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Timing works against field for Quail Hollow

Rory is here, so are Phil, Rickie, Bubba and Sergio.

Pro golf’s biggest fan favorites – including Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia – continue to make the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club one of the PGA Tour’s top events.

Yet this year, the tournament is actually lacking something else for a change: many players who are actually ranked among the world’s top 10. That’s a change for Wells Fargo, which has often had most, if not all, of the world’s top-ranked players in the field.

When world No. 1 Tiger Woods elected last week not to play Quail Hollow, it reduced the number of top-10 players in the field to one, second-ranked McIlroy.

There isn’t much depth immediately behind McIlroy, with Mickelson, at No. 11, the next-highest-ranked player. He’s followed by four more in the top 20 – No. 12 Lee Westwood, No. 14 Garcia, No. 17 Watson and No. 18 Webb Simpson.

Six more are in the top 30 (No. 22 Hunter Mahan, No. 23 Nick Watney, No. 27 Bo Van Pelt, No. 28 Bill Haas, No. 29 Fowler and No. 30 Zach Johnson).

The field took a further hit when two top-20 players – Ian Poulter and Dustin Johnson – withdrew Tuesday.

Although some players, like No. 5 Luke Donald and No. 6 Brandt Snedecker, rarely play Wells Fargo, the reasons for the diluted field are probably more about timing than anything else.

That can be traced to the PGA Tour’s decision in 2007 to shift the Players Championship date to the week after the Wells Fargo. Many players want extra time to prepare for the Players, considered to be the most important tournament after the four major championships.

That includes Woods, who said he wants three weeks off between the Masters and the Players.

Some might also be obliging sponsors by playing in tournaments that directly follow the Masters – Hilton Head Island, S.C., and New Orleans – and precede Quail Hollow. So they probably want at least one week of rest before the Players, too.

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