Open experts' picks

October, 8, 2013

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: Open at CordeValle Rosewood Resort in San Martin, Calif.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins senior golf analyst: Jonas Blixt. Got to put the guy who will be the defending champ in the mix -- I saw him practicing hard at TPC Sawgrass the week of the Tour championship so he'd be ready to defend his title. Winning late in his rookie season then validating it by winning in his sophomore year tells me he's got the game to get win No. 3 this year, just not this week.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Bryce Molder. In 2011, the 34-year-old former Georgia Tech star took the in a sudden-death playoff over Briny Baird. That week he played his last 41 holes without a bogey on the CordeValle course. Last year, he finished in a tie for 11th here.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Bryce Molder. He got his first PGA Tour victory two years ago at the in a playoff, then came back last year with a tie for 11th. CordeValle seems to suit him.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Bryce Molder. His lone PGA Tour victory in nearly 200 starts came at this week's venue, CordeValle, back in 2011. The four-time, first-team All-American also owns two other top-11 finishes there.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Hideki Matsuyama. Coming off an impressive showing at the Presidents Cup, the newest young gun on the PGA Tour will make another big statement early. Since he wasn't a member of the PGA Tour last season, he wasn't qualified to play in the FedEx Cup. That won't be an issue this year.

Evans: Hideki Matsuyama. Coming off a busy 1-3-1 performance in the Presidents Cup, the 21-year-old Japanese star should be sharp and focused this week. His high profile and strong overall game will make him a player to watch every tournament that he enters.

Harig: Hideki Matsuyama. He's coming off a solid debut at the Presidents Cup and is one of the highest-ranked players in the field at the He is fully exempt on the PGA Tour due to his success during the 2013 season and has also won a tournament in Japan recently, his third since turning pro.

Maguire: John Peterson. The LSU product might not have been tearing it up on the PGA Tour in September, but in the Tour finals, no one was better. His last five starts earned finishes of third, T-5, T-3, third and T-2 to win the overall playoff money title on the minor league circuit. Expect big things out of Peterson, who also finished T-4 at the 2012 U.S. Open at Olympic Club.

Super Sleeper

Collins: Will MacKenzie. Finally in a good place both with his game and his head, you should expect him to start the year with a top-10 finish at a CordeValle course that suits his game. People forget he's a two-time champion on the PGA Tour who just lost his way in 2010. He's found it again and I expect him to keep it this time.

Evans: Jamie Lovemark. Before a serious back injury limited his game for the better part of two years, the former Southern Cal star was in a playoff at the 2009 Open with Rickie Fowler and the eventual winner, Troy Matteson. With a win in July on the Tour, he proved that he's back to full strength and ready to show the world the stud that won the 2010 Player of the Year award.

Harig: John Peterson. He didn't win a tournament, but Peterson did capture the Tour finals money list with four consecutive top-5s to earn full status on the PGA Tour and had two top-10s on the PGA Tour.

Maguire: Justin Leonard. The past few years, there's always been an "older" player finishing in the top 10, including Rocco Mediate s victory in 2010. This year, look for Leonard to make a big splash and get his 2013-14 season started off right.


Collins: Gary Woodland. A late-season win in Reno later followed by a runner-up at Barclays helped him make it the whole way to the Tour Championship. That and 10 made cuts in a row lets me know that he's healthy and the swing changes he's made with Butch Harmon have taken hold. Expect a breakout year -- starting with a win in the year's first event.

Evans: John Peterson. With five consecutive top 5s on the Tour, the 24-year-old former LSU All-American and NCAA champion is one of the hottest players on the planet. His last over-par round came in early August at the Mylan Classic.

Harig: Gary Woodland. One of only two players in the field who made it to the Tour Championship three weeks ago -- Billy Horschel the other -- Woodland won in Reno-Tahoe and looks to get off to a fast start at a place where he finished in the top 10 a year ago.

Maguire: Jamie Lovemark. He's a winner on the Tour -- and was even that circuit's 2010 player of the year. Lovemark suffered through injuries that required surgery after that honor and now, presumably healthy, his game gets off to a great start for what we'll call his rookie season redux.





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