The Barclays experts' picks

August, 24, 2011
08/24/11
6:37
AM ET

Each week of the golf season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories below: Birdie Buster, Horse for the Course, Super Sleeper and Winner.

This week's tournament: The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J.

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


ESPN.com senior golf writer Michael Collins

Birdie Buster: Kevin Na
He's 47th on the FedEx Cup points list coming into the week. Seems like week after week, year after year, this guy's name is always on the leaderboard, but he never seems to be a threat to win. He is not a bomber off the tee, but he won't need to be on a par-71 course that's only 6,964 yards long. With the ability to hit it in both directions, look for a top-10 finish and maybe even better.

Horse for the Course: Chris Stroud
Needs a good week at the Barclays to qualify for the Deutsche Bank Championship; he begins the week at 106th on the FedEx Cup points list. So far this year his best finishes have been on courses that have some teeth but also have scoring available for the patient golfer. Stroud will make this week the springboard to get himself into the playoffs.

Super Sleeper: Kris Blanks
The course he played so well on in Canada is very similar to this week's course. His question mark is always the putter, but because of the success he found in Canada, expect he and his putter to get a couple of dinners on Broadway together.

Winner: Matt Kuchar
OK, bro, it's time. Nineteen starts, eight top-10s, and five of those were top-5s. Last four starts have been two missed cuts and two ties for 19th (Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship), but he'll be the first player to defend a playoff title and do it on a different course than where he won.


ESPN.com senior golf writer Farrell Evans

Birdie Buster: Charles Howell III
In 2010 he has six top-10s, including four top-5 finishes. Last week at the Wyndham Championship, he tied for fourth place. Now in his early 30s, he's finally overcome the tag of being an underachiever and is now just piling up the cash year after year as we barely notice.

Horse for the Course: Webb Simpson
No one on tour this year has played better than Simpson on Donald Ross courses. At Aronimink in the AT&T National, he tied for eighth. Last week at Sedgefield in Greensboro, he won his first PGA Tour event. Plus, his parents live in Pinehurst, a shrine to the great architect. That's got to be worth something to the golf gods.

Super Sleeper: Vijay Singh
Not many 34-time PGA Tour winners can enter a tournament under the radar, but Singh is 48 years old with a balky putter. His play has been sporadic throughout the year, and he had only two top-10s this season before last week's tie for fourth in Greensboro. But in 2008, when he took the FedEx Cup playoffs, he won two of the four events and had top-5s in his two other starts. Only Tiger Woods had a better record in the playoffs when he won two out of three events to earn the first of his two FedEx Cup titles in 2007. Maybe Singh can summon that endurance this time around.

Winner: David Toms
He could become the third 40-something to win the FedEx Cup. Jim Furyk did it when he was 40 last year and Vijay was 45 when he took it in 2008. Already a winner this year at Colonial, Toms closed with a 65 at the Wyndham to finish in a tie for 17th. Ranked ninth in the FedEx Cup standings, he's in an excellent position to win the playoffs.


ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig

Birdie Buster: Webb Simpson
He heads into the playoffs on a roll, having just captured his first PGA Tour event at the Wyndham Championship. After a few close calls, Simpson now is a tour winner with confidence and enters the playoffs third in the standings.

Horse for the Course: Steve Stricker
Nobody has any tournament experience at Plainfield CC, a first-time venue for the Barclays, but you simply have to love Stricker at this time of year, no matter the venue. He's the only player to have started all 64 rounds of the playoffs that began in 2007. He also has 10 top-10s in playoff events.

Super Sleeper: William McGirt
The PGA Tour rookie doesn't have a single top-10 this year and squeaked into the 125th and final spot in the standings, so a victory seems like a long shot -- although he can take inspiration from Heath Slocum, who two years ago started 124th in the playoffs and ended up finishing eighth.

Winner: Zach Johnson
It's been a winless year to this point for the 2007 Masters champion, but he's shown some good form lately, having made 10 straight cuts, with four of those inside the top six. He enters the Barclays 32nd in FedEx Cup points.


ESPN.com senior golf editor Kevin Maguire

Birdie Buster: Ernie Els
Several players had some work left to do last week at the Wyndham Championship just to get into the Barclays field this week. Included in that group was Ernie Els -- who, if he can finish like he started in Greensboro, might lock up a tee time next week at the Deutsche Bank Championship. He begins the week 118th in FedEx Cup points, and only the top 100 advance.

Horse for the Course: Phil Mickelson
Although Plainfield Country Club in northern New Jersey never hosted a PGA Tour event before, it is a classic Donald Ross design. Expect a veteran like Phil Mickelson to learn its ins-and-outs quickly. Plus, at just under 7,000 yards and a par-71, drivers likely won't be needed all that often, which will suit Lefty, as there are just three par-4s longer than 443 yards.

Super Sleeper: Padraig Harrington
Much like Heath Slocum back in 2009 at Liberty National, Harrington comes into the Barclays after he barely squeaked into the field. The three-time major champ needed a strong finish last week just to get into the playoffs, so now he's playing with house money to see how far he can advance.

Winner: Steve Stricker
The two-time PGA Tour winner in 2011 owns an average finish of 6.25 the last four years in this event. Some might argue that the Barclays was played on three different courses during that time, but no matter for Stricker as he won in 2007 at Westchester CC and pulled off two other top-5 finishes the past two years at RidgeWood CC and Liberty National, respectively.

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