Shriners Open experts' picks

October, 15, 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: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Nick Watney. Vegas may be the only tournament where it won't be a problem when it's a home game. The past three times Watney has teed it up at home, his worst finish was 10th. Expect the same type of results this year.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Ryan Moore. Last year at the Shriners, the former U.S. Amateur champion established a tournament record with a 24-under 260 in a 1-shot win over Brendon de Jonge. Moore had a 61 in the first round to tie Davis Love III for the course record at TPC Summerlin.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Nick Watney. He's ranked 27th in the world, and this is a home game for Watney, who lives in Las Vegas and has plenty of access to TPC Summerlin.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Hideki Matsuyama. The 21-year-old from Japan continues to impress after his T-3 finish in last week's PGA Tour season opener. He cracked the top 30 in the world rankings and will make his Las Vegas debut this week.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Kevin Na. He was hurt in 2013 and shut down his season after the Masters. Last week, he finished T-3 and now plays the event where he got his only PGA Tour victory. For a guy who has averaged around 25 starts a year for much of his career, you know he's itching to get off to a fast start after all the downtime.

Evans: Hideki Matsuyama. The young Japanese star didn't disappoint last week at the Frys, where he finished in a tie for third. Come Sunday in Sin City, don't be surprised to see him high on the leaderboard.

Harig: Hideki Matsuyama. Only 21, Matsuyama has been a pro for less than a year but is adapting quite nicely. He makes his second start as a full member of the PGA Tour coming off a tie for third at the Open and has not finished worse than 21st in his limited PGA Tour events.

Maguire: Kevin Na. Low numbers will be required this week at TPC Summerlin, and Na has no problem taking it deep, as his winning score of 23 under back in 2011 clearly shows.

Super Sleeper

Collins: Max Homa. Still had the gumption after a 2-shot penalty in the second round to finish ninth and earn a spot into this week's field. The former University of California standout played in the U.S. Open last year as an amateur. He missed the cut, but I'm sure he drew on that experience in his pro debut last week. His solid play continues this week.

Evans: Spencer Levin. Before he sat out all of the 2013 season with a hand injury, the 29-year-old former New Mexico All-American averaged almost 30 events over the previous four years. The Sacramento native is excited to be playing in this new wrap-around PGA Tour schedule, and it showed last week, as he finished in a tie for 12th. In his last appearance at the Shriners in 2011, he had a tie for fifth.

Harig: Brooks Koepka. The 54-hole leader last week at the Open, Koepka was making his first start on the PGA Tour in a non-major, having earned status on the European Tour. He tied for third, and the top-10 got him a spot in this week's tournament in Vegas.

Maguire: Andres Gonzales. Playing on a sponsor's exemption -- à la Brooks Koepka last week at CordeValle -- Gonzales holds Vegas near and dear to his heart, having played at UNLV. A T-16 last week at the Open shows his game is trending in the right direction.


Collins: Scott Piercy. Just like with Watney, this is a home game for Piercy. His last start was at the BMW Championship, and the disappointment of not making the Tour Championship can be quelled only after a victory this week with his whole family on hand.

Evans: Brendon de Jonge. In the 2012 Shriners, the burly 33-year-old Zimbabwean had a 62 in the opening round en route to a second-place finish, his best showing in six full seasons on the tour. The former Virginia Tech star should have gained confidence from a solid 2-3-0 record in the Presidents Cup. He's due to get that first win.

Harig: Zach Johnson. The highest-ranked player in the field, Johnson is just two weeks removed from the Presidents Cup and won last month at the BMW Championship. He's in prime form for another victory.

Maguire: Graham Delaet. The Canadian Presidents Cup rookie showed he has the game to hang with the big boys like he did at Muirfield Village. Now he'll show the rest of the PGA Tour that he's capable of getting that first victory, too.





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