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Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Experts' Picks, Transitions Championship


Each week in the PGA Tour season, our panel of experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories below: Birdie Buster, Horse for the Course, Super Sleeper and Winner.

This week's tournament: The Transitions Championship.

Want another opinion? Check out ESPN.com's FOREcaster page.

ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig

Horse for the Course: K.J. Choi
A two-time winner at Innisbrook, Choi also has two other top-10s. He was second to Jim Furyk a year ago.

Birdie Buster: Nick Watney
The winner at Doral on Sunday, Watney is off to a strong start this season, having yet to finish out of the top 10 in any event. And he's going to keep right on going, this week at Innisbrook and next week at Bay Hill.

Super Sleeper: Sergio Garcia
Hard to believe that Garcia is making his first PGA Tour appearance 11 weeks into the season. He's never cracked the top 40 in two previous showings at Innisbrook. It is just his fourth start of the year, the last coming more than a month ago in Dubai, where he tied for 20th.

Winner: Padraig Harrington
The Irishman was near the lead Sunday before a triple-bogey on the third hole but is due for a PGA Tour victory. He celebrates St. Patrick's Day in the States and then heads back home to Ireland with a win.


ESPN.com senior golf editor Kevin Maguire

Horse for the Course: Padraig Harrington
After not cracking the top 30 in his first three PGA Tour starts of the year, the Irishman finished T-10 at Doral last week. Toss in his T-8 finish in his only appearance at Innisbrook in 2010 and it could be a formula for success.

Birdie Buster: Justin Rose
The Englishman has never finished worse than a tie for 30th at the Transitions Championship in five appearances and that includes three top-25s.

Super Sleeper: Sean O'Hair
He hasn't shown much form of late, but he returns to a place where he won back in 2008. Let's hope he's channeling that year and not the past two at the Copperhead course, where he MC'd both times.

Winner: Nick Watney
Sure, I could go the "hot hand" route for picking Watney, but in the five previous times he's played at Innisbrook, he's improved every year. T-58, T-48, T-23, T-12 and solo fourth in 2010. That's what you call … trending up.


ESPN.com golf writer and blogger Jason Sobel

Horse for the Course: K.J. Choi
Every four years, like clockwork, Choi wins this tournament. It happened in 2002, '06 and … OK, so last year's second-place finish didn't quite complete the pattern. Even so, there's something about Tampa he likes, so keep a close eye on Choi this week.

Birdie Buster: Rory Sabbatini
One hundred fifty-one. That's the total number of birdies so far this season for Sabo -- easily the most of any PGA Tour player, surpassing Spencer Levin by 15. While his birdie average ranks just 13th, the recent Honda Classic champion has been making red numbers in bunches.

Super Sleeper: Trevor Immelman
Injuries have slowed down the former Masters winner in recent years, but his swing is back to looking silky smooth, as shown at the Tavistock Cup. Perhaps more importantly, Transitions is one of Immelman's sponsors. Always nice to play well in front of the people who sign the checks.

Winner: Retief Goosen
This week's host venue features about six dozen bunkers throughout the 18 holes, and while Goosen may not want to find each one, the PGA Tour's top-ranked sand-save artist has shown a propensity for getting himself out of trouble that should prove fruitful in his pursuit of victory this week.