Zurich Classic experts' picks

April, 24, 2012
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 Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Bubba Watson
The defending champion is having a career year as far as stats go. He's 8-8 in cuts made and has yet to finish outside the top 25 in any start. He's had two weeks off, so he'll come in fresh and ready to defend his title at a course where his length and ability to work the ball in both directions can help him in his quest to repeat.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Bubba Watson
The Masters champion had three eagles and 16 birdies on the long TPC Louisiana course en route to his win last year at the Zurich Classic.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Steve Stricker
He's been inside the top 15 in three of his past four tries at the TPC Louisiana and was tied for 13th last year. Stricker has been a bit quiet lately, but is still having a good year.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Luke Donald
Yes, this week's venue -- TPC Louisiana -- is just over 7,400 yards and Donald isn't exactly the longest driver of the golf ball. But there's a reason he's No. 2 in the world rankings, and a T-8 finish here last year shows he knows how to get around this golf course.

Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: K.J. Choi
The "Tank" hasn't finished outside the top 40 at this tournament since first playing the course in 2009, including last year, when he just missed getting into a playoff. Choi is 50th this year in birdie average on tour and on a difficult course like TPC Louisiana I expect him to continue his good play at this venue.

Farrell Evans: Matt Every
The 28-year-old former Florida Gator star has four top 10s on the year including a tie for second last week at the Valero Texas Open. But for a couple of missed putts inside of 10 feet down the stretch in San Antonio he might have gotten his first PGA Tour win.

Kevin Maguire: Matt Every
The former Florida Gator looks to be coming into his own and got some valuable experience with his T-2 finish at the Valero Texas Open. Every already has four top-10s this year -- he only had one coming into this season -- and might be playing a little freer now that he's locked up his card for next year.

Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: David Hearn
It's been kind of feast or famine for this Canadian native finding his feet this year on the PGA Tour. But it seems after a good finish last week at the Valero Texas Open (T-11) Hearn is poised to continue his upward swing this week at a course that can play similar to what he saw last week.

Farrell Evans: Cameron Tringale
The 24-year-old former Georgia Tech star finished in a tie for 18th in New Orleans last year. He's had back-to-back T-8s in his last two starts at the Shell Houston Open and San Antonio.

Bob Harig: Bubba Watson
OK, he'll be the highest-profile guy in New Orleans, but it is difficult to envision Watson coming off the high of winning the Masters and all that entailed to get back to the business of winning. And yet, he is the defending champion.

Kevin Maguire: Jerry Kelly
A winner in New Orleans back in 2009, Kelly's been up and down this season … well, mostly down as his first top-20 came last week in Texas. He hasn't won since that victory in New Orleans, but I suspect he'll ride the momentum from last week into a solid finish in Louisiana.


Michael Collins: Rickie Fowler
Last year was the first time Fowler played the tournament and he finished in a tie for 26th. This year, he comes in after a week and a half off (he missed the cut in Hilton Head) ready to build on what he learned last year. This tournament would be the perfect event for Fowler to get his first PGA Tour victory because it is just like him: fun, free-wheeling and resilient. And just like he was on the green to be one of the first to hug Bubba Watson at the Masters, Watson will be one of the first ones on the 18th green to return the favor.

Farrell Evans: Webb Simpson
After a breakthrough season in 2011 that saw him get 12 top-10s and two wins, the 26-year-old former Wake Forest star hasn't played very well so far this year. He's looking for some redemption here this week after losing in a playoff last year to Bubba Watson. Simpson was leading the Zurich Classic by a shot when his ball moved due to either gravity or the wind as he was addressing it on the green at the 15th hole.

The 1-shot penalty under Rule 18-2b ultimately put him in the playoff with Watson. In October, the R&A and the USGA announced an exception to the rule that would exonerate the player if he or she didn't cause the ball to move. Simpson had called it a "bad rule."

Bob Harig: Jason Dufner
He's had good success at this tournament, and seems to keep getting himself into contention whenever he plays. One of these days, he is going to break through and win.

Kevin Maguire: Webb Simpson
With all due respect to Bubba Watson, Simpson is the one who should probably be defending his title this week in New Orleans. Golf's governing bodies don't change its rules often, but the situation that befell Simpson late in the final round last year at this event caused them to make an addendum. Now it's Simpson's turn to get back into the winner's circle.





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