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Tuesday, October 30, 2012
WGC-HSBC Champions 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 WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Lee Westwood
After a 14th-place finish last week at the BMW Masters, Westwood heads to a course where he finished 11th last year. He might be having one of the quietest successful years on two tours. He's made 14 of 15 cuts on the PGA Tour and just over $3 million, and he's 14-for-14 on the European Tour (with major records combined on both) for almost $1.5 million.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Martin Kaymer
The 27-year-old former PGA Champion won this event last year by 3 shots over Fredrik Jacobson. Kaymer hasn't done much of anything since then, but that 7-footer to win the Ryder Cup for the Europeans at Medinah should do wonders for his confidence.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Francesco Molinari
The HSBC venue at Mission Hills is new for the tournament, but Molinari and his brother captured the World Cup when it was played on the same Olazabal course in 2009. Molinari also won this tournament in 2010.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Charl Schwartzel
The former Masters champ improved significantly at this event in 2011 with a T-4. He broke par all four rounds and either equaled or lowered his score every day, including a final-round 65.


Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: Bo Van Pelt
He might just want to buy a "winter" house in the Far East the way he's played there the last two years. Expect Van Pelt's stellar play to continue this week on a course where he finished 11th last year.

Farrell Evans: Jason Dufner
With two wins on the year, the former Auburn star is having a much better year than his beloved Tigers football team. He had a stellar showing at Medinah in his first Ryder Cup and had a second and a tie for 16th in his last two starts. He's almost a guarantee to be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.

Bob Harig: Nick Watney
He flirted with 59 on Sunday before settling for a final-round 61 in Malaysia, where he captured the CIMB Classic. It was his second victory in six starts.

Kevin Maguire: Peter Hanson
With a victory over Rory McIlroy on Sunday, Hanson now owns eight top-10s (including two victories) on the European Tour this season. He might not have been the high-profile star at the Ryder Cup, but the Swede is letting his game do the talking of late.


Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: Scott Piercy
It took him a while to get used to the time change, and it showed in his first round last week (a 75). But as soon as he adjusted to the time, well, check out the scoring -- 68, 64, 62. Don't think for a minute he's not going to stay "adjusted" as he heads to China.

Farrell Evans: Thaworn Wiratchant
It's hard to be under the radar when you have won three times in Asia during 2012, but the 45-year-old Thai player hasn't been on this stage with these elite players much during his career.

Bob Harig: Phil Mickelson
Lefty won the event in 2007 and 2009, but it was played in Shanghai. And it's hard to imagine he's been putting in a lot of work on his game after the Ryder Cup, although he is also scheduled to play next week in Singapore.

Kevin Maguire: Paul Casey
He's currently 84th on the European Tour's money list, but nearly three-quarters of that cash ($245,692.68 out of $346,004.35 for the year) has come from a pair of top-10 finishes in his last two starts. Plus, he finished T-4 in this event last year, which never hurts.


Winner

Michael Collins: Graeme McDowell
Zero wins in 2011 and 2012 for the man from Northern Ireland. Seems strange for a guy who won three times in 2010 (four if you count the Chevron) -- and that's including a major. That two-year drought comes to an end this week at the place he finished third last year.

Farrell Evans: Phil Mickelson
The 42-year-old Hall of Famer is in China to win. And that's what he'll do against this strong international field.

Bob Harig: Peter Hanson
His victory at the BMW Masters by a stroke over Rory McIlroy moved Hanson into second place in the Race to Dubai. Since McIlroy is sitting out this week, Hanson can overtake him with a win or at least make the race very interesting with a high finish. Hanson trails by just over $1 million.

Kevin Maguire: Nicolas Colsaerts
The Belgian Bomber has only one official start since the Ryder Cup (a T-14 last week at the BMW Masters) but that shouldn't stop the big-hitting Colsaerts from eating up the relatively short (by his standards) 7,301-yard, par-72 Olazabal Course at Mission Hills Golf Club in China.