Tournament of Champions experts' picks

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
11:48
AM ET

Each week of the season, our experts 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 in Maui, Hawaii.


Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Dustin Johnson
This will be his sixth start at this event (injury kept him out in 2012) and he has never finished outside the top 16. This is a big hitter's course and he's one of the biggest on tour.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Dustin Johnson
The 29-year-old, eight-time tour winner captured the weather-shortened Tournament of Champions last year with a 54-hole total of 16 under par. With 13 first-timers in the event this year, Johnson has big advantage over most of his competitors with his experience and great length off the tee.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Dustin Johnson
The defending champion won in brutal conditions a year ago and his long game seems perfectly suited for the big, wide fairways at Kapalua.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Webb Simpson
The 2012 U.S. Open Champ has played the Plantation Course seven times and each round he came in under par. His 69.71 scoring average is somewhat misleading considering it's a par-73 track.


Birdie Buster

Collins: Jason Dufner
Being that last year was his first time playing the tournament, this year -- if the winds stay below 50 mph -- Dufner will feel as though he's playing a whole new course. That said, his inspired play will be Auburn football-induced.

Evans: Ryan Moore
The former U.S. Amateur champ got off to a hot start in the new wraparound season in October with a win at the CIMB Classic. In the 2013, he had only three top 10s, but he's always a player to watch for on the leaderboard.

Harig: Adam Scott
The reigning Masters champion was on fire through the end of 2013, with two victories, a second and a victory at the World Cup with Jason Day. And he does have some urgency, as after next week Scott will not play again until the Honda Classic in late February.

Maguire: Adam Scott
Who's playing better around the world right now than Scott? After coming up just short of the Australian Triple Crown, the reigning Masters champ is paired with defending champ Dustin Johnson in the opening round.


Super Sleeper

Collins: Boo Weekley
It's his first time back since 2009 and his third trip to Maui overall. Boo's renewed commitment to golf means this year, instead of having to knock off the rust from sitting in a hunting stand somewhere, he comes in ready to start the year strong.

Evans: Kevin Streelman
After the Tour Championship, the 35-year-old Duke graduate played events in Malaysia, China, Australia and South Africa; taking advantage of the success of a breakthrough 2013 season, where he won his first career tournament at Tampa, Streelman earned more than $3 million to finish 17th on the money list.

Harig: Brandt Snedeker
We don't think of him this way typically, but Snedeker is playing for the first time since suffering a left knee injury after falling off a Segway. He skipped three events at the end of 2013 because of the setback and now returns on a hilly, demanding Plantation course.

Maguire: Jimmy Walker
Distance can make a big difference at Kapalua and so far early in this season, Walker is averaging 316.2 yards off the tee, good for second on the PGA Tour through six events. So what if it's his first start in the winners-only event? Thirteen of the 30 golfers in the field are in the same boat.


Winner

Collins: Adam Scott
It's going to be really hard to bet against him at any tournament this year. Green jacket in hand, he went home to Australia and almost completed the Australian Triple Crown. This year, in his sixth try, he'll finally add this trophy to a case that will need an addition by the end of the year.

Evans: Harris English
The 24-year-old former Georgia star won twice on the PGA Tour in 2013. Making his first appearance in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, English recently inked a new equipment deal with Callaway after using Ping clubs during his first two years on tour. He's as laid-back as they come and could be a top-10 player in the world by the end of the year.

Harig: Matt Kuchar
The two-time winner in 2013 also had a strong end to the season that saw him play a lot of golf. A win here sets him up for another big year.

Maguire: Brandt Snedeker
The great unknown about Snedeker relates to his health, but rest assured one of the best putters on tour will have an excellent shot to start his 2014 with a seventh career PGA Tour victory.

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