Arnold Palmer Invitational experts' picks

March, 20, 2012
03/20/12
9:02
AM ET
Each week of the 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 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's tournament: the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge.

Horse for the Course


Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Justin Rose
Six events, six made cuts, two top-10s and a win; that'd be a great year for most but Justin is just getting started. He finished tie for third here last year and with Jack Nicklaus' trophy on his mantel from the Memorial he'd love to shake hands with the King's trophy, too.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
The six-time winner at Bay Hill could be nursing a strained left Achilles, but no one has ever performed better on this golf course.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
It's hard to ignore those six victories that Woods has at Bay Hill. When he is playing well, the course suits him beautifully. But when he's not won the tournament, he's not been a contender. Outside of his wins, he has just one top-10.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Bo Van Pelt
He's never missed a cut at Bay Hill Club & Lodge and has finished inside the top 10 in four of his last five starts on the PGA Tour. Don't count him out for a potential second career victory this week, either.


Birdie Buster


Michael Collins: Tiger Woods
He's only won here six times, so he's got no chance. Where's the sarcasm button? Other than having to WD at Cadillac, he hasn't finished outside the top 20 in the three tournaments he's finished this year.

Farrell Evans: Bo Van Pelt
The 36-year-old former Oklahoma State star got his fourth straight top-10 in a stroke-play event at the Transitions. He tied for 30th last year at Bay Hill. Bob Harig: Jim Furyk
Furyk is coming off a playoff loss at the Transitions, where he was the third-round leader and played some of his best golf of the year. He also returns to a venue at Bay Hill where he's been in the top 11 the last two years. Kevin Maguire: Sang-moon Bae
If you haven't heard this rookie's name this season, then you clearly haven't been watching much golf. Besides losing in a four-way playoff at the Transitions on Sunday, the 25-year-old has earned more than $900,000 in eight events so far in 2012.


Super Sleeper


Michael Collins: Jason Kokrak
He's 4-for-8 in cuts made with a top-10 in 2012. This Canadian bomber is set to break out this week as his length off the tee will be a huge benefit.

Farrell Evans: Scott Piercy
The 33-year-old 2011 Reno-Tahoe Open winner is making just his second career start at Bay Hill. In his first trip to Arnie's tournament, in 2009, he shot a second-round 82 and missed the cut. But after his final-round 62 at the Transitions, which got him his first top-10 of the year and a T-5, he'll be full of confidence this week.

Bob Harig: Ernie Els
It is going to be tough for the Big Easy to bounce back from his Sunday setback at the Transitions. How fast he is able to rebound will determine his level of success at a place where he won two years ago.

Kevin Maguire: Jeff Overton
He's played at Arnie's only place twice with neither finish better than T-48, but the former Ryder Cupper is trending in the right direction. In his last four starts, he's finished T-44, T-18, T-14, T-5 and shot all four rounds in the 60s at the Transitions for his first top-10 of 2012.


Winner


Michael Collins: Webb Simpson
This is the first time this year he's playing three in a row. He started with a tie for 35th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, last week had a tie for 10th at the Transitions, and this week he gets his first win of 2012, which will give him huge confidence going into the Masters.

Farrell Evans: Phil Mickelson
Lefty hasn't won Arnie's tournament since 1997. His best finish since then was a tie for third in 2002. But his most memorable run at the event came in 2001, when he chased down Tiger Woods with a 66 in the final round only to see Tiger edge him by a stroke with a birdie on the 72nd hole. Bay Hill is the beginning of three tournaments in a row for the 40-time PGA Tour winner, ending with the Masters, where he is a three-time champion.

Bob Harig: Sergio Garcia
He has never won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but he has six top-10s at the tournament including last year. Garcia, who won twice late last year on the European Tour, is looking for his first victory on the PGA Tour since the 2008 Players Championship.

Kevin Maguire: Sergio Garcia
Six out of the 10 times he's played this tournament, El Nino finished T-10 or better. Garcia's game continues to round into form heading into Augusta and just imagine the excitement a victory by the Spaniard would generate in the run up to the year's first major in a couple of weeks.

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