Who's More Likely to Win at Quail Hollow Again: Rickie Fowler or Rory McIlroy ?

Mike DudurichContributor IApril 29, 2014

Rory McIlory has gotten off to a good start this season.
Rory McIlory has gotten off to a good start this season.Rob Carr/Getty Images

As always, the Wells Fargo Championship this week in Charlotte, North Carolina, will have a high-quality field.

This year, 10 of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will be at the Quail Hollow Club in an attempt to win one of the favorite stops on the PGA Tour and make sure they are in top shape going into The Players Championship.

Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els are among the the big names in the field this week.

There are also two players who have won this event previously but come to Charlotte this week surrounded by questions.

Rory McIlroy won the event in 2010, gaining a great deal of notoriety by finishing the tournament with a sparkling 62 on Sunday. Fowler won in 2012, surviving a playoff against McIlroy and D.A. Points, when he stuffed a wedge shot four feet from the cup on the first extra hole.

Here are two world-class playersone a former No. 1 in the world, and the other a player who brought outlandish color with him to the PGA Tourand, bottom line, two players who should be winning more than they are.

So, the question is, who is more likely to win the coveted Wells Fargo?

Well, in my opinion, the place to start is in the numbers and how they translate into recent form.

After crunching the numbers, McIlroy seems to be the favorite based on form.

The young man from Northern Ireland has made four starts on the PGA Tour and has registered four top 10s. His worst score has been a 75, but he's posted eight scores in the 60s.

Fowler, who is undergoing a swing change under the tutelage of renowned teacher Butch Harmon, doesn't come close to matching McIlroy's numbers. He's had 13 starts, posted three top-10s and missed five cuts.

His worst score has been a 77. Fowler has recorded 10 scores in the 60s, but only two of those have come since the Honda Classic in March.

Rickie Fowler continues to work through swing changes this year.
Rickie Fowler continues to work through swing changes this year.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Nothing in any of those numbers instills a great deal of confidence that Fowler will be getting his second Wells Fargo win this week.

Even their performance stats favor McIlroy heavily.

According to PGATOUR.com, McIlroy is sixth in driving distance, 21st in greens in regulation, fourth in scoring average and first in putts made inside five feet. By comparison, Fowler's best ranking is 43rd in driving distance.

From a historical perspective, Fowler has played four times at the Quail Hollow Club with a playoff win, a sixth, a T16 and a T73. McIlroy has also played four times, winning once, losing in a playoff and a T10. He missed the cut in his fourth start.

Again, the advantage goes to McIlroy.

Statistics don't lie, it is said, but there's more to this question than straight-up numbers.

McIlroy has had the better numbers in a really strong start to the 2014 season. The thing that is somewhat concerning about him is that, as impressive as his play has been, he had a chance to validate his comeback at the Honda Classic.

But he faltered badly on the back nine and lost in a playoff to Russell Henley. Doubts still remain as to whether he's really back to where he was when he was ranked as the best player in the world in March 2013.

He's very good, absolutely. But that next step, he's not quite there yet. He also had a chance to make another big impression at the Masters, but he stumbled in the second round to a 77 and finished T8.

Fowler, too, has not had much success contending in the biggest events, and that's something that bothers him. In a Golfweek story written by Nick Masuda, Fowler said, "It's about time that I need to kind of step up and start playing well on the weekends, especially at the majors."

He finished T5 at the Masters and hung around the fringe of contention but never really pressed the leaders.

Considering the swing-change factor, Fowler's performance was pretty good, actually. You might expect Fowler to improve even more as the changes become more natural.

McIlroy, on the other hand, should have a burr under his saddle this week. When Justin Rose put up a T8 finish last week in the Zurich Classic, he moved up the Official World Golf Ranking to 10th and bumped McIlroy out of the top 10 for the first time in 169 weeks.

Ironically, McIlroy and Fowler, along with Jonas Blixt, will play the first two rounds together at Quail Hollow.

I'm going with the numbers this time. McIlroy may or may not win this week, but he'll win the Wells Fargo before Fowler does.


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