Disney experts' picks

October, 18, 2011

Each week of the golf 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 this track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who can take it low this week), Super Sleeper (an unexpected player who could contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Disney in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

ESPN.com senior golf editor Kevin Maguire

Horse for the Course: Justin Leonard
It's feast or famine for Leonard when he tees it up at Disney. In four career starts, he's finished T-6 or better twice and trunk slammed after the second round the other two times. He turns 40 next year and might be doing it without a full-time PGA Tour card as he's 144th on the money list heading into this week.

Birdie Buster: Scott McCarron
Originally the sixth alternate this week, McCarron top-10'd his way into Disney with a T-6 at the McGladrey Classic. That jumped him 18 spots in the money list to No. 145, but he probably needs at least a top-three this week if he wants to keep full playing privileges on the PGA Tour in 2012. It's familiar territory for McCarron as he finished 141st on last year's money list.

Super Sleeper: Roland Thatcher
If he can make the cut, Thatcher will likely keep his PGA Tour card for another season. That's slightly easier than his situation at Disney last year, when it came down to the final hole before he knew he was going to return to the tour in 2011. He can certainly draw on those experiences, even if all of them aren't the best reminders of how he responded under the immense pressure of playing for his job.

Winner: Gary Woodland
The big bomber is on a great run, having made 13 straight cuts and earned an astounding $3.35 million in 2011. It's his first time playing the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, but he's proved he likes Florida after winning the Transitions Championship for his maiden PGA Tour victory in March.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Farrell Evans

Horse for the Course: Robert Garrigus
At 28.5 inches and about six inches shorter than a standard-length putter, the wand of the 34-year-old defending champion of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic is one of the shortest on the PGA Tour. In the final round last year at Disney, Garrigus got to showcase its merits by shooting an 8-under 64 on the Magnolia Course to beat Roland Thatcher by 3 shots. Garrigus had started his final round 5 shots behind Thatcher, who started the day with a 4-shot lead over the field.

Birdie Buster: Billy Horschel
This 24-year-old rookie has a little bit of Kevin Na and Ricky Barnes in his makeup. He can make lots of birdies -- he had consecutive 64s on the Seaside Course at the McGladrey Classic -- but he can also make some wildly ugly swings that seemingly come out of nowhere. When it looked like he might run away with the McGladrey after two earlier birdies in his final round, he shanked a wedge at the fifth hole that ended his chances. Still, his game has been in good form for the last three months and at 137th on the money list he'll be shooting at the pins this week at Disney to avoid going back to Q-school, where last year he earned his card with a tie for 27th.

Super Sleeper: Johnson Wagner
The 31-year-old former Virginia Tech player left Disney last year with a bad taste in his mouth. He needed to win or finish in solo second to get inside the top 125 and keep his full playing privileges for 2011. He was headed to one of those finishes until his chances were derailed with a double bogey at the 16th hole on the Magnolia Course. In the end he would finish in a tie for third and 126th on the money list. He started this season with conditional status, but in February he won the Mayakoba Golf Classic in a playoff over Spencer Levin for his second career PGA Tour title. Since then his best finish was a tie for 11th in July at the Greenbrier Classic.

Winner: Webb Simpson
This time last year the 26-year-old former Wake Forest star had two top-10s and $950,000 in earnings. His caddie was leaving to go to seminary or start another career. A year later Simpson has 11 top-10s and he leads the money list with $6.2 million. He has a man on his bag now, Paul Tesori, so persuasive and respected, that at times it's plainly clear how much he controls his boss's course management. This week all eyes will be on him and Luke Donald as they duke it out for the money title, which carries a five-year exemption. Simpson, who lost in a playoff last week at the McGladrey Classic to Ben Crane, has the competitive edge over Donald, who hasn't played since the Tour Championship in late September.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig

Horse for the Course: Charles Howell.
A near regular at Disney, Howell lives nearby, has made nine straight cuts in the tournament and finished tied for ninth last year.

Birdie Buster: Webb Simpson.
With a runner-up finish after a playoff defeat at the McGladrey Classic, Simpson took the lead for the PGA Tour money title and strengthened his argument for player of the year.

Super Sleeper: James Driscoll.
The former U.S. Amateur runner-up is limping to the finish, having missed the cut in four of his last five events to slip to the 125th and final exempt spot. Since a fifth-place finish at the Travelers, Driscoll has made just three cuts in 10 starts. Making some money this week would be a big victory for Driscoll.

Winner: Justin Rose.
The Disney winner often has nothing at stake and can just concentrate on playing, and Rose is in that group. He lives nearby, is rested having not played since the Tour Championship and holds the Palm Course record.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Michael Collins

Horse for the Course: Tommy Gainey.
Talk about career year without a win ... 33 starts, 17 cuts, 10 top-25s and seven top-10s including four third-place finishes. Tommy has made just under $2.2 million this year and if you remember correctly almost won his way onto the PGA Tour on these two courses in 2008. Now playing house and having found his feet on tour, expect a big showing for the man who epitomizes Teddy Roosevelt -- Talk softly and carry 14 wild vicious swinging sticks.

Birdie Buster: Bill Lunde.
Lunde has made 20 out of 27 cuts this year but has had only three finishes inside the top 20. What that will get you is a 2-shot lead in the Kodak Challenge, making him virtually a lock for the $1 million prize given away for the third season. There's a reason the last event is played at Disney World.

Super Sleeper: Boo Weekley.
Last week he ranked tied for 13th in fairways hit, tied for seventh in GIRs and fifth in driving distance; unfortunately he averaged 32.3 putts a day, which was only good enough to get him a tie for 44th for the week. With the pro-am format playing right up his alley this week expect the thing that always comes around last for tour pros (putting) to come around for Boo.

Winner: Trevor Immelman.
After getting his first top-10 of the year last week in Georgia, a solo fifth-place finish, this South African is playing healthy and happy again for the first time in almost six years. Strange to say for a guy with a green jacket who hasn't had his 32nd birthday yet. But the strange injuries and illness that plagued the quiet man with the sharp wit are a thing of the past as the Fall Series has proved and he will cap off the year with a win at the Magic Kingdom.



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