This week the best golfers in the world head to Kiawah Island, SC for the season's final major. The PGA Championship routinely boasts the strongest field in golf, and this edition is no exception as each of the top 108 golfers in the current OWGR will take on the Ocean Course. They will be greeted by unpredictable winds, undulating greens and one of the longest courses in major championship history. The Wanamaker Trophy is up for grabs this week, as well as an automatic spot on the Ryder Cup team for a handful of U.S. players. 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:
• Once leading the pack in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings entering The Masters, Hunter Mahan now finds himself on the wrong side of the bubble - currently ninth on a list with eight automatic qualifying spots. Mahan has cooled significantly since the spring, posting only one top-10 finish since winning his second title of the year at the Shell Houston Open in early April. His ball-striking stats remain impressive, though, as he currently ranks second on Tour in total driving and third in greens in regulation percentage.
• The man one spot ahead of Mahan in the Ryder Cup standings is surprisingly Phil Mickelson, whose last five starts have gone as follows: WD, T-65, MC, MC, T-43. Mickelson is currently outside the top 100 on Tour in driving accuracy (168th), total driving (143rd) and GIR percentage (111th) and will be looking to turn things around quickly. As an added incentive, he is paired for the first two rounds with U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Davis Love III - who hopes not to have to spend a captain's pick on Lefty in filling out his team.
• David Toms placed T-8 last week in Akron, his first tournament start since tweaking his back following the U.S. Open. A winner of this event in 2001, Toms has an impressive resume in the season's fourth major, carding five top-20 finishes and missing the cut only once since leaving Atlanta Athletic Club with the Wanamaker Trophy 11 years ago.
• Just as 'reverse camber' became a trademark phrase of this year's U.S. Open, 'paspalum' will be heard early and often this week at the the PGA Championship. This grass strain, put in at the Ocean Course by architect Pete Dye in 2003, is more tolerant of a salty, seaside environment than traditional grass. Although the greens are now largely without grain, speeds are expected around 11.5 on the stimpmeter - somewhat slower than what players typically encounter in major championships.
• U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson will be making his first start this week in a month, having taken time off for the birth of his and wife Dowd's second child. Simpson leads the Tour in birdie average and par breakers, trends that should help him combat the bogeys he will inevitable encounter along the Ocean Course. The Wake Forest grad has also embraced the term 'moving day' this season; his 68.62 Round 3 stroke average is third-best on Tour.
• While the U.S. Ryder Cup race ends this week, the European points race continues for another two weeks. One of those looking to play their way onto the team is Nicolas Colsaerts, who turned heads with bookend 65s at Lytham last month. The long-hitting Belgian is within striking distance of Sergio Garcia for the tenth and final automatic qualifier spot. He currently leads the European Tour in driving distance and stands 11th in GIR percentage - a combination that indicates a great chance for success this week.
• The last time the PGA of America hosted their prized event on a Pete Dye course, Martin Kaymer left Whistling Straits with the Wanamaker Trophy two years ago. The German is now having a quietly solid season, playing sparingly in the U.S. but posting T-15 finishes at both The Players and the U.S. Open. His consistent play on and around the greens will be key if he is to have similar success this week on the Ocean Course.