Wells Fargo Championship — Stagecoaches in North Carolina
We’re done with the Players, and back to a “normal” PGA Tour event, the Wells Fargo Championship, in Charlotte, NC!
About the Sponsor
When you think of Wells Fargo, you’re not thinking about how it’s the 4th largest bank in the US based on assets, and 2nd based on market cap. You’re not thinking how it has 12,000 ATMs in 39 states (though it does bring up the question of which states don’t have a Wells Fargo ATM). And you’re definitely not thinking about its AA- credit rating. You’re thinking about that stagecoach! Where did the stagecoach come from? Did Mr. Wells drive a stagecoach when he founded the company? What does Fargo, ND have to do with it? If you’re still curious (and how can you not be) read on.
At first, I was a little confused about the dearth of information about this history of Wells Fargo on their wikipedia page. Surely a company with a historical vehicle as its logo should have a long section on history. Well turns out it has so much history that it gets its own article on wikipedia. Which is good, because Wells Fargo’s own notes on history are pretty random and not too in depth, My favorite Wells Fargo FAQ is this gem:
4. When did Wells Fargo become a bank?
Since the beginning, in 1852.
Thanks Wells Fargo.
Back to the stagecoach. Turns out it was some sort of a Bubba Gump hurricane type situation that allowed Wells Fargo to expand and become the successful company that it is.
After surviving a run on California banks that closed pretty much all other competition, Wells Fargo was left as the one of the only all purpose bank / communication / transportation companies in the West. And by participating in the overland mail company and the Pony Express, they became the stagecoach leader in the US as well.
But stagecoaches were short lived, because in about 10 years time after that hurricane run on the banks, railroads took over the west, and instead of investing in some sort of fruit company, Wells Fargo ended up buying / merging with one of the railroad companies. Either way, they didn’t have to worry about money no more.
Quick side note, after doing a bunch of these “About the Sponsor” sections, all these super old, really rich companies have the same thing in common. Luck when they started out, and a long history of buying / merging other companies. Apparently those are the keys to have long term success that inevitably leads to golf tournament sponsorship.
About the Course
Quail Hollow has one of my favorite features of a golf course — a named stretch of holes! Side note, they really need to come up with a font for sarcasm, since this would be a perfect use for it. Named stretches of holes are dumb, clickbaity garbage that courses use to make them sound cool. Anyway, holes 16-18 have been dubbed “The Green Mile.” Measuring not even close to an actual mile (only 1,222 yards), this finishing stretch also can lead to my other favorite part of a golf tournament — bogeys to end a tournament! Last year JB Holmes bogeyed two of those holes to hold on to win by one. Regardless if a person wins or loses, bogeys at the end of a tournament aren’t quite as fun as birdies.
As much crap as I’ve been giving the course, it’s well regarded on Tour for being one of the top courses they play each year. Not only does it host a PGA Tour event every year, it’s also hosting the 2017 PGA Championship. If a course hosts both a Tour event and a major, it has to be something special.
About the Tournament
Starting in 2003 as the Wachovia Championship, the tournament made a name change in 2009 to the Wells Fargo Championship when Wells Fargo bought Wachovia. Apparently the tournament name change decision was also made because they didn’t want people to complain about a bank sponsoring a sporting event that had received government funds after the banking system collapse. No kidding. Not that it would make a difference since Wells Fargo buying Wachovia just means that Wells Fargo received government funds after the banking system collapse. Nice try pulling the wool over us, but I’m on to you Wells Fargo.
Actually an interesting quote from them back in 2009 when they announced the name change.
“Given the merger integration with Wells Fargo and Wachovia, we believe it no longer makes sense to invest in promoting the Wachovia brand via the tournament. In the current environment, we also believe that promoting this event with our brand could send mixed signals about our priorities to many of our stakeholders. Also, as a result, our company will not host any client entertainment events in connection with the Championship.”
We Americans have the shortest memories for this sort of thing, so I’m sure they’re back with the full smorgasbord of client entertainment expected at a PGA Tour event.
Odd scheduling this year forced the event to be held two weeks later than normal, which kind of sucks for the tournament since it’s coming right after two big tournaments — the WGC event and the Players. This leads to a semi-depressed field compared to what it normally draws. But a course like Quail Hollow, especially one that is going to host a major, will still draw a good field. Rory’s playing, so it can’t be that bad.
What to Watch For
Rory — Number one player in the world is always worth watching, but Rory especially. I’m sure I’ll expand on this later (maybe in a mailbag since I’ve gotten some questions on him recently) but Rory’s the kind of guy who seems like he can win whenever he wants, and will always finish well, even if he’s hacking it around. Much more so than Spieth, Stenson, and Watson, numbers 2, 3, and 4 in the world. He’s in the middle of 6 or so weeks in a row on two continents, so we’ll see if he deems the Wells Fargo, a tournament that he’s won before, worthy of trying hard and winning.
Locals — Webb Simpson is teeing it up this week, and staying at his home (probably) considering his house is within the Quail Hallow grounds. Also living in the Charlotte vicinity are my boy BDJ, Robert Karlsson, Jason Kokrak, Martin Laird, Kyle Reifers and Johnson Wagner. Always interesting to see if it makes a difference being in familiar territory. Sure the local knowledge and sleeping in your own bed is nice, but if it messes with your normal tournament routine, is it worth it? Luckily, we can use a statistically insignificant group of 7 players to draw a non-scientific conclusion this week!