Experts' predictions, Sony Open edition

January, 12, 2011

Each week during the PGA Tour season, our panel of experts will share their insight into which players fit the criteria for our four categories below: Birdie Buster, Horse for the Course, Super Sleeper and Winner.

This week's tournament: The Sony Open. golf writer Bob Harig

Birdie Buster: Jonathan Byrd.

He skips over to Oahu on a roll after going low on Maui, where he won his fifth PGA Tour title and second in a row.

Horse for the Course: Ernie Els.

A two-time winner of the Sony Open, Els has five top-five finishes at the tournament in seven appearances. He tied for 12th last year.

Super Sleeper: Jamie Lovemark.

The Sony Open rarely produces first-time winners, and especially not rookies. But Lovemark is an experienced player coming off a Nationwide Tour money title.

Winner: Steve Stricker.

He seems to shake off the winter cold quite nicely, with three top-four finishes at the Sony in the past four years. And he's coming off a tie for fourth at Kapalua. senior golf editor Kevin Maguire

Birdie Buster: Robert Allenby.

It's been feast or famine for Allenby at Waialae. The Aussie was runner-up to Ryan Palmer last year but has finished in the top eight in three of his past five starts there. The other two times? He got the weekend off.

Horse for the Course: Ernie Els.

The big South African knows a thing or two about the Sony Open. Since first coming to the event in 2000, he's had five finishes of fifth place or better, including a couple of wins. He tied his career-low round last week at Kapalua, so we know he's got plenty of red numbers left in him.

Super Sleeper: Dave Eichelberger.

Experience helps on any course, right? Well, Eichelberger's got that at Waialae, having played in 18 editions of the Sony Open with the first one coming in 1971. Granted, he's 67 years old and got into the event by shooting his age in a qualifying event, but who wouldn't want to see him at least make it to the weekend?

Winner: Jim Furyk.

The reigning PGA Tour player of the year finished in the top 10 in this event in two of his past three starts here and comes off a top-10 finish at Kapalua last week. golf writer and blogger Jason Sobel

Birdie Buster: Robert Garrigus.

During his playoff loss at Kapalua, the tour's longest hitter posted 26 total birdies -- second-most in the entire field. On much more readable greens than those at the Plantation Course, expect plenty more red numbers. As long as that little 28-inch putter endured the 28-minute flight from Maui.

Horse for the Course: Chad Campbell.

In the past five years, Campbell has played this tourney four times and posted three top-10 finishes. The other year? That was 2009, when Campbell showed up for the event but failed to register. As long as he signs his name this week, expect him to play well at Waialae once again.

Super Sleeper: Nathan Green.

The bad news: This Aussie suffered through an uncharacteristically poor season in 2010, dropping outside the top 125 on the money list for the first time since taking up full membership. The good news: His one top-10 came here at the Sony, where he was T-8.

Winner: Ernie Els.

Yeah, yeah. I know. The Big Easy looked more like the Big Queasy with the flatstick in his hands at Kapalua, needing 32.3 putts per round over four days. But the two-time Sony Open champion has been known to turn things around in a hurry and is only three weeks removed from winning the South African Open.





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