Players Championship experts' picks

May, 6, 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, the PGA Tour is at TPC Sawgrass for the Players Championship.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Bubba Watson
Probably not the best category for a guy who is only batting .500 on cuts made here and never finished better than 37th in six tries. That being said, this is a new Bubba on what seems like a Steve Stricker schedule, which I believe will be a great thing for a guy who can be easily bored on the golf course. He won't be this week, and it'll be his best finish ever at this event.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Adam Scott
The Stadium Course has a set of four really fun, risk-reward par-5s that can make or break a player's chances of winning. Scott, the 2004 Players winner, leads the tour this season with a 4.41 scoring average on par-5s.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Sergio Garcia
He was in contention until hitting two balls into the water at the 17th hole last year and has made 10 straight cuts. Garcia won here at TPC Sawgrass in 2008.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Henrik Stenson
Finding someone who plays TPC Sawgrass consistently well over the years is as challenging as ... picking a winner for the PGA Tour's marquee event. That being said, Stenson does own three top-five finishes in eight career starts in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Luke Donald
With perfect weather conditions and fast firm fairways by Thursday, you should expect a top-10 finish from the former world No. 1 on a track where he's had relative success since 2007. With the premium not being on putting but patience because of the greens, you can put a star next to Luke's name this week.

Evans: Matt Kuchar
The 2012 Players champion has eight top-10s in 11 events on the season, including a victory three weeks ago at the RBC Heritage.

Harig: J.B. Holmes
The long-hitting Holmes also showed some skills on the greens at Quail Hollow, where he posted his first victory on the PGA Tour in six years after myriad health issues.

Maguire: Jordan Spieth
Playing in his first Players Championship, Spieth should have shaken off that Masters hangover by now. (Granted, his T-12 at Harbour Town probably proved that.) The 20-year-old might not have Carl Jackson and Ben Crenshaw to lean on for local knowledge like he did at Augusta National, but I'd bet Spieth is resourceful enough to figure out how to play TPC Sawgrass pretty quickly.

Super Sleeper

Collins: Jordan Spieth
Can you believe this is the first time he's teed it up for the Players? Obviously not or you wouldn't have started typing complaints in the comments bar ripping the fact that I put him here. Big event and his first time playing so it seems like the perfect scenario (again) for something special to happen.

Evans: Jeff Maggert
After turning 50 in February, the three-time PGA Tour winner won his Champions Tour debut in March in Mississippi. Maggert's best finish in 12 starts this year on the regular tour was a tie for 16th in Mayakoba. But he wasn't playing well in 2013 when he came to Sawgrass and finished in a tie for second.

Harig: Brendon de Jonge
After shooting an opening-round 80 at Quail Hollow, he rallied with a 62 to make the cut and finish tied for sixth. But it was his first finish among the top 15 this year.

Maguire: Michael Thompson
The harder the conditions, the better Michael Thompson seems to play, so this week's track might work perfectly for him. Coming off his best finish of the season (T-11 at Quail Hollow) doesn't hurt, either.


Collins: Sergio Garcia
He's coming into the week playing very solid golf, and this is a place where Garcia hasn't missed a cut since 2003, while only finishing outside the top 22 twice since 2006. He looks happy again on the golf course, and a happy Sergio is a winning Sergio.

Evans: Rory McIlroy
The former world No. 1 has had top-10s in five of his seven tour starts in the 2013-14 season, but he doesn't have a win. He dearly wants to add the Players to his list of prestigious victories. After shunning this event earlier in his career, he's learning to embrace it. His new attitude was evident last year with a tie for eighth that included an opening-round 66.

Harig: Matt Kuchar
He's as hot as any player in the world at the moment, coming off four straight top-five finishes, including a victory at the RBC Heritage. Ranked fifth in the world, he'll threaten the No. 1 spot with a victory at a place where he won two years ago.

Maguire: Justin Rose
Coming off a pair of top-10 finishes, the reigning U.S. Open champion stayed in the chase last week at Quail Hollow. Being in the heat of battle will serve him well as he earns his first victory of the season, extending his streak of at least one PGA Tour win to five years.





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