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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Tampa Bay 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 Tampa Bay Championship at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Luke Donald

Last year's champ will contend again this year but come up just a smidge short. His two starts here in the past four years are a win and a sixth-place finish. As he put it on Twitter this past Sunday night, "& need to sharpen up from 100 yards and in &" This is the perfect place for him to do it.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Jim Furyk

The 42-year-old former U.S. Open champion hasn't won on tour since he took the Tampa Bay Championship in 2010 and two other events on his way to winning the FedEx Cup playoffs. Last year on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook, Furyk was in a four-man playoff won by Luke Donald.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Jim Furyk

A playoff loser to Luke Donald last year, Furyk also won the tournament in 2010 and has contended the past three years.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Retief Goosen

The two-time winner of the Tampa Bay Championship knows a thing or two about what many say is the most challenging of all the tour courses during the Florida swing.


Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: Bud Cauley

The year hasn't gone quite like Cauley had hoped, as he has missed four out of his first six cuts. This course, however, suits him to a tee, not too long but demanding on iron shots and patience. Being a Florida kid, he is used to reading these types of tricky greens.

Farrell Evans: Adam Scott

Making his first appearance at The Tampa Bay Championship since 2010, the 32-year-old Australian is coming off a tie for third at Doral, where he shot a bogey-free 64 in the final round.

Bob Harig: Adam Scott

The Aussie is coming off a final-round 64 at Doral's Blue Monster, the best round of the week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. It helped him to a tie for third.

Kevin Maguire: Michael Thompson

Usually guys coming off their first PGA Tour victory have a down week, especially if said win earned them a spot in a WGC event. Not so for Thompson, who finished T-8 at Doral a week after winning the Honda Classic. In his first appearance at Innisbrook last year, Thompson finished a respectable T-16.


Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: Justin Bolli

Before the Puerto Rico Open, he wasn't even in this tournament. But four rounds in the 60s, including a Sunday 66, got him a fourth-place finish and an automatic berth into the field.

Farrell Evans: Patrick Cantlay

In the Tampa field on a sponsor's exemption, the 20-year-old former No. 1 amateur in the world got his first professional win earlier this month at the Web.com Tour's Colombia Championship. Cantlay had a tie for ninth at Pebble Beach in February, his best finish in five regular tour events this year.

Bob Harig: Scott Brown

His win in Puerto Rico changed everything as he planned to play a full Web.com Tour schedule. Now he's got a two-year exemption and a nothing-to-lose mentality.

Kevin Maguire: Jordan Spieth

Talk about taking advantage of your opportunities. Spieth was a sponsor's exemption into the Puerto Rico Open and the kid nearly won the thing, finishing tied for second. That top-10 finish earned him a spot in this week's Tampa Bay Championship. Not bad for a 19-year-old who played collegiately at the University of Texas.


Winner

Michael Collins: Boo Weekley

And the American domination of the PGA Tour in 2013 continues. Weekley seems to have figured out his putting last week in Puerto Rico. That -- along with a straight, long driver and accurate iron play -- will get him back into the winner's circle for the third time in his PGA Tour career.

Farrell Evans: Sergio Garcia

The 33-year-old Spaniard finished tied for third in Doral. He will play Tampa and Bay Hill before taking off two weeks before the Masters. After conceding last year at Augusta that he wasn't "good enough" to win a major, he will use these next two weeks to get his mental house in order to try to win his first major championship.

Bob Harig: Webb Simpson

It has been a quiet start to the 2013 season for the reigning U.S. Open champion, although he's playing nicely, with top-10s in two of his past three starts. He also has been in the top-13 in each of the past three years at Innisbrook, including a runner-up finish in 2011.

Kevin Maguire: Sergio Garcia

The Spaniard is coming off a solid showing (T-3) at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and is quietly creeping back toward the top-10 in the world rankings (No. 17). A win at the Copperhead Course could have him peaking just in time for the Masters.