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Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Travelers Championship experts' picks


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: The Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Bubba Watson. Of his last 20 tournament rounds at TPC River Highlands, just one has been over par and that was a 1-over 71. Also in those 20 rounds he's a combined score of 62-under, so if you play fantasy golf and you don't put Bubba on your roster, just quit the league.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Freddie Jacobson. The 38-year-old Swede loves the TPC River Highlands course. In 2011, he had rounds here of 65, 66, 63 and 66 to take his lone PGA Tour win. Last year, he had a tie for eighth.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Hunter Mahan. A past winner of the event, Mahan has four top 4s at TPC River Highlands and is coming off his best stroke-play finish of the year, a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open, where he played in the final group on Sunday.


Birdie Buster

Collins: Hunter Mahan. He's the all-time leading money winner for the tournament and, since 2004, has only missed the cut once. Coming off a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open, he can probably be expected to to make lots of birdies because the rough will feel like fairways compared to last week!

Evans: Jason Dufner. The proud Auburn grad has by his own admission been very average in 2013. But on Sunday through 14 holes at the U.S. Open, he was as good as anybody all week at Merion. Still, his tie for fourth there was his best finish of the year. He missed the cut at his last appearance in the Travelers in 2008.

Harig: Justin Rose. His 15 birdies for the week at Merion were not a whopping total, but it was enough to get the job done as he finished at 1-over par to claim the U.S. Open, his first major title. TPC River Highlands, where Rose has had three top-10s, should feel like a breeze.


Super Sleeper

Collins: Camilo Villegas. The return to form has been a very slow process but it seems a corner has been turned this season. Five top-26 finishes including two top 10s -- St. Jude FedEx Classic being the most recent -- shows me enough promise to believe he will continue his good play.

Evans: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. The 32-year-old Spaniard had a tie for 10th at Merion. The last of his six European Tour victories came in September at the BMW Italian Open. In eight events this season on the PGA Tour, he has three top 10s, including a tie for third at Bay Hill.

Harig: Charley Hoffman. He's quietly having a nice year with four top-10 finishes and he qualified for the U.S. Open. Redemption might be on his mind as Hoffman finished tied for second last year by a stroke after a double-bogey, bogey finish.


Winner

Collins: Matt Every. First-time winner No. 10 this year, which shouldn't be a surprise because the last three winners at the Travelers made it their inaugural PGA Tour victory. Every is having a rollercoaster year, with eight missed cuts but two top 10s. Seems like that kind of year on tour.

Evans: Hunter Mahan. A disappointing 4-over finish on Sunday after having a piece of the lead at Merion will haunt the 31-year-old five-time tour winner, but a good week at the Travelers will do a lot to soothe those wounds. Last year in the final round of the Travelers, Mahan shot a 61 to finish in a tie for 11th.

Harig: Padraig Harrington. The Irishman has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2008 PGA Championship, but he's shown signs of good play of late, including a tie for 21st at the U.S. Open. He also tied for 11th last year at the Travelers.