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Wednesday, March 5, 2014
WGC-Cadillac Championship experts' picks


Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The WGC-Cadillac Championship at the Blue Monster Course at TPC Trump National in Doral, Fla.


Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: No one
If we call this "fastest unlearner," I'll take Dustin Johnson. This week for most it will be which veteran has the shortest memory. Added length and playable rough will work in DJ's favor this week. One top-10 in five tries at this event tells me he's going to love what Donald Trump has done to the place.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
The 14-time major champion has four wins at Doral, including last year's WGC-Cadillac Championship. That's more victories here than any player in the field. But this year's unveiling of the redesigned Blue Monster could challenge his dominance at this historic venue.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
And that comes with a big asterisk. Nobody can claim much course knowledge this week. While the layout at Doral remains the same, every hole is different after a major makeover in the past year. All 18 greens were either moved, rebuilt or both. The course didn't open until a month ago.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Adam Scott
The past three years, the Aussie's average finish at Doral has been right around T-7. He's well rested after taking more than a month off and now that he got the competitive rust off at the Honda Classic, he'll be ready to contend for his first PGA Tour win of 2014.


Birdie Buster

Collins: Ian Poulter
By taking the week off from the Honda Classic, he didn't have to face the brutality of Sunday. That means he'll be fresh and ready to tackle the new Blue Monster. Poulter had a tough February, but the Ides of March are upon him, marking the turnaround and a top-10 finish here near Miami.

Evans: Sergio Garcia
The 34-year-old Spaniard played well in the Accenture Match Play before losing 1 down in a tough third-round match against Rickie Fowler. At the Honda Classic, he finished in a tie for eighth after a 3-under 67 in the final round. Last year, Garcia finished in a tie for third at Doral.

Harig: Rory McIlroy
He failed to win Sunday at the Honda Classic, but he shot 63-66-69 to put himself in position. And there was that impressive fairway wood shot to the last hole that nearly won him the tournament. McIlroy looked good except for nine holes.

Maguire: Dustin Johnson
In his past couple of stroke-play events, DJ finished second at Riviera and T-2 at Pebble Beach. After an early exit at the WGC-Match Play, expect Johnson to be back in top-10 form at Doral by picking up a fourth top-10 since the calendar hit 2014.


Super Sleeper

Collins: Matteo Manassero
Last year was his only start in this event, so he doesn't have a history -- which is a good thing. So far in the first two WGC events of the 2013-14 season, he's finished 21st (HSBC Champions) and 17th (Match Play). Coming into this week off a 12th-place finish at the Honda Classic, I expect the young Italian to have a top-five finish and maybe even contend for a win.

Evans: Chris Kirk
The 29-year-old former Georgia Bulldog has a win (the McGladrey Classic) and a second (Sony) in nine starts in the new wraparound PGA Tour season. Kirk had a strong finish last week to his T-12 at Honda with a final-round, 2-under 68.

Harig: Jin Jeong
The South Korean golfer who lives in Melbourne made his way into the field by virtue of his standing in the Asian Tour Order of Merit. He is the lowest-ranked player in the field at No. 193.

Maguire: Matteo Manassero
Manassero, who has astonishingly won four times already in his career on the European Tour, has played Doral only once. His T-23 was punctuated by a final-round 66 that showed maybe the 20-year-old Italian figured something out on the South Florida track.


Winner

Collins: Jordan Spieth
Well, of course I'm going to pick a first-timer to win! And who better than last year's rookie of the year? So far this season he has played seven events, missed one cut, and hasn't finished outside the top 19 in the six cuts he has made. Not knowing this course will be an advantage for him in the early rounds. His ability and maturity will carry him though the weekend.

Evans: Rory McIlroy
A sloppy finish to the Honda Classic can't stop McIlroy's return to the top of the game. At Doral, where he finished in a tie for eighth in 2013, the 24-year-old two-time major winner will demonstrate why he's still arguably the most talented young player in the world.

Harig: Jason Day
The Aussie got a big breakthrough win at the Match Play two weeks ago, rested last week, and got a good look at the new Doral over the weekend. How about back-to-back WGCs?

Maguire: Jordan Spieth
With all the changes to the Doral course after its renovation since last year, many players will have to unlearn years of course knowledge. Not a problem for Spieth, who's teeing it up there for first time. And how did the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year do in 2013 playing most of these courses for the first time? Nearly $4 million in the back account from last year says he won't have any problem adjusting.