Experts' Picks, Shell Houston Open Edition

March, 30, 2011
03/30/11
8:12
AM ET

Each week in the PGA Tour season, our panel of experts will share their insights 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 Shell Houston Open at Redstone Golf Course.

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

ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig

Horse for the Course: Fred Couples
The Champions Tour player and former University of Houston golfer has two top-five finishes at the tournament in the past three years.

Birdie Buster: Steve Marino
He's coming off a tough defeat at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he blew a back-nine lead but came back to make a clutch birdie at the 18th. Marino keeps knocking on the door.

Super Sleeper: Vaughn Taylor
He made a brief run at Bay Hill last week before fading and was the tough-luck loser in a playoff at Houston last year to Anthony Kim. The Augusta, Ga., native hasn't played in the Masters for three years, and this is his last opportunity to get back for 2011.

Winner: Matt Kuchar
The reigning PGA Tour money winner is off to another solid start this year and has taken the past two weeks off after Doral to get some rest while gearing up for the Masters. He tied for eighth in Houston last year.


ESPN.com senior golf editor Kevin Maguire

Horse for the Course: Steve Marino
Coming off his second runner-up finish of the year, Marino knows Houston well and finished T-14 there in 2010. Eventually he has to break through and get that first win, right? Right?

Birdie Buster: Anthony Kim
AK has played the SHO four times and his finishes have run the gamut. In order: T-5, MC, T-26, win. Kind of sums up his career so far. Has the ability to go low and win on any given week, but a weekend off isn't out of the question, either.

Super Sleeper: Jeff Maggert
He's been the classic feast-or-famine type at the Shell Houston Open. In his eight appearances at RedStone Golf Club since 2003, he has four finishes of T-14 or better, which is great. Except that the other four times he's played, he was slamming the trunk before the weekend.

Winner: Lee Westwood
He's been in the States for a little while now and has been practicing at Augusta in recent days. The folks in Houston try -- and I stress the word try -- to get their course conditions as close as possible to Augusta National to help those players who are in the Masters field. Plus, Westwood finished T-11 in 2009 and T-8 in 2010 in Houston. Expect big things out of the Brit both this week and next at the Masters.


ESPN.com golf writer and blogger Jason Sobel

Horse for the Course: Stuart Appleby
The only multiple winner of this event in the field, Appleby has played well of late, registering three finishes of 15th or better in his past five starts. He's also gearing up for the Masters, where he's made the cut six straight times, but didn't qualify for it last year.

Birdie Buster: Vaughn Taylor
Seems like it happens every spring: Not yet qualified for that little event in his hometown of Augusta, Taylor goes on a birdie binge, only to fall a tad short. Last year he missed out in a playoff, losing to Anthony Kim.

Super Sleeper: Bobby Gates
The tallest player on the PGA Tour might rise above most of the competition in his adopted hometown this week. In his past four starts, the rookie owns two top-six finishes and has vaulted into 80th place on the overall money list.

Winner: Charles Howell III
Nothing about his previous record in Houston suggests CH3 should contend. Nor does his recent body of work, as he dropped from seventh going into the final round at Bay Hill last week to 38th, thanks to a 6-over 78 on Sunday. But motivation works in curious ways, and much like Taylor, Howell is itching to get back to his hometown for the Masters.

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