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Monday, 15 October, 2018

Simpson could swoop for Eagle Point glory

Returning Johnson may not have it all his own way

Webb Simpson should feel right at home
1 of 1

Live on Sky Sports 4 from 8pm Thursday
Tournament starts midday

Wilkerson's top tip
Webb Simpson 40-1
In tackling last week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans players had to tackle a new team format and they will now have to make different adjustments as the PGA Tour heads to unfamiliar territory.

Quail Hollow has hosted the Wells Fargo Championship for the last 14 years but as that Carolina venue will be used for August's USPGA Championship, the tournament moves to Eagle Point in Wilmington, which hosts a US Tour event for the first time.

Most attention will centre on world number one Dustin Johnson, who will take to the course for the first time since his dramatic late withdrawal from The Masters.

He went to Augusta having won his previous three tournaments and it is little surprise that he is just 5-1 to triumph, as he should be able to overpower the 7,259-yard track and there should be few concerns about the back injury that prevented his Green Jacket attempt.

But as course form is scarce, there could be better value elsewhere and Webb Simpson fits the bill.

The 2012 US Open champion is a member at the private club and plays the course at least twice a year. He claimed earlier this year that it is a "dream come true" to play a PGA Tour event at the venue.

But Simpson is not only a sentimental selection as he has posted some decent results since the turn of the year.

He finished second at the Phoenix Open and went off in the final group in the last round of The Heritage three weeks ago, only to close with a disappointing 74 which left him tied for 11th.

But there was enough in his performance at Harbour Town to suggest he is moving in the right direction and while he has not captured a title since the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October 2013, his confidence should be high as he tackles a familiar challenge.

Next best
Jon Rahm 12-1
Unfamiliarity with the course will be a concern for many players this week, but a lack of experience has not bothered Jon Rahm too much this year and this looks another opportunity for the 22-year-old to make a bold challenge.

He plays new courses every week and should not be discouraged by a debut 27th at Augusta, which followed five top-ten finishes in six events, including a dramatic victory at the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January.

Nothing fazes the Spaniard and his long hitting and ability to find greens - he is ranked 21st in the greens-in-regulation statistics - should mean Eagle Point is right up his street.

Other selections
Paul Casey 22-1
Hudson Swafford 66-1
JT Poston 110-1
Paul Casey has benefited from committing himself to the US Tour full time and is getting better as the season progresses.

He has not missed a cut since January's Sony Open in Hawaii, which is the only time he has failed to make the weekend in his last 18 events, and he must be confident after another good Masters when he finished sixth.

He broke 70 on each of the final two days at Augusta and, as with Rahm, his ability to find greens should prove to be an asset. Expect a bold show from the players ranked 14th in GIR.

Hudson Swafford was among a group of players - Harris English, Brian Harman and Patton Kizzire were the others - to pay a two-day visit to Eagle Point recently and the 29-year-old heads to Carolina in decent form.

His missed cut at Augusta can be pardoned and he already has a victory to his name this season after he won the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Swafford had claimed top-ten finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Houston Open before The Masters and some of the decent golf he played with English in finishing 32nd in New Orleans last week should have brushed off any cobwebs.

One rookie to watch this week is North Carolinian JT Poston, who is worthy of support at a treble-figure price.

The 23-year-old from Hickory will be keen to put on a show in his home state and should approach the tournament with confidence, having made the cut in each of his last seven events, a run that has included five top-30 finishes.

He can build on what has been a solid start to his career among the game's leading lights.

Others to note
Dustin Johnson
Johnson's imperious form before The Masters undoubtedly makes the world number one the man to beat.

Kevin Kisner
Five top-ten finishes this year, including a playoff defeat alongside Scott Brown in New Orleans last week, will leave many believing a second PGA Tour triumph could be just around the corner.

Bill Haas
Like Simpson, Haas is a member at Eagle Point which makes him a dangerous proposition. Missed the cut at The Heritage last time out, but has claimed top-20 finishes in seven of his last 11 tournaments.

Kevin Tway
Heads into battle having secured third-placed finishes at the Texas Open and the Zurich Classic with Kelly Kraft, his best Tour performances.

Carl Pettersson
A club member who owns the Eagle Point course record with a 62. His 16th at the Texas Open followed a run of seven missed cuts in eight outings.

Staking plan
W Simpson
2pts each-way 40-1 Betbright
J Rahm
2pts each-way 12-1 Betfred, Sky Bet
P Casey
1.5pts each-way 22-1 Betfair, BoyleSports
H Swafford
1pt each-way 66-1 Betfred, Sky Bet
JT Poston
1pt each-way 110-1 bet365

Wells-Fargo Championship

Course Eagle Point Golf Club, Wilmington, North Carolina
Prize money $7.5m ($1.314m to the winner)
Length 7,259 yards Par 72 Field 156
When to bet By 11.50am on Thursday.
Time difference North Carolina is five hours behind UK & Ireland.

Last week - Zurich Classic of New Orleans 1 J Blixt & C Smith 125-1; 2 K Kisner & S Brown 55-1; 3 K Kraft & K Tway 200-1; 4 J Spieth & R Palmer 12-1; T5 J Dufner & P Kizzire 66-1; B Koepka & C Koepka 100-1; B Watson & JB Holmes 22-1; A Cabrera & J Etulain 350-1; J Thomas & B Cauley 22-1; C Hoffman & N Watney 50-1

Course overview The tournament has been moved from its regular home to allow Quail Hollow to prepare for hosting August's USPGA Championship and this is the first time Eagle Point, designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 2000,  has been used on the PGA Tour.

The private course is just a mile from the Intracoastal Waterway that stretches down the east coast of the United States, although marshland is a feature on only a couple of holes. The proximity to the water can make strong winds a factor though.

The course has been lengthened to 500 yards to become a test for the world's best players but is still on the short side. There are two par threes in the opening five holes and players should be looking to drive the par-four seventh and the four par fives are there to be attacked.

The tree-lined fairways have drawn parallels with Augusta national but the 11th is the only dogleg on the course.

The greens are undulating and finding the right level will be key, with fine scrambling skills required if putting surfaces are not found.

Story of last year John Hahn went to Quail Hollow having missed his previous eight cuts but despite three-putting the final hole, he triumphed at the first playoff hole against Roberto Castro.

Weather forecast There is potential for the odd thunderstorm on Thursday and rain overnight, but the rest of the tournament should remain dry. Winds are expected to gust to up to 20mph with temperatures in the mid 20s.

Type of player suited to challenge Long, straight hitters should be able to tame this new course and the ability to scramble well should be a huge benefit if approach shots just miss the putting surfaces.

Key attribute Power

The 2012 US Open champion is a member at the private club and plays the course at least twice a year
E.W. Terms
Sky bet