Sony Open of Hawaii experts' picks

January, 9, 2013
01/09/13
10:17
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 Sony Open of Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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

Horse for the Course


Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Brian Gay
Dude hasn't missed a cut here since 2000! He's got three top-10s, and his worst finish was a tie for 54th. I'd say that's a pretty solid horse for this course. This is not a bomber's course which plays perfectly for a guy whose average off the tee is only 278 yards.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Davis Love III
At 48, DL3 is ancient by regular tour standards, but he can still play, especially at tour stalwarts like Waialae, where he shot a 60 in the first round of the 1994 Sony Open. He would finish second that year and since then he's had four top-5s in the season's first full-field event.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Jerry Kelly
A regular at Waialae, Kelly hasn't missed the tournament in years and has six top-10s, including a victory, in his past 13 appearances.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Zach Johnson
Waialae Country Club doesn't favor the bombers, which is perfect for the short-hitting Johnson, winner of the 2009 Sony Open in Hawaii.


Birdie Buster


Michael Collins: Michael Thompson
After missing the cut in his first try in 2011, the lessons he learned were put to really good use and resulted in a tie for sixth last year. Expect another solid week from this Alabama alum still on a high from another national championship.

Farrell Evans: Tommy Gainey
Golf's blue-collar man had a tie for sixth at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. His game is sharp, and he's ready to play as many as it takes to earn his first trip to the Masters.

Bob Harig: Dustin Johnson
He doesn't have much time to regroup after his win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but he comes in on a roll and seemingly geared up for a big season after his seventh PGA Tour victory.

Kevin Maguire:Patrick Reed
The Monday qualifier extraordinaire doesn't have to go that route this week now that he's got his tour card for 2013. Coming off his Q-school performance, expect a fast start to the season for Reed.


Super Sleeper


Michael Collins: Ben Kohles
Two starts, two wins last year on the Web.com Tour, so what else would we expect other than a top-5 finish on his first start as a member of the PGA Tour? He's not the longest hitter out there, but on this par-70 course, you don't have to be.

Farrell Evans: Luke Guthrie
In 2012, the 22-year-old former Illinois star won twice on the Web.com Tour in just 10 starts. Those back-to-back victories came after four top-10s in his first five starts after turning pro in the summer. He had a tie for fifth at the John Deere Classic and now he's a rookie on the biggest stage in golf. So don't be surprised to see him contend this week at the Sony.

Bob Harig: Russ Cochran
The Champions Tour player Monday qualified for the event, which is a victory in itself. He's using the opportunity to gear up for next week's Champions Tour opener on the Big Island.

Kevin Maguire: Tim Clark
After battling injuries and what will surely be talk about the anchor ban, Clark's had success at the Sony Open in the past, finishing T-2 as recently as 2011.


Winner


Michael Collins: Steve Marino
Coming off a year of injury where he only made six starts and missed four of those cuts, Marino is ready to do something only one other player has done (Jerry Kelly in '02) since this became the Sony Open in 1999 ... make this event his first PGA Tour victory.

Farrell Evans: Dustin Johnson
If DJ can win Sony, he will have played 126 holes in seven days. His caddie, Bobby Brown, might not love slogging that heavy staff bag around Waialae, but his boss will have a nice, easy stride while shooting four sub-70 rounds to get his eighth career win.

Bob Harig: Charles Howell III
Making his 13th straight appearance in the tournament, Howell is determined to get off to a fast start and qualify for the Masters. He tied for second last year and has six top-5s in the tournament.

Kevin Maguire: Tommy Gainey
Despite never playing well at the Sony Open, the man who led the PGA Tour in 2012 in total driving (combining ranks for both distance and accuracy) is coming off a strong showing at Kapalua and will ride that wave all the way to his second PGA Tour victory.

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