Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches

PGA National (Champion Course)


Justin Thomas can become world No. 1 without even finishing in the top 10 at the Wells Fargo Championship

The Masters - Par 3 Contest

Andrew Redington

With the rate he's winning tournaments, it's hard to find a venue on the PGA Tour schedule where Justin Thomas doesn't feel good about his chances. But Quail Hollow is starting to stand out amongst the crowd, already the site of his first major win and now the site of one of his most-clutch moments yet. He could add to that mystique by taking over the No. 1 world ranking at the Charlotte, N.C. track this week, and he doesn't even have to finish in the top 10 to do so.

No, a simple solo 12th finish (or better) at the Wells Fargo Championship will jump Thomas into the top spot over Dustin Johnson, who is not in this week's field. Thomas' limited starts at Quail Hollow suggest that's certainly in the realm of possibility. In addition to his PGA Championship victory, the eight-time PGA Tour winner tied for seventh in the 2015 Wells Fargo, carding rounds of 69, 73, 65 and 70 to finish at 11 under. In 2016, the last time the Wells Fargo was played at Quail Hollow, Thomas missed the cut, but his performance in the season's final major erased that memory.

Thomas picked up right where he left off in 2017 this season, claiming two victories at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges and the Honda Classic, and nearly adding a third at the WGC-Mexico Championship, where he lost to Phil Mickelson in a playoff. Since then, he's made three starts, finishing fourth at the WGC-Match Play, T-17 at the Masters and missing the cut last week at the Zurich Classic alongside teammate Bud Cauley.

While a 12th or better finish seems like a layup for the world No. 2, especially at a place where he's had success, it could be a tall order thanks to the strong field. Fourteen of the top 25 players in the world are set to tee it up, including past champions like Rickie Fowler and two-time winner Rory McIlroy, who carded a third-round 61 at Quail Hollow in 2015 en route to a seven-stroke victory. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose are in the field as well.

It will also be interesting to see how Thomas plays knowing he can become No. 1, having had two opportunities to do it already and coming up just short both times. At the WGC-Match Play, Thomas admitted the No. 1 ranking was on his mind during his semifinal match against Bubba Watson, which he lost 3-and-2. At the Masters, he needed at least a solo fifth and some help from Johnson to take over No. 1, but he finished T-17.

Thomas tees off at 12:40 p.m. ET on Thursday alongside defending Wells Fargo champion Brian Harman and Fowler, the 2012 champion.