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Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Wells Fargo 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, we're at Quail Hollow Club for the Wells Fargo Championship.


Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Phil Mickelson
You'd think the guy who's the leading money winner at a tournament would have a couple of wins there. Not so fast, my par-making friends! Mickelson has only missed the first event held here in 2003. In the 10 times since, he's never missed the cut, has seven top 10s and only twice finished outside the top 25.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Rory McIlroy
In 2010, the 25-year-old Ulsterman shot 62 in the final round at the Wells Fargo to earn his first PGA Tour victory. Two years later, he lost here in a three-way playoff won by Rickie Fowler.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson
Lefty has never won at Quail Hollow, but he's been a frequent contender. His tie for second a year ago was his seventh top 10 in 10 appearances in the Charlotte event.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Lee Westwood
The Englishman, who's coming off a win in Malaysia, as well as a strong showing at the Masters, owns a pair of top-five finishes the past two years in Charlotte. He's actually improved his placement every year he's played this week's event, going MC, T-61, T-38, T-5, T-4 in five career starts.


Birdie Buster

Collins: Rory McIlroy
If we call 2011 his sophomore slump and disregard his MC, his scoring average at this event is 69.25 (69.86 even if we include 2011). Now he's confident with the new ball and equipment, all while coming back to a place he loves. Remember the one you loved first, you love the longest. Expect him to contend for a win again.

Evans: Andrew Svoboda
The 34-year-old former St. John's star is playing some of the best golf of his career. Last week he had a tie for second in New Orleans that came after a tie for 26th at the Valero Texas Open and a tie for 24th in Puerto Rico. In New Orleans, Svoboda shot a first-round 64.

Harig: Justin Rose
He's coming off a strong final round and a tie for eighth in New Orleans, one of three top-5 finishes in his past four starts.

Maguire: Rory McIlroy
The 2010 champion at Quail Hollow Club turns 25 on Sunday and knows how to go low here, as witnessed by his final-round 62 in his victory where he made the cut on the number.


Super Sleeper

Collins: Harold Varner III
If not for a double-bogey on the second-to-last hole of the tournament last week, he'd be coming in to this week off a runner-up finish. Nonetheless, he's a solid player, long enough off the tee not to be intimidated by this course, and he has positive momentum from his play on the Web.com Tour.

Evans: Robert Streb
Unheralded Derek Ernst won in Charlotte last year. Might another upstart make his way into the winner's circle in 2014? Streb, a 27-year-old Kansas State grad, tied for second last week in New Orleans for his first career top 10. Last year, Wells Fargo was one of the 13 cuts the Oklahoma native missed on the season, but he comes into Charlotte on a career high.

Harig: Derek Ernst
The Quail Hollow event has yet to see a multiple champion, and Ernst has failed to finish in the top 25 in any tournament since his Wells Fargo victory a year ago.

Maguire: Bo Van Pelt
Coming off his "best" PGA Tour finish (T-25 in New Orleans) in nearly six months, Van Pelt understands Quail Hollow well, as he's finished in the top six there in two of his last four starts.


Winner

Collins: Webb Simpson
There are not many guys I think can win a home game, but Simpson is one of them. With brand-new greens that will test the patience of even the most level-headed pro, I'll take the guy who lives there and plays there more than others this year. Here's win No. 2 of the season! You forgot about Vegas, didn't you?

Evans: Lee Westwood
The former No. 1 in the world got his 2014 season off to a rocky start when he fired Sean Foley and then hired Michael Walker. But he's settled down now with a tie for seventh at the Masters and a win the very next week at the Malaysian Open. Last year, the Englishman had a tie for fourth in Charlotte.

Harig: Webb Simpson
The 2012 U.S. Open champion has not contended in months, but Quail Hollow is a home game for him. He lives about a mile from the course and was the third-round leader in 2012. He breaks out of his 2014 malaise with a victory.

Maguire: Phil Mickelson
Lefty's done just about everything but grab the trophy at Quail Hollow, so it's time he gets in the win column for the first time in 2014 this week at the Wells Fargo Championship.