This week, the PGA Tour hosts its flagship event, as 145 players look to conquer TPC Sawgrass and claim The Players Championship. The Stadium Course provides a stern test each year, with firm and fast conditions and a finishing stretch of holes 16-18 that will test the nerves of even the strongest competitors. 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:
• While there are many keys to winning against a field as strong as the one assembled this week, one of the better indicators for success at TPC Sawgrass of late has been par-4 performance. Since 2008, the eventual winner has finished T-2 or better for the week in the category, with Tim Clark and Sergio Garcia setting the pace on the par-4s en route to victory. This should bode well for Bubba Watson, who currently leads the Tour in par-4 birdie average.
• While Billy Horschel leads the Tour in made cuts, hoping for his 24th in a row this week, Jimmy Walker is hot on his trail. Walker, who has notched four top-10 finishes this season while extending his made cut streak to 21 in a row, is currently seventh on Tour in birdie average and ninth in the all-around ranking. In three appearances at TPC Sawgrass, the Texan has made the cut twice, finishing inside the top 35 both times he's played the weekend.
• While past history at a particular venue is often a good indicator of future success, that hasn't necessarily been the case for recent winners of this event. Matt Kuchar, K.J. Choi and Tim Clark have each taken home the crystal vase once across the last three years, but the trio combined for just one top-10 finish in 23 collective starts at TPC Sawgrass prior to their breakthrough wins (Clark was T-9 in 2009, a year before he won).
• Though his results haven't met expectations through the early part of the 2013 season, Rory McIlroy boasts a stat line that indicates a return to the winner's circle may be in the near future. The Ulsterman, who now has recorded four top-25 finishes in his last five starts, currently leads the PGA Tour's all-around ranking, comprised of a variety of key metrics. The reigning PGA champion is fourth on Tour in GIR percentage, fifth in par-4 birdies, sixth in driving distance and eighth in birdie average.
• A runner-up here last year, Zach Johnson has largely struggled to regain the form that led to a pair of wins during the 2012 season. Johnson, who has five total top-25 finishes at TPC Sawgrass in eight appearances, began his 2013 campaign by tying for 18th among the winners-only field at Kapalua, but since then has cracked the top 25 just once in 10 events, a T-23 finish at the Humana Challenge. The former Masters champ can likely assign most of the blame to his putter; after finishing the season ranked 10th (2010), 11th (2011) and sixth (2012) on Tour in strokes gained putting, Johnson has fallen all the way to 124th in the category thus far in 2013.