• Betting Bunker

Phil can't fail at Quail Hollow

Josh Williams May 2, 2012
Phil Mickelson blew his chance to win The Masters last month, but he's still had a great year, so don't lose heart © Getty Images

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The back-and-forth tussle for the world No. 1 ranking between Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy is poised to take another twist at this week's Wells Fargo Championship.

McIlroy surrendered top rank on Monday, but will wrestle it back provided he finishes in the top seven at Quail Hollow, a track where he holds the course record (62, set in 2010).

Going so low would be impressive on any track, but it is especially so on this one, which is traditionally one of the most punishing on the PGA Tour: the short grass is tough to find and so are the greens, which makes toughing it out absolutely crucial.

You might think it would be ideal for a short and tidy player - Donald, for instance, although he's not playing this week - but not so, because it clocks in at a daunting 7,469 yards. It's a formidable set-up worthy of a major championship, which is handy for the players with the US Open round the corner, and considering that for many this will be the first start since The Masters.

So what I'm looking for here is a player who fires it a long way, yet also possesses a bit of magic on and around the greens - iron play doesn't interest me so much.

Step forward Phil Mickelson, who tempts at odds of 12/1. I won't insult you by stating that the American has the skills already outlined - however, I will draw attention to his excellent record at the tournament: six top-tens in eight starts.

Mickelson will still be smarting that he didn't pocket another Masters title last month, after his chances went up in smoke when he carded a triple bogey early in his final round. Yet when the cloud of disappointment clears, if it hasn't already, he will have reason to reflect on another decent finish in what has, so far, been an excellent season: he's third in the FedEx Cup list following four top-tens thus far in 2012.

He said before Augusta that he feels he's putting as well as he ever has, and the stats support that, with the left-hander third on Tour in strokes gained-putting, and second in bogey avoidance. The veteran is going to take some beating over the weekend.

I'm also keen on the reigning US PGA champion Keegan Bradley, who did some work with Mickelson before The Masters. Bradley is a serious talent, and I'd be very surprised if he didn't play, and impress, in the Ryder Cup later this year.

He's also a good fit for Quail Hollow: 18th in bogey avoidance, 28th in strokes gained-putting, and a long hitter. He missed the cut last week, but I'm not going to get too bothered by that (he could probably do with the rest) and besides, that's reflected in pretty generous odds of 33/1.

Please note that odds are correct at time of publication and are subject to change.

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Josh Williams Close
Josh Williams is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk