Now only one week from the Players Championship, an elite field heads to Charlotte to take on one of the more difficult tests on Tour - Quail Hollow Club. Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson are all in the field with the goal of conquering the 'Green Mile' before heading to TPC Sawgrass, but this is also the type of tournament - and field - that can provide a huge boost to a second-tier player should he walk away with the trophy on Sunday. With that in mind, here is a look inside the numbers to see which players may contend for the title and help your Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge team in the process:
• Few players in the field can match the combination of recent form and Quail Hollow track record of Jim Furyk. Champion here in 2006, Furyk has finished in the top 11 in five of his last seven starts in this event. Meanwhile, he has not finished outside the top 11 on Tour in nearly two months, a span of four events dating back to his playoff loss to Luke Donald at the Transitions Championship. Furyk also leads the Tour in driving accuracy, which should help him navigate a course whose fairways consistently rank among the most difficult to hit.
• Quail Hollow places a clear emphasis on the play conducted on and around its greens. In 2011, only one player in the top 10 on the final leaderboard finished the week in the top 10 in greens hit in regulation. By contrast, eight golfers who finished T-9 or better for the week were in the top 10 in putts per round, including playoff participants Lucas Glover and Jonathan Byrd who finished third and second, respectively, in putts per round for the week.
• Making his first start since finishing runner-up in San Antonio, John Huh continues his campaign for Rookie of the Year in Charlotte. Huh now has three top-15 finishes this year to go along with his win at Mayakoba, and he currently ranks 12th on Tour in both driving accuracy and the all-around ranking.
• Phil Mickelson has the best history at this event of any player without a Wells Fargo trophy to his credit. Lefty has finished outside the top 12 only once in eight career starts here, and he currently leads the Tour in scrambling - a stat that will come in handy around the tricky greens of Quail Hollow this week. In his first start since a T-3 finish at Augusta, there is reason to think Mickelson will contend for his second victory of 2012.
• Defending champion Lucas Glover returns to a course where he has had great success with the hope of getting his 2012 season on track. His T-66 finish last week at Zurich is his best showing so far this year, but Glover's Quail Hollow resume includes three top-10 finishes in addition to his win last year. Glover's ball-striking has seen a precipitous decline this year; where he ranked 55th on Tour in total driving and 82nd in greens in regulation percentage during 2011, he now ranks 182nd and 172nd in each respective category for 2012.
• If looking for Group 3 sleepers, you may want to consider Chris Stroud. The Texas native has posted five top-24 finishes in his last six starts dating back to February and currently ranks in the top 20 on Tour in scrambling (4th), strokes gained putting (16th) and scoring average (16th).
• Lee Westwood may have to devote some of his pre-tournament prep time this week to finding someone to carry his bag. Per reports Wednesday, his regular caddie Billy Foster injured his knee on Tuesday during a game of football and will likely be sidelined several weeks.
• The middle leg of Quail Hollow's famed 'Green Mile,' the par-3 17th hole, will have a different look for the field this week. After ranking among the more difficult par-3 holes on Tour the last few years, tournament organizers coalesced to player input and decided to use the member tee on the hole for each of the four days of competition. This will allow for a more direct angle of attack over the water toward the green, which should help lower scores from their prior historical levels.
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