McGladrey Classic experts' picks

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
4:32
PM ET

Each week of the golf season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories below: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows this track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who can take it low this week), Super Sleeper (an unexpected player who could contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The McGladrey Classic in Sea Island, Ga.

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


ESPN.com senior golf writer Michael Collins

Horse for the Course: Robert Allenby
He took last week off so he didn't have to travel back from the West coast and won't be jet lagged. He also finished the tournament last year tied for third, so the course won't be new to him. The biggest reason he's gonna play well this week: He was picked by Greg Norman for the Presidents Cup and now that he's on the team the pressure is not only off, he's playing to "show off" for the captain and prove to Norman that he made the right decision.

Birdie Buster: Trevor Immelman
It's taken him a long time to finally feel not only healthy, which this year he does, but feel able to trust his body and swing. Slowly but surely, he has been able to do both and his results have started to show. Even though his best finishes this year have been two ties for 12th (not counting the Tavistock Cup), his Fall Finish keeps getting better and better. He tied for 34th in Las Vegas and last week tied for 18th, so expect at least a top-10 finish in Georgia. I seem to remember he has a jacket from somewhere in the state.

Super Sleeper: William McGirt
His best finish on tour this year has been a tie for 16th in Vegas two weeks ago. In 30 tournaments, he's made 17 cuts and stands just outside the top 125 on the money list. He's shaping up to be this year's Roland Thatcher (he's the guy who last year had to make a 6-foot putt on the 18th hole on Sunday of the last tournament of the year to keep his card). But I think because of William's strong finish last week in San Jose, he'll carry that momentum over and into a great tournament this week, locking up his tour card for 2012 and even giving him a chance to win his first PGA Tour event.

Winner: Matt Kuchar
Two players are in the top 10 on the money list without a win, and Jason Day ain't playin' this week so we know there will be at least one guy going to Australia for the Presidents Cup on that list without a win. Kuch was on a torrid pace in the beginning of the year, but since his tie for second at Memorial the first weekend in June, he's had only one top 10. Granted, it was a solo second at the earthquake/hurricane-stricken playoff event at The Barclays, but this will be his first start since the Tour Championship. That being said, the well rested Georgia Tech grad (hint, hint!) will make the McGladry's Classic his first win of 2011 and will send him to the Presidents Cup on a high.


ESPN.com senior golf writer Farrell Evans

Horse for the Course: Webb Simpson
After two wins this season, the 26-year-old Wake Forest grad still has a lot to play for. He needs to earn less than $70,000 to retake the lead on the money list from Luke Donald, who isn't in the field this week at the McGladrey Classic. Simpson probably has a little rust on his game and some bad feelings after squandering his chances for the FedEx Cup playoffs title with a mediocre 22nd-place finish at the Tour Championship. Still, no one has played better than him all year, and with a win this week, he would probably lock up player of the year honors.

Birdie Buster: Spencer Levin
The 27-year-old former New Mexico All-American isn't the longest or straightest driver on the PGA Tour. Or the best ball striker or the best putter. But he's probably, pound for pound, one of the best players out there. The Sacramento native plays with a lot of heart and determination that helps him overcome what he lacks in physical gifts. With $2.2 million in earnings, he's having the best season of his three years on tour. Two of his six top-10s this year have come in the past two weeks, at Justin Timberlake's tournament (T-5) and the Frys.com Open (T-7).

Super Sleeper: Davis Lovis III
The McGladrey Classic is his baby. He and his brother, Mark, run the tournament. So this week he's got a lot of things outside of golf to worry about. But he's still got some golf left in him, even if his measly two top-10s and seven missed cuts in 20 events this season doesn't demonstrate the game that led him to 20 career PGA Tour wins. I'm sure he would like for this to be one of his last really good weeks before he turns his attention to the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, where he will be the U.S. captain.

Winner: Matt Kuchar
With nine top-10s and $4.1 million in earnings, the 33-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion has made more money in a season without a win than any one in tour history. Coming off a two-week break after a sixth-place finish in the FedEx Cup playoffs, he'll be sleeping in his own bed this week and primed to take on the strongest field so far in the Fall Series. After his win at The Barclays last year, he moved his family from Atlanta to St. Simons Island, where his wife Sybil grew up. Kuchar plays out of the Frederica Golf Club, which is less than a 30-minute drive from the Seaside Course, the site of this week's McGladrey Classic, where he finished in a tie for 25th a year ago.


ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig

Horse for the Course: Charles Howell III
Coming off a strong push in the FedEx Cup playoffs, Howell returns to the Sea Island course where he shot a closing 62 last year to finish tied for sixth. He also played just two holes over par for the week.

Birdie Buster: Rickie Fowler
He's coming off a 16-under par performance at the Korea Open, where he notched his first professional victory, defeating Rory McIlroy by six strokes.

Super Sleeper: Graeme McDowell
The 2010 U.S. Open champion has no victories this year, but is coming off his first top-10 finish since March, when he tied for third two weeks ago at the Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland. McDowell is using this event to stay sharp for a strong finish to the European Tour season.

Winner: Webb Simpson
If anyone is motivated to do well, it's this two-time winner on the PGA Tour. Simpson entered because he'd like to take a crack at the PGA Tour money title. He trails current leader Luke Donald by approximately $68,000. A 15th-place finish would pass Donald, but why settle for that?


ESPN.com senior golf editor Kevin Maguire

Horse for the Course: David Toms
A refreshed Toms returns to the PGA Tour after a few weeks off at the McGladrey Classic with the knowledge that he missed a playoff by just a couple of shots in last year's inaugural event.

Birdie Buster: Paul Casey
It's his first time teeing it up at the McGladrey Classic (and yes, it's only the second year of the event) but the Englishman who stands 127th on the money list stepped up to the plate with his T-7 last week at the Frys.com Open. Another top-10 finish would likely lock up those playing privileges for the 2012 season.

Super Sleeper: Bud Cauley
The young star of this past week wasn't heralded amateur Patrick Cantlay but Cauley, the three-time All-American out of Alabama who had to top-10 his way into the field this week. His third-place finish at the Frys.com Open might have earned the 21-year-old enough money to lock up his 2012 PGA Tour card -- he'd be 114th on the money list right now -- but Cauley doesn't appear ready to slow down just yet. That's crucial since if he can stay inside the top 125 for the next two weeks, he'll be able to skip the grind that is PGA Tour Q-school.

Winner: Rickie Fowler
Don't tell me he's got to fly all the way from Southeast Asia and that'll hurt his chances. Fowler's just 22 and he's all kinds of resilient. Winning breeds winning and clearly after his first pro victory last week at the Korea Open, Fowler's game is on right now. All the "he still hasn't won on the PGA Tour" talk should finally come to an end this week.

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