Open Championship experts' picks

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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, golf's third major invades Royal Liverpool as the 143rd Open Championship gets underway Thursday.


Horse for the Course

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
Sure, Tiger is not the same craftsman that he was in 2006, when he put on a display of ball-striking for the ages on his way to his third Open Championship, but no one has ever been better than him at Hoylake.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
Most players have little experience at this venue, which last hosted the Open in 2006. Of course, Woods played it the best that year, famously hitting just one driver for the week and shooting 18 under par to win his third Claret Jug.

Ian O'Connor, ESPNNewYork.com senior writer: Lee Westwood
He grew up on links golf, and he should've won the Open at Muirfield last year. Maybe the time is right for Westy to become this year's first-time major winner after Justin Rose, Jason Dufner and Adam Scott took last year's honors.

Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com senior national columnist: Graeme McDowell
Royal Liverpool is McDowell's kind of course. He grew up playing these types of courses in Northern Ireland. And you don't need to be a bomber to win here. McDowell has the game and the experience to do well here.


Birdie Buster

Evans: Justin Rose
The 2013 U.S. Open champion has won his last two starts: the Quicken Loans National and the Scottish Open, which was a nice primer for what players will face at Hoylake.

Harig: Justin Rose
After battling an injury at the beginning of the year and having mixed results since his return, Rose has finally found his form.

O'Connor: Bubba Watson
Yeah, he could shoot 80 here, but if he gets it going early, watch out. The two-time Masters champ is an explosive talent, and he has the extreme power to reduce Hoylake to a par-3 course.

Wojciechowski: Justin Rose
Is anyone playing better or more consistently than Rose? He just won the Scottish Open, and two weeks earlier he won at Congressional. Nobody is playing with more confidence than Rose.


Super Sleeper

Evans: Robert Karlsson
A two-time participant on the European Ryder Cup team, Karlsson has struggled in recent years, but his game has been in good form over the last month. In the last two weeks, he finished fourth at the French Open and tied for eighth at the Scottish Open.

Harig: Angel Cabrera
A victory two weeks ago at the Greenbrier Classic was his first regular PGA Tour win to go with his two major titles. And he seemingly ups his game for the majors.

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