The Barclays experts' picks

August, 22, 2012
08/22/12
5:38
AM ET
Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: 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 Barclays at Bethpage State Park's Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y.

Horse for the Course


Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
After last week's horror, I feel like I should pick Jason Dufner just so Tiger doesn't WD. Alas, he won in 2002 and finished sixth in 2009 when the U.S. Open was held there. The good news is that with five par-4s of 470-plus yards (with two longer than 500 yards), Tiger won't have to worry about his wedge game distance control. The putter, on the other hand...

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
I remember watching him in 2002 in a practice round the first time the U.S. Open was held at Bethpage. He was playing with his pal, Mark O'Meara. On one of the toughest U.S. Open venues in history, Tiger never looked better in his career.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
It won't be as tough as it was for two U.S. Opens, but Bethpage is still a big ballpark, and Woods won the 2002 U.S. Open and was tied for sixth at the 2009 U.S. Open.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Rory McIlroy
The Northern Irishman comes off a victory at the PGA Championship to a venue that hosted a U.S. Open just a few years ago. It surely helps that McIlroy finished T-10 back in '09 at Bethpage Black when he was just over a month past his 20th birthday.

Ian O'Connor, ESPNNewYork.com columnist: Tiger Woods
As a winner at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage and a T-6 finisher at the 2009 Open there, Tiger can rely on strong muscle memory here. Of course, he also has more talent than anyone else in the field, and that never hurts.


Birdie Buster


Michael Collins: Scott Piercy
For the guy who won the Canadian Open and called it "boring golf" because he couldn't hit his driver everywhere, he's found his track. And for a guy who's ranked 14th in driving distance, it's his all-around ranking (19th) that should get people's attention.

Farrell Evans: Sergio Garcia
At the Wyndham Championship, El Nino got his first PGA Tour victory since taking The Players Championship in 2008. He's never finished better than 12th in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Bob Harig: Sergio Garcia
A winner last week in Greensboro, Garcia -- who won twice last year in Europe -- is now a lock for the European Ryder Cup team. And he finished fourth at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage.

Kevin Maguire: Justin Rose
The Englishman posted back-to-back top-5 finishes in his last two starts (WGC-Bridgestone, PGA Championship) and owns a whopping seven top-10s in 15 starts this season on the PGA Tour. Impressive.

Ian O'Connor: Sergio Garcia
Coming off a liberating, Ryder Cup-berth-clinching victory at the Wyndham Championship, Garcia should come out firing at the pins. Despite an occasional run-in with the New York fans, Sergio has two top-10s at the Bethpage Opens and two victories in this tournament when it was known as the Buick Classic in Westchester.


Super Sleeper


Michael Collins: Trevor Immelman
It's been a roller-coaster season for the South African, with no more than four cuts made in a row all season. Well, he's made three cuts in a row coming into the week, but he knows if he wants to keep his playoffs alive he's not only going to have to make the cut, but probably get no worse than a top 20.

Farrell Evans: Harris English
On Tuesday, I was telling English's swing coach, Mike Taylor, that it's hard to believe this 23-year-old former University of Georgia star is only 87th in the standings. What rookie besides, maybe, John Huh, has been more impressive than English in 2012?

Bob Harig: Jason Bohn
He's barely in the playoffs at No. 125, the last man to make it. He's got nothing to lose -- and needs a great week to advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Kevin Maguire: Rickie Fowler Don't expect conditions to be U.S. Open-like this week at Bethpage Black, but the orange-clad Fowler goes into the Barclays with the knowledge that he shot a second-round 68 there back at the '09 Open. Expect good vibes from the youngster.

Ian O'Connor: Phil Mickelson
When's the last time Mickelson ever qualified as a sleeper? But he's had a bad year, at least by his Hall of Fame standards, with no top-25s since May. Maybe New York's long-running love affair with Phil -- combined with his history of second-place finishes at Bethpage -- will get Lefty back on the right track.


Winner


Michael Collins: Rory McIlroy
The beginning of his PGA Tour season started hot and it's going to wind down the same way. First three tourneys this year brought a second, a first and a third. Coming off a dominating performance at the PGA Championship, a $10 million dollar FedEx Cup bonus check is enough motivation for Rory to stay tuned for the playoffs, starting with a win in N.Y.

Farrell Evans: Rory McIlroy
He's got Tiger as his chaperone for the first two rounds. It should be a great show. Let's see if he plays more to Tiger or the Black Course. Both are tough to beat.

Bob Harig: Phil Mickelson
OK, he's not been playing great, but wouldn't it be just like Lefty to surprise like this? And remember, he was runner-up in both U.S. Opens played at Bethpage.

Kevin Maguire: Hunter Mahan
He hasn't done much of note in the last six weeks, but after the PGA Championship, Mahan stood on the outside looking in at a U.S. Ryder Cup spot. This starts Week 1 of trying to show he deserves to be one of Davis Love III's captain's picks, and a victory would likely lock up that ticket to Chicago at the end of September.

Ian O'Connor: Keegan Bradley
Why not go with the former St. John's star? He said on Twitter the other day that he's not used to parking at the Bethpage clubhouse lot. "Normally we had to park in the employee lot and run to the 3rd t unnoticed," Bradley tweeted. He's red-hot, and there's no reason to think this homecoming will cool him off.

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