The PGA Tour is headed to Charlotte this week and the return of the Wells Fargo Championship illustrates just how much things can change in a year. Last year at this time there was a mass exodus from the field, which eventually led to one of the best stories of the season. This year? The course is in much better shape and it's a different 22-year-old making a name for himself.
Coming off his first PGA Tour win, Noh is an obvious candidate to make the stock up list. The rise, however, may not be short lived. Noh has played on the PGA Tour since 2010, including close to a full-time schedule since 2012, so it's easy to forget he's still just 22 years old. It was less of a question of if Noh would win on tour and more of a matter of when. That time finally came last week at the Zurich Classic. The win jumped Noh from 71st to 16th in the FedEx Cup standings and earned him a spot in the Players Championship next week. Noh doesn't draw the attention of Jordan Spieth or other young players, but might have just as much game. He ranks first on the Tour in sand save percentage and is 14th in greens in regulation.
Rarely say this, but this is the first of many wins for Seung-Yul Noh. Pure golf swing and a boatload of talent. Full speed ahead, kid.— Jonathan Wall (@jonathanrwall) April 27, 2014
Quail Hollow Club
A year after having a crisis with very poor greens, it's safe to say the Quail Hollow Club is having a better time hosting the Wells Fargo Championship this year. The poor greens were the story of the event last year, with several players withdrawing from the field because conditions were so far below PGA Tour standards. Out are the bentgrass greens that caused the issues and in are new bermudagrass surfaces. Conditions still aren't perfect, with recent freezing temperatures firming things up, but they are much better than a year ago.
Course superintendent Chris Deariso figures to sleep a little better this year.
"I can tell you that all of my time, I only thought about the greens," Deariso said, via PGATour.com. "Literally all of my effort -- and my assistants' -- were on the greens. Bunkers and fairways didn't get as much attention to detail as we've been able to do this year."
Quite the difference from a year ago when Deariso and the club were forced to re-sod two greens just nine days before the event.
The 31-year-old from Italy has only played six events stateside this year, but he'll be able to add another to that list soon, now that he's qualified for The Players Championship. Molinari finished fourth at the Volvo China Open last week and the result was good enough to bump him to No. 46 in the world rankings. Being in the top 50 in the April 27 edition of the Official World Golf Rankings was good enough for a spot at TPC Sawgrass next week.
Reed began the season playing as well as anyone in the world, winning the Humana Challenge and again at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He added five other top 25 finishes, shooting up near the top of the FedEx Cup standings. Following his win at the Cadillac Championship, Reed infamously said he thought he was a top-five player in the world. He may have been playing like one at the time, but it's been all downhill from there. He finished T52nd at the Arnold Palmer, missed the cut at the Masters, finished T48 at the RBC Heritage before missing the cut last week at the Zurich Classic. He finished over par in all four events, including last week when he shot 74-76 at arguably the easiest stop on the PGA Tour.
It's been a rocky 12 months for Ernst since he surprised everyone by winning the Wells Fargo Championship a year ago. A win can springboard a career, but that hasn't been the case for Ernst. At least not yet. He's made just 10 cuts in 29 events since winning, including one in his last five events. He hasn't finished better than 30th in an event this year. Some of that is by design -- as Ernst changed coaches and his swing since winning -- but the current state of his game is still less than ideal for his chances to defend his championship.
The site of last week's Zurich Classic, TPC Louisiana has taken a beating during the last week. It's been called the Tour's easiest and arguably worst stop. The course isn't overly memorable or unique and plays way too easy for pros. While fans love to watch players make birdies, the scores approaching 20-under are a bit of overkill. The Zurich Classic to the PGA Tour is essentially what the Arena Football League is to the NFL. Last week was a prime example of it being too easy when Andrew Svoboda tied the course record on Thursday only to see it bettered by two strokes later in the day. That wasn't the only time, either. Bo Van Pelt bettered the previous mark of 64 with a 63 on Friday while Robert Garrigus tied the old course record on Sunday. Red numbers are great, until there are too many of them.