McIlroy Points the Way in This Week's iCHOOSEGOLF Fantasy Five

rmcilroy_points.jpgby Michael Weigand, PGA, ICG

At first glance, one might think that selecting this week's iCHOOSEGOLF Fantasy Five would be fairly simple. The PGA TOUR will offer up it's strongest field since The Masters three weeks ago when the pros tee it up at the Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina for the Wells Fargo Championship. Unfortunately, the quality of the players' list is the problem.

How can we pick just five?

Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood are all set to compete. Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, Kyle Stanley and Bill Haas are also scheduled to tee it up on Thursday. That's a pretty good "Fantasy Eight" right there and those names will likely occupy the majority of the fantasy golf rosters this week. But let's try to dig a bit deeper.

Quail Hollow is known for being one of the toughest and longest courses the pros play each year. In addition to the length, tight fairways are the norm as Quail HOllow is typically ranked in the top 5 each year for lowest Driving Accuracy percentage. That being said, it's not a shock that straight-hitters David Toms and Jim Furyk count themselves as former champions. It's also not a surprise that all-around players like Rory and Tiger have hoisted the Wells Fargo Championship trophy.

Warm weather is expected for the tournament week so expect the course to play hard and fast. That actually helps the shorter hitters. The focus then moves to hitting greens and converting on birdie opportunities. And that is where we'll begin our discussion.

Here now, our iCHOOSEGOLF Fantasy Five for the Wells Fargo Championship:

Rory McIlroy: Okay, it'd be silly not to start our discussion with McIlroy. The (now) no. 2 player in the world behind Luke Donald won at Quail Hollow in 2010 after posting rounds of 66 - 62 on Saturday and Sunday. In 2012, Rory has won the Honda Classic, finished runner-up at the WGC Match Play and finished 3rd at the WGC Cadillac Championship. He did, however, finish T40 at The Masters but we'll chalk that up to McIlroy putting a bit too much pressure on himself after his 2011 Masters flame-out. Rory is ranked 1st in Scoring Average AND Birdie Average so far this season. He's also 20th in Scrambling on the days when his irons aren't quite dialed in. Though he missed the cut last year in this event, don't expect that to happen this week. You might, however, expect another strong finish.

Hunter Mahan: Mahan is the only two-time winner on the TOUR so far in 2012. He hasn't missed a cut in eight starts and has emerged as a true superstar that has a chance to win at any time. He hasn't played since The Masters - where he finished T12 - so he should be fresh and ready to go for Quail Hollow (and the PLAYERS Championship next week). Hunter is ranked 5th in both Driving Accuracy and Greens In Regulation. He's also ranked 14th in Scoring. His T16 finish at last year's Wells Fargo Championship bodes well for his comfort level at Quail Hollow, as well. Expect Mahan to give himself plenty of birdie chances this week. As a fantasy owner, that's all you can ask for.

Bill Haas: The North Carolina native and graduate of nearby Wake Forest should feel very comfortable this week. He finished 4th in the 2011 version of the Wells Fargo Championship so it's evident Haas knows his way around Quail Hollow's "Green Mile" finishing stretch. It's also fairly obvious that Bill has found his way around the PGA TOUR in 2012. He won the Northern Trust at Riviera in February and finished T4 at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego. His only missed cut of the year came at the RBC Heritage a couple of weeks ago. Now, after a couple of weeks off and some home cooking under his belt, look for Haas to post a solid finish in Charlotte.

Robert Garrigus: Garrigus is one of those players that isn't talked about a lot in the headlines but is very well-known by (good) fantasy owners. He's currently ranked 9th in GIR and 29th in Birdie or Better Conversion Percentage - two large pieces of our ICG Fantasy Index formula. He's also in the middle of a great season on the PGA TOUR with a playoff loss at the Transitions, a runner-up finish at the Humana Challenge and a T13 in his last start at the RBC Heritage. Garrigus is ranked 15th in Birdie Average and 29th in Scoring, as well. He finished T9 at Quail Hollow last year and should be in the mix again in 2012.

Pat Perez: We'll get to Woods, Westwood and Mickelson in just a minute. Let's first discuss Perez who has a chance to be the final piece of a winning fantasy roster for this week. Pat has played well in 2012 with a T12 at the Shell Houston Open, a T13 at the Northern Trust and a T14 at the Humana Challenge. He's ranked 21st in Birdie Average as well as Birdie or Better conversion, 31st in Scoring and 46th in GIR. In 2011 he finished T6 at Quail Hollow despite a 75 on the final day. For fantasy owners looking for that "diamond in the rough" to complete their squad, look no further than the fiery Perez.

Other Notes: Yes, any fantasy player would be foolish not to pick Tiger, Westwood or Mickelson if given the chance. But at iCHOOSEGOLF we try to go a bit deeper than just the "easy" picks. Moreover, Woods needs to show that he can, indeed, get back to his "Tiger" ways after a horrific and disappointing Masters showing. Westwood will, most likely, be in the mix at Quail Hollow but his weekend putting woes are still a point of contention. As for Mickelson, yes, he'll make the cut and find his way into the first couple of pages of the leaderboard. He will, however, have to get his driver sorted out (he's currently ranked 142nd in Driving Accuracy) if he truly hopes to contend this week.

Final Notables: Keegan Bradley (8th in Scoring and 25th in GIR) is too good and loves the competition too much not to be in the mix this week. You can bet that Kyle Stanley (29th in Birdie Average and 22nd in GIR) will improve on his T45 finish from last year's Wells Fargo. And ICG favorite Cameron Tringale (fresh off three straight top-10s and 27th in Scoring) should continue his solid play as he works his way into the golf world's consciousness.

Coverage of the Wells Fargo Championship begins on the Golf Channel on Thursday at 3:00pm EDT / 2:00pm CDT.

 

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