This week marks the 25th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads to the Tar Heel State for the Wells Fargo Championship. A field of 156 players will tee it up this week at Quail Hollow Club, where the field will have to conquer the "Green Mile" of holes 16-18.
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Derek Ernst returns to defend the title he won last year in a playoff over David Lynn. Here are 10 players to watch this week in Charlotte:
1. Rory McIlroy: The Ulsterman is out of the top 10 in the world for the first time in more than three years, but he's playing some good golf. His T-8 at the Masters was his third top-10 in his last four starts, and now McIlroy returns to the site of his first PGA Tour victory and a course where he nearly won again in 2012. Three of his four starts at Quail Hollow have yielded a top-10 result, and this week he should make that four out of five.
2. Jim Furyk: Furyk hasn't won in nearly four years, but that drought may come to an end soon. He enters with a streak of four straight top-20 finishes, highlighted by a T-7 at Harbour Town when he contended deep into the final round. The veteran has been quietly consistent at Quail Hollow, with five straight finishes of T-26 or better, and Furyk won here in 2006.
3. Phil Mickelson: He has to get things going at some point...right? Mickelson is still without a top-10 finish this season, but he has never finished worse than T-35 in this event and has notched seven top-10 finishes in 10 starts. He led for much of the tournament last year before falling just short of a playoff, and was also a runner-up to McIlroy in 2010.
4. Lee Westwood: The Englishman won in Malaysia in his most recent start and has cracked the top five each of the last two years in Charlotte, finishing T-4 last year and T-5 in 2012. Westwood contended at the Masters, finishing seventh despite a closing 73, and tied for 17th in Houston the week prior. He's not at the form that earned him the world No. 1 ranking, but he's trending in that direction.
5. Rickie Fowler: Fowler had a surprising early exit last week in New Orleans, but should bounce back at Quail Hollow, the site of his lone PGA Tour victory (2012). Before his missed cut at TPC Louisiana, Fowler had finished fifth and T-6 in his two most recent starts, the latter coming at Augusta National. While he was an MDF last year as the defending champ, his other starts in Charlotte have been more productive: sixth in 2010 and T-16 in 2011.
6. Justin Rose: While many big names missed the cut in NOLA, Rose quietly notched a tie for eighth and has now finished inside the top 15 in three of his last four starts. He's only played once here since 2010, but that resulted in a T-28 in 2011 after Rose went 69-69 over the weekend.
7. Ryan Moore: Moore appears to have found his footing on this course, with four of his last eight rounds at Quail Hollow yielding a 68 or better. He tied for sixth last year and tied for fifth the year prior, and counts a win in Malaysia among his seven top-25 results this season. Moore is seventh on Tour in GIR percentage and eighth in birdie average, so expect him to have more than his fair share of circles on the scorecard this week.
8. J.B. Holmes: Holmes is back from the disabled list in a big way, and after a third straight top-20 finish he has now fulfilled his major medical extension and has playing privileges for the rest of the season. Holmes has made 10 of 11 cuts this season, with five top-25 finishes, and tied for ninth at Quail Hollow in 2011. His length off the tee should prove to be a considerable asset this week.
9. Bill Haas: Haas withdrew for the first time in his career in his last start, pulling out of the RBC Heritage with a bad wrist. After a week off, he's ready to return to an event where he has been feast or famine. A product of nearby Wake Forest, Haas has made only five of 10 cuts in Charlotte but when he's played the weekend, he's finished no worse than T-29 and twice finished fourth.
10. Kevin Na: Na has made five of his last seven cuts overall, and each of those weekend appearances has resulted in a top-20 finish, including a runner-up at Innisbrook. He's also had success at Quail Hollow, with a fifth-place showing in 2011 and a tie for 14th in 2010. While he has been dogged by slow play issues, he has also turned into one of the more surprising success stories of the 2013-14 season.