Fairway or Fowler: Can Rickie Fowler use good memories of Quail Hollow to revive his form this week?

The American’s first PGA Tour win came in the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship and he badly needs to ride the wave of those good vibes this week.

There's a curious sense of deja vu about this week's Wells Fargo Championship at the Quail Hollow Club.

Rory McIlroy has a new coach, is desperately seeking to rediscover his mojo, and is also having to address the doubts of onlookers.

That's all happened before at this tournament.

And then there's Rickie Fowler.

Back in 2012 he was feted as the future of American golf and yet he consistently found the winner's circle stubbornly reluctant to let him in.

He needed to put the doubts to bed and travelled to Quail Hollow knowing he had a fine record there.

But could he turn it round? Could he find that all-important edge on the field?

It needed extra holes, but he achieved it and has won another eight times since, but the last of those occurred over two years ago and it is 15 months since he even made a top 10.

Can the memories of that breakthrough week nine years ago offer hope?

In 2013 he said, of his return to the course as defending champion: "It's fun to be back. Just reliving memories this week, seeing the staff and tournament committee, meeting up with the guys, fellow players bringing up the defence - it's good."

It will be diluted now, but to some extent that effect can still have an impact - he's bound to experience moments that trigger flashbacks, but will it be enough to generate a performance of any note?

Let's take a closer look at the Fowler case.

Fowler on Quail Hollow

"This course is one of my favorites that we play all year. It's a lot of fun to play.

"You've got to drive the ball well, got to put yourself in position to hit the greens and control your ball because if you end up on the wrong side of the hole, you're going to walk away with a tough par or making bogey.

"It looks good to my eye. I'm comfortable off the tee and I seem to hit a lot of good iron shots here."

Fowler at Quail Hollow

2010 - hits 75% of greens in a fast-finishing tied sixth

2011 - struggles with the long game, but a hot putter leads to T16th

2012 - another good week of ball-striking (79.2% GIR) fuels playoff victory over Rory McIlroy and DA Points

Fowler with the trophy in 2012
Fowler with the trophy in 2012

2013 - a missed cut on defence

2014 - strong scrambling can't make up for his worst tee-to-green performance: T38th

2016 - leads by one after 54 holes, but can't convert and finishes tied fourth

2017 - his best putting performance is kept for the PGA Championship, but he lost the long game for the week and finished fifth

2018 - follows his best putting with very nearly his worst and ends the week T21st

2019 - enjoys his best weekend of scoring (66-68) to finish tied fourth

Fowler's Quail Hollow stats

In traditional stats he's six times ranked top 10 for Ball-Striking, but his two best Putting Average performances came in those three poor long game weeks.

In the four tournaments that have utilised Strokes Gained stats, he's always ranked top 25 for Off the Tee, Around the Green and Tee to Green, but has never done so for Approach.

He does somewhat owe his good record to excellent final round figures.

He's never gone sub-70 twice before the weekend and only twice been within four strokes of the lead with 18 holes to play (three back when he won in 2012, leading by one in 2016).

His scoring average improves with every circuit:

Round one 70.67 (3-for-9 at going sub-70)

Round two 70.44 (2-for-9)

Round three 70.22 (5-for-9)

Round four 69.50 (5-for-8)

Conclusions

Fowler's last performance at the Texas Open did offer hope: in finishing T17th his Strokes Gained stats for Off the Tee and Tee to Green were his best since January, and the Putting his second best effort of the year.

Let's assume you have faith that a return to Quail Hollow will lead to further improvement. How can you best back him?

First round leader 70/1 with Unibet - he has a best of just tied fourth after 18 holes with a second best of tied sixth.

Winner 75/1 with Bet365 - even at his finest Fowler struggled to win as often as he should have done. Another one to steer clear of.

Top five 14/1 with Boylesport - this bet would have won four times in nine, but the flipside is that he hasn't finished in the top five in a full field since this tournament back in 2019 (he was fifth at the 2020 Tournament of Champions).

Top 10 7/1 with Sporting Index - a five time winner in the past on the course, but it's 28 events since he last finished in this position anywhere.

Top 20 3/1 with Sport Nation - it's landed six times on the course and he was one stroke away from making it seven in 2018. He's also finished top 20 in two of his last five appearances.

Make the cut 8/15 with Paddy Power - he's 8-for-9 on the course and 10-for-15 in recent times.

If he makes the cut - remember that he plays better Quail Hollow golf at the weekend and look to back him in a two-ball.

If you're unconvinced by the course form - he's 6/4 to miss the cut with Bet365.

The best bet looks the top 20.

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

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