Experts' Picks, Bay Hill Edition

March, 23, 2011
03/23/11
8:28
AM ET

Each week in 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 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Want another opinion? Check out ESPN.com's FOREcaster page.

ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig

Horse for the Course: Tiger Woods
It's typically all or nothing for Woods at Bay Hill, where he has six victories, including his last two appearances in 2008 and 2009. But in other years, Woods has rarely contended.

Birdie Buster: Gary Woodland
He's coming off an impressive performance at Innisbrook, where Woodland won his first PGA Tour event. He made five birdies on the back nine Sunday and didn't miss a putt inside of 20 feet all day.

Super Sleeper: J.B. Holmes
The long-hitting Holmes needs a big week at Bay Hill in order to make the Masters. He's ranked 59th in the world and needs to move into the top 50 by Sunday.

Winner: Graeme McDowell
The Northern Irishman has matched course records at two venues this year and is trying to get his game in shape for the Masters. The European Ryder Cup hero has a house at nearby Lake Nona and would love nothing more than to win in his adopted hometown.


ESPN.com senior golf editor Kevin Maguire

Horse for the Course: Kevin Na
Nobody said we had to pick Secretariat, right? Na might be famous for his slow play, but he did finish T-11 in 2009 and T-2 last year. Slow or not, those are some solid finishes against top-notch fields.

Birdie Buster: Webb Simpson
He'll be feeling the love as the Wake Forest product will be playing a tournament hosted by the most famous Demon Deacon golfer of them all -- Arnold Palmer. Oh, and that second-place finish last week probably won't hurt.

Super Sleeper: Erik Compton
He doesn't own status on any tour, but the two-time heart transplant recipient nearly won on the Nationwide Tour this year and shot a final-round 64 at Riviera.

Winner: Jim Furyk
The reigning FedEx Cup champion hasn't exactly had a stellar start to the season. Coming into last week, in 17 rounds he had broken 70 only three times and two of those came in his first two rounds. Last season, his scoring average was under 70, at 69.83. But a T-13 finish last week got him out of that slump as he went 67-70-69-70.


ESPN.com golf writer and blogger Jason Sobel

Horse for the Course: Kevin Na
Last year, only five players posted multiple rounds in the 60s at Bay Hill, including winner Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Kevin Streelman, D.J. Trahan and Na, whose rounds of 68-70-72-69 gave him a share of second place. Of course, if he's up there again, expect the slow-play protestors to be out in full force.

Birdie Buster: Stephen Ames
While swing coach Sean Foley continues to get criticized for Tiger Woods' poor play, pupils such as Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose have shown signs of big things. Same goes for Ames, who is only two weeks removed from a share of third place in Puerto Rico.

Super Sleeper: Sam Saunders
Tough to be a real "sleeper" when your grandfather hosts the tournament, but nobody knows this course better than Saunders, whose entire family works at Bay Hill. Buoyed by large, familiar galleries, expect the non-exempt pro to better his T-50 finish of a year ago.

Winner: Bill Haas
The good thing about the API is that we at least have a 1-in-120 chance of picking a winner, rather than 1-in-144 or 1-in-156 at other events. And yes, champions have been that difficult to predict this season. After a few close calls early in the year, I'll take a chance on Haas as a third straight U.S.-born winner under 30.


ESPN.com senior national columnist Gene Wojciechowski

Horse for the Course: Tiger Woods
This one is easy. Woods won here so often (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2009) that Arnold Palmer probably had the winner's check already made out to him.

Birdie Buster: Dustin Johnson
Bay Hill is a long-ish course, and if the winds pick up this week, Johnson has the kind of game -- and length -- to do some damage in those conditions. And as his putting improves, so do his chances of going low and red.

Super Sleeper: Sam Saunders
How can you not pick Arnie's grandson at Arnie's tournament?

Winner: Graeme McDowell
Yes, I know that McDowell's last tour finish was a T-42 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. And no, I don't care. His game is too good to struggle like that again.

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