Arnold Palmer Invitational experts' picks

March, 18, 2014

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 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: None
He (Tiger Woods) pulled out late Tuesday afternoon, which means the title is vacant like a heavyweight belt in boxing.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Justin Rose
Since 2011 at Bay Hill, the reigning U.S. Open champion has had a T-3, a T-15 and a second last year, 2 shots back of the winner, Tiger Woods.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Justin Rose
With Tiger Woods -- who has won at Bay Hill eight times -- out of the tournament, there is no obvious candidate, but Justin Rose has played well on the venue, with top-three finishes in two of the past three years and four top-15 finishes overall. He was also in contention last week at Innisbrook.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Justin Rose
Apparently that shoulder situation is under control enough as shown by his T-8 last week in Tampa. Now he heads to a course in Bay Hill where he has produced a pair of top-three finishes in the past three years.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Zach Johnson
Have you ever seen a guy who shouldn't be able to compete on "big" courses play as well as Johnson? Me neither. If I told you he's played 10 times in this tournament and missed only one cut, I wouldn't be offended if you double (triple) checked me. Won't change the facts, though. If the course stays dry through the week, you can expect Johnson to get his fourth top-10 of the year.

Evans: Will MacKenzie
Unless you have been watching PGA Tour leaderboards closely of late, you probably don't know much about this 39-year-old journeyman with two career wins at the unglamorous Reno-Tahoe Open and the Viking Classic. But after his fourth top-10 of the wraparound season -- a tie for fourth at the Valspar Championship -- MacKenzie is fully prepared for a prestigious stage like Bay Hill.

Harig: John Senden
He didn't make many birdies at Innisbrook, but he did convert two key ones down the stretch to capture his second PGA Tour title at the Valspar Championship.

Maguire: Bubba Watson
The 2012 Masters champ sits tied for second on tour in top-10 finishes with five, including four in a row that read: T-2, 1, T-9, T-2, with the win coming at Riviera. Now he's gearing up for Augusta, and a high finish at Bay Hill wouldn't exactly be a stretch.

Super Sleeper

Collins: Harris English
Twelve events, 12 cuts made including a win and five top-10s. Even though he has not had great success here in his two previous starts, the guy who's playing this week isn't the same guy who finished 57th here last year.

Evans: Chesson Hadley
The 26-year-old PGA Tour rookie got his first career win earlier this month at the Puerto Rico Open. The former Georgia Tech star followed up that stellar performance with a solid tie for 14th at the Valspar Championship.

Harig: Will MacKenzie
The two-time tour winner has struggled in recent years. His tie for fourth at Innisbrook was his fourth top-10 of the season. Since the Open, he has eight top-15 finishes to rank 20th in the FedEx Cup standings.

Maguire: Retief Goosen
If it weren't for a final-round 79 at Innisbrook Sunday, Goosen had his sights set on his first top-10 in a couple of months. A return to Arnie's Bay Hill, where the South African has missed the cut only once since 2000, could see him make a much-needed jump on the money list.


Collins: Justin Rose
Coming off an eighth-place finish last week, Rose now has full confidence in his previously injured shoulder. He has a solid history at this event, including a runner-up finish last year. Rose has already won Jack Nicklaus' event and has voiced what it would mean to him to win Arnie's as well.

Evans: Kevin Na
Always a source of controversy over his slow play and quirky pre-shot routines, the 30-year-old South Korean has one of the best short games in golf. He showed it off last week with a second-place finish at the Valspar Championship, his third top-5 finish of the season. At his last appearance at Bay Hill in 2012, Na finished in a tie for fourth.

Harig: Graeme McDowell
A contender at Bay Hill two years ago, McDowell is ranked 15th in the world and is off to a nice start in 2014, with three top-10s in four starts. He gets his third PGA Tour title this week.

Maguire: Keegan Bradley
Big hitters tend to win here (see Woods, Tiger), and Bradley certainly fits that mold as he's 18th on tour in driving distance. Last year, the 2011 PGA Championship winner finished tied for third. This year, he'll get over the hump and pull down the fourth victory of his still-young career.





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