Honda Classic experts' picks

February, 25, 2014

Each week of the season, our experts 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 Honda Classic at PGA National's Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Geoff Ogilvy
Talk about starting where you left off! Before a runner-up finish in 2013, his last start at the Honda Classic was in 2006, when he also finished runner-up. In seven starts, Ogilvy has three runner-up finishes and has only finished outside the top 14 ... once.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Rory McIlroy
The Champion Course at PGA National -- a tough, water-laden par-70 Jack Nicklaus redesign -- ranked as the most difficult regular tour venue on the PGA Tour in 2013. Only the four courses that hosted major championships were harder. When McIlroy won here in 2012 to claim No. 1 in the world, he went bogey-free and 3 under par over four days through the brutal Bear Trap -- holes 15, 16 and 17.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Graeme McDowell
He has three consecutive top-10 finishes at PGA National and is coming off a strong performance at the Match Play, where he made it to the quarterfinals. McDowell has been top-10 in both of his starts this year.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Keegan Bradley
Although Bradley hasn't posted a top-10 since October -- he's also missed only one cut -- expect a turnaround this week as he's playing a home game at a course he finished in the top 12 the past two years.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Sergio Garcia
While I realize he has played here only three times and the last came in 2010, karma is real and it means something. Garcia is in a very good place internally and it's coming through in his golf game. This course will test your patience, something the Spaniard was not always known for traditionally. It's a new and improved Sergio. Believe it.

Evans: Zach Johnson
Before taking off a month, the 38-year-old former Masters champion went first, T-8 and T-3 in his last three starts. After getting knocked out of the Match Play in the first round, he should be anxious to tee it up at the Honda Classic, where he last played in 2008, finishing in a tie for 30th.

Harig: Rickie Fowler
A surprise run to the semifinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, including a consolation match victory over Ernie Els, has him feeling good about the swing changes he has made under Butch Harmon.

Maguire: Rickie Fowler
Yes, it's only one week, but the confidence that Fowler picked up with his third-place finish at the WGC-Match Play after recent work with Butch Harmon will go a long way to improving his game heading into the Masters.

Super Sleeper

Collins: Erik Compton
After not getting off to a great start in the new wraparound season (he missed three of his first six cuts), Compton seems to have settled in nicely with four straight paychecks. He comes into an event where he's never missed the cut, and last year finished fourth with an even-par weekend.

Evans: Brian Harman
In 2012, the 27-year-old Savannah native set the course record on the Champion Course with a second-round 61. In his last tour start at the Northern Trust Open, Harman finished in a tie for third.

Harig: Michael Thompson
Since winning the Honda Classic a year ago, Thompson has just two top-10 finishes, the last coming at the Memorial Tournament in June.

Maguire: Brooks Koepka
Playing this week on a sponsor's exemption, Koepka could use a strong showing to get inside the top 50 in the world rankings to play in next week's WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral.


Collins: Tiger Woods
He has played in the event only three times prior (1993, 2012 and 2013). Not having a history for Tiger also means not having a victory. That changes this week. It's going to be a different year compared to 2013, starting with a surprising win here. Think Sunday 65.

Evans: Adam Scott
The reigning Masters champion is rested and excited about his game after more than a month away from competition. Two years ago, the Honda Classic was the site of Rory McIlroy's ascent to No. 1 in the world. Might this also be the stage for the 33-year-old Australian to dethrone Tiger Woods at the top of golf's world ranking?

Harig: Rory McIlroy
After what occurred at the Honda last year -- walking off in mid-round -- a win would be the perfect repayment for a week gone bad. McIlroy has shown good form so far this year, and won at the Honda two years ago.

Maguire: Graeme McDowell
PGA National plays U.S. Open-hard often times and who better to win on that track than a former U.S. Open champion who is coming off a big week at the WGC-Match Play?





Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.