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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Updated: January 3, 7:24 PM ET
Hyundai Tournament of Champions 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 Hyundai Tournament of Champions at The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort in Maui, Hawaii.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Steve Stricker
Making his seventh appearance in the event, this time as defending champion, he's a lock to be in here. You'd think a guy who lives in Wisconsin would take awhile to get warmed up, but it seems Stricker plays his best early in the year so expect him to come out like gangbusters again.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Steve Stricker
The 45-year-old, 12-time PGA Tour champ didn't win another event in 2012 after his 3-shot victory last January at Kapalua, but he did have six more top-10s on the year. While Stricker is the oldest player in the 30-man field, his experience and deft putting stroke could lead him to his 10th win since turning 40.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Steve Stricker
The defending champion shot 24 under last year at Kapalua and in his past four appearances in the event has not finished worse than 10th.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Carl Pettersson
The last two times he started his PGA Tour season at the winners-only event (2009, 2011), Pettersson averaged 15 under. He clearly figured something out after averaging more than 7 over his first two trips to the islands.

Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: Dustin Johnson
Johnson is making his fourth start at this tournament. If the wind blows in the same direction every day, expect this bomber to have a big showing this week. Last time he teed it up here in 2011, he finished ninth.

Farrell Evans: Ian Poulter
The dapper 36-year-old Englishman was the star of the Ryder Cup. Then he won the HSBC Champions in November. Poulter is brimming with a new confidence that could take him in 2013 to his first win in a major championship.

Bob Harig: Jason Dufner
He played well into the fall, contending at tournaments in Australia and Malaysia as well as the World Challenge a month ago. Perhaps his game remains sharp through golf's short offseason.

Kevin Maguire: Keegan Bradley
In his Kapalua debut last year, Bradley's hopes for a season-opening win were dashed with a 75 in Round 3. Now with (another) chip on his shoulder when it comes to all the belly putter flak he'll likely catch this year, the 28-year-old can start 2013 off on the right foot.

Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: Scott Piercy
In 2012, making his first start at Kapalua, Piercy got better every day, shooting 9 under on the weekend. Now coming off his win in Canada and making it into the top 50 in the OWGR, expect big things this year from the Las Vegas native.

Farrell Evans: Tommy Gainey
The man with the pro game's most original swing is the happiest player in the field this week. After starting his 2012 season by missing eight of his first 16 cuts, the South Carolina native qualified as the least likely player to make it to Kapalua. His final-round 60 to win the McGladrey in October proved his homemade game works under pressure.

Bob Harig: Ian Poulter
The European Ryder Cup star appears to be sleeping his way into the tournament. He admits it is an intrusion into his offseason, which will take another six-week break following this event.

Kevin Maguire: Charlie Beljan
After suffering through panic attacks that saw him taken from the course on a stretcher in the 2012 season finale before cashing the champion's check two days later, Beljan proved he's got the game to compete on the PGA Tour. A week of free money will certainly help him get acclimated to life on tour as a winner.


Michael Collins: Nick Watney
This will be Watney's fourth appearance at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but his first trip in back-to-back years. After he closed the weekend last year with consecutive 68s, this will be the first of three wins in 2013, with his inspiration coming from his San Francisco 49ers.

Farrell Evans: Ryan Moore
Over the last couple of months of the 2012 season, few players on the PGA Tour were better than this former U.S. Amateur champion. Moore played his way into the Tour Championship with two top-10s in the FedEx Cup playoffs. Then he nearly won in Atlanta. In his next event, he won in Las Vegas at Justin Timberlake's tournament to finish his year. In Moore's only other appearance at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in 2010, he finished in a tie for sixth.

Bob Harig: Dustin Johnson
The wide fairways and big elevation advantages ought to suit the long-hitting Johnson, who seems poised for a big year.

Kevin Maguire: Webb Simpson
He has played Kapalua all of one time and his worst score is a 4-under 69 (yes, it's a par-73). A T-3 finish last year (at 19 under, no less) proves he can start the season fast. This time, he'll punch his return ticket to Hawaii much earlier in the year.