2023 Wells Fargo Championship First Round Leader Picks: This Is the Justin Thomas Sweet Spot

The Wells Fargo has an elite field, with 120 players and 36 of the world’s top 50 players teeing it up. The course this week is as pure as it gets, as Quail Hollow is one of the best regular-field venues of the year. This 7,500-yard par 71 features plenty of long par 4’s that will require players to be hitting drivers and longer irons on nearly every hole. Gaining strokes off the tee has been a hallmark of past winners, and for first-round leader purposes, it’s all about finding the longer hitters who can get hot with their putter for a round. The first-round leaders at this event have been a mix of morning and afternoon starters in recent years, and with the weather offering almost zero wind on Day 1, there is no need to favor one wave over the other.

As always, this column will use the OddsShopper’s golf betting tools to identify the best value options as well as a few numbers to include for 2023 Wells Fargo Championship first-round leader selections.

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2023 Wells Fargo Championship First Round Leader Bets

Justin Thomas First Round Leader (+3500) at BetMGM

Thomas is a former winner at Quail Hollow, as he took home his first PGA Championship win at this venue back in 2017. Clearly, Thomas doesn’t mind these kinds of longer, tree-lined setups, as that’s also the sort of course where he won the PGA last season. His favorite major is approaching, and Thomas has been showing signs that he’s perhaps close to a breakthrough. He has gained over 5.5 strokes tee to green in four of his last five starts and has found some rhythm with his driver finally, gaining over 0.5 strokes off the tee in four of his last five starts. Thomas is also coming in well rested and without a win on the season. A lot of what he does in Round 1 will be putter-dependent, but his tee-to-green game suggests that it won’t be long until he breaks through. Taking him at longer +3500 odds for Round 1 — on a course he clearly loves — isn’t a poor way to start cards this week. He also has an early-afternoon tee time, which provides exposure to that wave.


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Gary Woodland First Round Leader (+7000) at DraftKings

Going off early on Thursday morning is another major winner — and another player who is desperately looking for a win to change his recent run of luck — in Gary Woodland. Woodland made the cut last week in Mexico but couldn’t get anything going on the greens, losing an incredible 7.4 strokes putting for the week. The good news is that he struck the ball so well (gained 9.2 strokes ball striking) that he still managed to make the cut and finish top 40. Woodland will certainly make the putter a focus of his practice this week, and seeing him have a little positive regression with that club early on  wouldn’t be shocking. Woodland opened with a solid 67 here in 2021 and shot 68 at this course in Round 1 of the PGA Championship in 2017. His early tee time and +7000 odds offer exposure to the morning wave and to a player who has proven he can go low when the conditions are nice around this longer course.

2023 Wells Fargo Championship First Round Leader Longshot Bets

Longshot bets in the first-round leader market hit all the time on the PGA Tour. You can always use OddsShopper’s tools to check out and compare odds across the major sites.

Taylor Moore First Round Leader (+7500) at DraftKings

First Round Leader Top 5 (+1100) at BetMGM

One of the strongest corollaries on the PGA Tour to Quail Hollow is the Copperhead Course, host of the Valspar Championship. That venue also plays as a longer par 71 and features plenty of winding doglegs and longer par 3’s. Copperhead is also the venue where Taylor Moore found his first win this season, and he has continued his good run of form ever since that win. Moore made the cut at the Masters last month and then saw his putter catch fire at the RBC, which earned him a share of 11th. The longer venue this week should suit a strong off-tee player like Moore, and with an early tee time and great top-5 odds, he makes sense in both the outright and top-5 markets.

Patrick Rodgers First Round Leader (+8000) at BetMGM

First Round Leader Top 5 (+1400) at BetMGM

Rodgers is another long hitter who can get red hot on the greens at almost any moment. He has also shown great improvement in his ball striking in 2023 and comes in having gained over five strokes ball striking in each of his last three starts. Rodgers grabbed a share of 10th last week in Mexico, and it was mostly due to shooting a 64 on Sunday, the best round of the day by far. Rodgers is coming into this week with confidence and has been in contention at this event before, placing second here in 2015 on his debut. He has also gained over a stroke putting at this venue in four of his five visits. His form and long odds make him a perfect Round 1 add, and he also evens out the card with a late-afternoon tee time.

Cameron Champ First Round Leader (+11000) at DraftKings

First Round Leader Top 5 (+1800) at BetMGM

It would be remiss to not also recommend a small wager on Cameron Champ for this Thursday. Champ is a massive hitter off the tee who finally found some consistency last week with his ball striking, gaining 4.8 strokes off the tee and 5.1 strokes on approach. Perhaps it’s just a small blip, but Champ is an extremely talented character whose distance gives him a long advantage on a course like Quail Hollow. He has played here once prior in 2019 and will at least have some experience with the layout. If he brings the same ball-striking level to his Thursday-afternoon tee time, he will just be one hot putting round away from hitting at some long odds. At +1800 for a top-5, there is little downside to taking a shot with him for Round 1.

Geoff Ulrich
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