Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Updated: May 10, 4:01 PM ET
The Players Championship experts' picks
Each week of the season, our experts will 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 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Want another opinion? Check out ESPN.com's FOREcaster page.
Horse for the Course
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Sergio Garcia
We haven't seen Sergio since the Masters, but that's a good thing. It means he'll be coming in fresh and hungry and, most importantly, wanting to play. Since 2004 he hasn't missed a cut at the Players, so he's got that going for him.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Davis Love III
DL3 has earned more than $2.6 million in 26 appearances in the Players. In the last of his two victories at the event in 2003, he shot an 8-under 64 in the final round.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Aaron Baddeley
The Aussie has had two top-10s in the past three years at TPC Sawgrass, which is about as good of a record as anyone around a course that seemingly favors no style of play.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Ben Crane
Now the only Golf Boys member without a win in 2012 (which you have to think Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler are giving him a little good-natured grief for), Crane has played well in recent years at the Players Championship. Discounting last year's T-45, he had three straight finishes in the top 6 from 2008 to 2010 so he knows how to play this track.
Michael Collins: Luke Donald
He's got a win, a third, and a tie for sixth, but more importantly the last time Rory took the world No. 1 from him, he came back and rocked a win in Tampa. I don't expect a win this week, but a dogfight on Sunday with Rory will be the dream.
Farrell Evans: Ben Curtis
Since ending a six-year winless drought at the Valero Texas Open, the 2003 British Open champion has a tie for 13th in New Orleans and tie for fifth at Wells Fargo.
Bob Harig: Rickie Fowler
He's coming off the first victory of his PGA Tour career, where he shot 14 under par at Quail Hollow and then made a birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points. Fowler, however, has missed the cut in both of his Players appearances.
Kevin Maguire: Nick Watney
Watney was in the hunt at Quail Hollow until a final-round 74 derailed his title chances. But at TPC Sawgrass, hitting greens in regulation is a must and Watney's 15th on tour this year in the crucial statistic.
Michael Collins: Colt Knost
A horse named "I'll Have Another" wins the derby Sunday, so who else could I pick other than a guy who likes to gamble and is named Colt. Don't get it twisted, though. He's got two third-place finishes so far this year and he's ranked 57th on the FedEx Cup list so he is by no means a "long shot."
Farrell Evans: Tiger Woods
Tiger doesn't have the game now that led him to win at Sawgrass in 2001, but you can never count out a guy with 72 wins, no matter how confused he is about his golf swing.
Bob Harig: Jason Dufner
He's coming off his first victory two weeks ago at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He's also coming off his wedding on Saturday. Might be a bit difficult for Dufner to regain his form so quickly.
Kevin Maguire: Brian Davis
Coming off his third top-10 of the year at the Wells Fargo Championship, Davis' driving accuracy (he's 19th on tour in 2012) will prove key as word around TPC Sawgrass is that the rough is particularly diabolical this year,
Michael Collins: Rory McIlroy
Seems like every time this guy gets to No. 1 in the world, Luke Donald takes it back from him. But this week his hold on the spot will become firmer. In five starts here on the PGA Tour, he's finished worse than third just once. That's sick and the last time he finished second at Match Play (in Arizona), he flew to New York to hang out with his girlfriend for a couple of days, then flew to Florida and won the Honda Classic. This week he'll get fewer frequent flier miles, but the result will be the same.
Farrell Evans: Rory McIlroy
The No. 1 player in the world skipped the Players last year, but he's here this year off a tie for second last week at the Wells Fargo. He's missed the cut in his only two other appearances at Sawgrass, but right now he's playing better than anyone in the world.
Bob Harig: Lee Westwood
He controversially skipped the Players in 2011, but the year prior he tied for fourth and has come around to liking the course and playing it well. He had a good finish at Quail Hollow after winning in Indonesia. Looks like a good time for No. 3 in the world to get one of his most significant victories.
Kevin Maguire: Louis Oosthuizen
Even though he lost the Masters in a playoff, make no mistake about Oosthuizen's game: He'll contend in many majors and top-tier events around the world for years to come. For this season, though, he's 11th in greens in regulation and third in total driving, both of which will prove key this week at TPC Sawgrass.