The Hot Seat’s back and Luke Donald (despite not playing), Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood are all on it at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
Here’s our special heat index for gauging who is facing the most pressure to perform this week:
Smokin’ britches – Luke McIlroy
Or maybe that should be Rory Donald.
Whatever, Donald and McIlroy have been interchangeable pieces atop the Official World Golf Ranking since late February. Donald got the top spot back this week. The two have exchanged the No. 1 ranking four times in the last 10 weeks, and it’s possible they’ll do it again when the last putt drops at the Wells Fargo Championship.
At least McIlroy will have something to say about what happens with the world rankings while actually on the golf course this week. Since the Masters, he has gained and lost the world’s top spot without getting off his couch, so to speak. McIlroy is coming out of rest mode and ought to be fresh. He has played just one event in the last seven weeks, but he will be busy now. McIlroy is scheduled to tee it up in four of the next five weeks before taking a week off and then defending his title at the U.S. Open.
Donald, meanwhile, is taking the week off after playing two of the last three tournaments, including a third-place showing in New Orleans which helped him reclaim the No. 1 ranking.
Blazing briefs – Lee Westwood
The Englishman arrives for the Wells Fargo at No. 3 in the world and looking for a chance to climb back to the top spot. With loads of world-ranking points up for grabs this week and at next week’s Players Championship, Westwood can make a serious move to get back in the musical chairs rotation atop the world rankings.
Westwood is looking for his first PGA Tour or European Tour victory since the Ballantine’s Championship more than a year ago, but he’s showing good form this year with four finishes of fourth or better and a victory at the Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour.
Westwood held the No. 1 ranking for 22 weeks in late 2010 and in early 2011.
Toasty boxers – Phil Mickelson
Mickelson is back in action for the first time since Bubba Watson displaced him as the hottest “Lefty” in the world by winning the Masters.
This year, for the first time in forever, it seems, Mickelson isn’t the highest ranked “Lefty” in the game.
With Mickelson showing good form this year, he’s among the favorites at Quail Hollow, a venue where he has looked comfortable contending. Mickelson has finished top four in four of his last six starts, with a victory (AT&T Pebble Beach) in that mix. If not for one wayward tee shot in the final round of the Masters, he might have two victories in that mix. Mickelson takes momentum to Quail Hollow, where he has finished top 10 the last three years, including a second two years ago.
Sizzling back side – Green Mile
The 16th, 17th and 18th holes at Quail Hollow, dubbed the Green Mile, were ranked the three toughest finishing holes on the PGA Tour in 2009 and 2010, but the trio slumped to No. 3 last year with Atlanta Athletic Club’s test at the PGA Championship taking the top spot. It marked the first time since 2003 that Quail Hollow’s finishing holes weren’t No. 1 or No. 2 in difficulty on the PGA Tour.
Unless there is some challenging weather, don’t expect the trio to seize back its title as the toughest finishing holes this year. Quail Hollow and PGA Tour officials have decided to use the left tee boxes at the 17th all four days of the tournament, choosing to stay away from the right tees that make that long par 3 so much more difficult. The left tees play between 190 and 205 yards, the right tees play up to 217 yards. Given the slope of the green, the left tees offer much more receptive shots, a change that should please players.