WGC-HSBC Champions experts' picks

October, 29, 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: WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Phil Mickelson
He won on this course in 2009, finished runner-up last year (on a different track) in this event, and last week said he was hitting it terrible. That means this week he'll finish in the top 10 and we'll all try to act like we saw it coming.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Martin Kaymer
In 2011, the former PGA champion had a final-round 63, including a back-nine 29, to overcome a 5-shot deficit and win this event by 3 shots over Fredrik Jacobson at the Sheshan International Golf Club.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson
Lefty didn't have the greatest week in Malaysia, but he does like the Sheshan International course. He has won this tournament twice, once prior to it becoming a World Golf Championship event.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Lee Westwood
In four career starts at the HSBC-Champions event, Westwood has never finished lower than T-13. That run includes a second-place finish back in 2010 when the event was held at Sheshan International Golf Club, host of the 2013 edition of the tournament.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Ernie Els
He's played in the event all four times it's been held and has two runner-up finishes and a sixth. Throw out the tie for 33rd in 2011 and he's almost a Horse for the Course. Instead I'll call him an "automatic fantasy golf B team flight maker." Too long?

Evans: Ryan Moore
With a tie for ninth and a win in his last two events, the 30-year-old former UNLV All-American is the hottest player in the field this week at the HSBC Champions.

Harig: Ryan Moore
Coming off a playoff victory on Monday over Gary Woodland, Moore is also on a good run, having finished ninth the week prior in Las Vegas. He was also third at this event in 2009.

Maguire: Graham DeLaet
The firsts keep coming for the Canadian, who is teeing it up in his maiden WGC event in the same month he played in his first Presidents Cup. After a T-7 last week at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, don't be surprised if DeLaet notches that first PGA Tour win before the calendar hits 2014.

Super Sleeper

Collins: Graham DeLaet
Playing in his first WGC in China, I don't expect the Canadian to miss a beat from his dream season last year. I do, however, expect a new beard to be sprouted since it is hockey season.

Evans: Scott Piercy
The 34-year-old Las Vegas native is not one of the marquee names in the field this week in Shanghai, but he played well in this event last year at Mission Hills with a tie for second, 2 shots back of the winner, Ian Poulter. Piercy played some of his best golf in 2013 at big events. In August, he had a tie for fifth at the PGA Championship.

Harig: Kiradech Aphibarnrat
The Thai golfer, No. 1 on the Asian Tour, is coming off a tie for third in Malaysia -- he missed a playoff by 1 stroke -- and is very close to earning special temporary status on the PGA Tour. A good week here could accomplish that goal.

Maguire: Peter Uihlein
The American who's been plying his craft overseas this year comes into the HSBC off three top-5 finishes in his last four European Tour starts, including a T-5 last week at the BMW Masters. A strong showing would go a long way toward cracking the always-important top 50 in the world rankings (he's currently 60th).


Collins: Rickie Fowler
Something clicked for him in the final round last week en route to a 67 after six birdies, including the final three in a row. Don't forget he got his first professional win in Asia, so this continent has good vibes for him. Some people don't believe in momentum. They're the ones asking for the license plate number of the truck they just got hit by.

Evans: Francesco Molinari
In 2010, the 31-year-old Italian beat Lee Westwood by a shot to take the HSBC Champions at Sheshan with a 19-under total. Last week at the BMW Masters, he shot a final-round 64 to finish a stroke back of the winner, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.

Harig: Ian Poulter
The defending champion has not won since his victory at the HSBC tournament a year ago, but he showed some form last week -- tying for 15th -- at the BMW Masters and seems poised to get things turned around. His ranking of No. 22 in the world is the highest it has been in a year.

Maguire: Rory McIlroy
Yup, going out on a limb here with the Northern Irishman. Many believe his woes this year have been mostly between the ears, so beating Tiger Woods -- even in a meaningless exhibition match earlier this week -- can only help his confidence level. An actual tournament victory could open the floodgates again.





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