This week the PGA Tour begins its annual Florida Swing as a strong field tees it up at The Honda Classic. PGA National has hosted majors and the Ryder Cup, and the 'Bear Trap' from holes 15-17 presents one of the most difficult stretch players will see on any course this year outside of the four majors. Rory McIlroy returns to defend his title, but three other players inside the top six of the world ranking will be eager to take the trophy from him this week. 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:
• Thus far in 2013, backing up a PGA Tour win hasn't been exactly easy. None of the 2013 champions have cracked the top 20 in a start since hoisting the trophy, though three of the eight winners have yet to play since their victory (Brandt Snedeker, John Merrick and Matt Kuchar). The most precipitous fall belongs to Dustin Johnson, who since winning at Kapalua has made only one cut in four stroke-play starts, a T-51 showing at Torrey Pines, and was bounced in the first round at Dove Mountain. Johnson, Merrick and Tiger Woods will all hope to bring an end to this stat with a high finish this week at PGA National.
• On a course as difficult as PGA National, hitting the greens in regulation is especially important. Last year, 12 of the top 15 names on the leaderboard also finished T-10 or better in GIR percentage for the week. That group was led by Charl Schwartzel, who hit 56/72 greens in regulation - three more than Lee Westwood in second place. They were the only two players to hit more than 50/72 greens last year, while Rory McIlroy found 48 in regulation en route to victory.
• While many golf fans remember Woods' final-round 62 and runner-up finish, the name of his co-runner-up is likely more difficult to recall - Tom Gillis. Along with McIlroy, Gillis was one of two players with all four rounds in the 60s here last year, and his $501,000 paycheck represented more than 40 percent of his official money won during the 2012 season. He has notched only two top-10 finishes since his run at this event last year, highlighted by a tie for ninth at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in November.
• Should a relatively unknown player come from the pack to claim the title this week in Palm Beach Gardens, it may bode well for their chances at the majors later this year. In 2004, Todd Hamilton won the Honda at the Country Club of Mirasol before his shocking win at Royal Troon later that summer, while Y.E. Yang used a victory here four years ago as a springboard for his 2009 season, one that ended with him hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy at Hazeltine in August.
• While McIlroy will have positive memories upon which to build from last year's win, defending champions have not necessarily fared well in this event. Jack Nicklaus remains the only player to go back-to-back in this event, winning in both 1977 and 1978, and the best finish for a defending champion since the event moved to PGA National in 2007 came from Ernie Els, who finished T-22 in 2009 after winning the year prior. The only other player to even make the cut upon returning to the Champions Course was Rory Sabbatini, who finished T-62 last year in defense of his title.