This is another week where the attention of the fantasy golf world will be split between two deserts a world apart. The PGA Tour heads to TPC Scottsdale for the Waste Management Phoenix Open, while the European Tour continues their Desert Swing at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters. Participants in the Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge will need to do their homework before they submit lineups for each event this week. With that in mind, here is a look inside the numbers to see which players may contend for the title(s) this week and help your fantasy team in the process:
• Mark Wilson is back on the course to defend his 2011 Phoenix Open title, having won the 2012 Humana Challenge in his last start. Wilson led the field in greens in regulation en route to victory here last year, and no one has more than his three wins on the PGA Tour since the start of the 2011 season.
• Mr. ‘Stache, Johnson Wagner, will also be in the Phoenix field. The only player with three top-10s already in 2012, Wagner will once again look to make his mark in the tournament’s second half. The 2012 Sony Open winner has a 66.5 stroke average this year across Rounds 3 and 4.
• If Scott Piercy finds a way to handle the shortest holes on the course, he could find himself in contention this weekend. The 2011 Reno-Tahoe Open champion is a combined 32 under par on par 4s and par 5s in 2012, but 9 over par on par 3s so far this season.
• Piercy, along with Chris Kirk, are the only players in the field who have played in every PGA Tour event thus far in 2012. Kirk has made 4/4 cuts, while Piercy has three top-25 finishes in his four starts this season.
• TPC Scottsdale typically ranks among the easiest courses on Tour for scrambling. At 7,216 yards and par 71, a player like Gary Woodland may find success this week as his length off the tee will aid him more than his scrambling issues (currently ranked No. 174) will hurt him.
• The greenside bunkers around TPC Scottsdale will likely not phase Tour rookie and Group 4 player Jonas Blixt. The Swede, who vaulted into contention last week with a Saturday 65 at Torrey Pines, has hit into more than three bunkers per round on average so far in 2012. He has gotten up and down 82.4% of the time, though, good for fourth on Tour in the category.
• Brendon de Jonge will be a player to keep an eye on in Group 3. De Jonge has finished in the top 30 in each of his three 2012 starts, and has two top-25s in Phoenix in the last three years. He has demonstrated the ability to go low when required, already carding three rounds of 65 or better this season.
• If looking for a player with some experience at the TPC Scottsdale, look no further than Vijay Singh, who may be rounding back into form after a difficult 2011 season. Coming off a T-13 finish at Torrey Pines last week, Singh now heads to a course where he has had great success – two victories and four other top-10 finishes, including T-3 last year. This week will mark Singh’s 16th career start at the Phoenix Open.
• At the Qatar Masters, Thomas Bjorn returns to the tournament that sparked his improbable resurgence in 2011. Bjorn won in Doha last year, then won twice more on the European Tour and finished fourth at the Open Championship. He shows no signs of slowing down early in 2012, finishing T-3 in Abu Dhabi last week alongside Tiger Woods and Graeme McDowell.
• Six Americans will be in the field in Qatar, headlined by Hunter Mahan who made a strong showing in his 2012 PGA Tour debut, finishing T-6 last week at Torrey Pines. Mahan’s frequent flyer account will get a boost this month, as he will return to California next week to play at Pebble Beach, part of a stretch of five events in five weeks for the former Ryder Cup participant.
• Former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein will be playing in his second event as a professional this week in Qatar. Originally slated to play in Abu Dhabi last week, Uihlein opted for a more low-key pro debut, finishing 12th in a European Challenge Tour event in India. This will be the first of seven European Tour starts for Uihlein, who will need to amass approximately 260,000 Euros to earn his tour card, similar to the path Bud Cauley took to earn his PGA Tour card last fall.
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