the tee? Yes, three times ranking top 10 this year, but proving his smarts by only unleashing full power when he feels the test calls for it. Can he drain putts? Yes, he led the PA rankings at Augusta and was 10th last week at Innisbrook.

Closed last week's event with a 65, flying home for tied third, a seventh top six finish in his last 12 starts.

Best price 22/1 with Bet365.

READ MORE: Can Quail Hollow work its magic on Rory McIlroy again and revive his flagging form?

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