The conclusion of the 2012 fantasy golf season is upon us. The final event of the Fall Series takes the stage this week with the CMN Hospitals Classic from Orlando, Fla., where players will play one round on the Palm Course and three on the Magnolia Course. Although Magnolia presents a sterner test at over 7,500 yards, both will emphasize birdies early and often at an event where the winning score may reach 20 under. 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:
• With No. 126 Trevor Immelman still exempt for next year based on his 2008 green jacket, the first person currently on the outside looking in is Gary Christian, at No. 127 on the money list. The Englishman has missed only one cut since The Greenbrier Classic, but also has only one top-10 finish in 27 starts this year. Already one of the straightest drivers on Tour (currently eighth in driving accuracy), Christian will have to improve the flat stick this week, as he currently sits 97th in total putting and 113th in strokes gained putting.
• In need of a high finish this week, Aussie Nick O'Hern comes to a venue where he has had two such finishes previously. O'Hern finished T-4 at Disney in his 2009 debut, then followed that up with a T-6 finish last year in his return to the Palm and Magnolia courses. His stroke average in this event is 68.25, a pace which may need to be maintained if O'Hern - who led at the Frys.com Open last month after an opening 62 - is to move up from his current position of 147th on the money list.
• While Luke Donald did not return to Orlando to defend his title from last year, he did leave behind a blueprint to success for the 128 players in this week's field: par-3 performance. Last year's winner with a 17-under 271 total, Donald played the shortest holes at the Magnolia and Palm courses in 9 under for the week, including three par-3 birdies en route to a closing 64. For perspective, the next best total for the week on those holes came from Henrik Stenson, who played them in 5 under.
• In this week's field on a sponsor's exemption, Duffy Waldorf is concluding a hectic year that has seen him play 26 events across three different tours. A winner at Disney in 2000, Waldorf has yet to crack the top 20 in 10 PGA Tour starts this year but did notch a pair of top-10 finishes on the Web.com Tour, including a runner-up finish at the TPC Stonebrae Championship. After turning 50 in August, he also made five appearances on the Champions Tour, finishing second at the Greater Hickory Classic last month.
• In an event where players will be looking for birdies early and often, no one enters with a better birdie average this year than Ryan Palmer. A winner here in 2004, Palmer is currently eighth on Tour in the category, averaging 3.92 birdies per round. In eight starts ad Disney, he has never missed a cut, averaging 69.0 strokes while breaking par in 24 of 32 competitive rounds.
• Bobby Gates is hoping to avoid a disappointing finish for the third time in a year. At last year's CMN Hospitals Classic, Gates finished T-46 after three-putting his final hole - the difference in prize money knocking him from 125th to 126th on the year-end money list. Returning this year, Gates was within reach of the FedEx Cup playoffs at the Wyndham Championship before a double bogey on the 72nd hole left him 129th on the points list when the top 125 advanced to The Barclays. This week, Gates finds himself at 140th on the money list, needing a strong result to secure fully-exempt status for 2013 - but looking to avoid another dose of final-round drama.
Tags: Fantasy Central
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