The PGA Tour's attention is divided this week, as 64 of the top players in the world have been split into four brackets at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship. Meanwhile, a full-field event is being conducted south of the border at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Fantasy participants will need to know both fields to make their picks, and will need to do so a little earlier than usual with the WGC event starting on Wednesday. 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 Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge team in the process:
• Many fantasy participants will begin their bracket analysis this week with defending champion and World No. 1 Luke Donald, who in 2011 became the first player in the event's history to play the entire week without ever trailing in a match. A key to Donald's success - both at this event and throughout his remarkable 2011 season - was an ability to avoid three-putts. He led the Tour in three-putt avoidance last year by a wide margin, and ranking near the top of the category this week will likely be a key indicator of success.
• Despite being ranked No. 6 in the world, Webb Simpson will be playing in his first ever WGC event this week. Simpson has continued his strong form from 2011 so far this season, with two top-10 finishes in his first three starts. He also has match play experience to rely on from his amateur days, including as a member of the victorious U.S. Walker Cup team in 2007. Simpson will look to continue his current birdie pace to capitalize on the match play format, as he is averaging better than 4.5 birdies per round so far in 2012.
• The 18-hole rotation used for this event at Dove Mountain, a 27-hole facility, will measure better than 7,800 yards for the pros this week. While desert elevations will make the course play somewhat shorter, long hitters will certainly have a consistent advantage. Players like Bubba Watson and Alvaro Quiros, who lead the PGA Tour and European Tour respectively in driving distance this year, will be second to hit their approach shot throughout the week - an advantage that can be pivotal in match play.
• With much of the focus in Arizona this week, Brian Gay will look for another strong finish at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Gay is off to a strong start in 2012 with a pair of top-20 finishes in his first four starts, including a T-6 showing at the Sony Open. Gay leads the Tour in scrambling, getting up and down nearly 75% of the time so far this year.
• For the fourth consecutive year, Rory McIlroy will be making his first PGA Tour start of the season at Dove Mountain. The reigning U.S. Open champion has a solid track record in this event, winning at least one match in each of his previous three starts including an appearance in the quarterfinals in his debut in 2009.
• The WGC Accenture event has certainly had an international emphasis in recent memory, with each of the last three championship matches contested between non-Americans. The top-seeded American this week is Steve Stricker, who will look to avenge last year's first round exit to 15-seed Matteo Mannasero. The 2001 champion of this event, Stricker will be making his first start since the Sony Open in Hawaii.
• In an event where success is predicated upon making birdies and holing putts, a name to consider as a potential sleeper this week is 12-seed Ben Crane. Thus far in 2012, Crane has taken enough time away from producing YouTube videos to lead the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting, par breakers and birdie or better conversion percentage. His prowess on the greens has helped him to climb the leaderboards early in 2012, with three top-10 finishes in four starts.
• In recent years, the match play event has been anything but kind to the game's top players. In making the championship match last year, Martin Kaymer became the first No. 1 seed in the event to make it past the second round since 2008. If each of the top 8 seeds survive the first round this year, it would be the first time this has happened since this became a WGC event in 1999.
• Johnson Wagner will look to continue his hot start to 2012 when he heads to the Mayakoba Golf Classic as the defending champion. Wagner ranks in the top 10 on Tour in birdie average, scoring average and strokes gained putting while posting three top-10 finishes in five starts. The 2012 Sony Open champion has walked off a par-4 green with birdie nearly 1/4 of the time thus far this season.
You can watch complete coverage of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship Wednesday-Friday live on Golf Channel from 2PM-6PM ET.
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