Honda Classic 2013: Final-Round Sleepers to Win It All at Palm Beach Gardens

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Honda Classic 2013: Final-Round Sleepers to Win It All at Palm Beach Gardens
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Luke Guthrie and Michael Thompson stole the show after staying atop the leaderboard at the 2013 Honda Classic, but as we all know in professional golf—having a lead after three rounds usually means nothing.

That being said, there are a lot of good golfers near the top of the standings as we enter the final round. Lee Westwood and Geoff Ogilvy are lurking near the top, and there is also a slew of golfers sitting at four and five strokes off the pace as we enter Sunday.

One thing is for certain—there will be no repeat champion. Rory McIlroy walked off the course after a pitiful Round 2, assuring that he would not be back-to-back champion and opening up more solicited questions about what's wrong with his game since switching to Nike clubs.

But golf is a transitional sport, and winners often rotate from week to week. With that in mind, here's a look at four golfers who have a good shot to sneak up and surprise us all on Sunday, holding the "sleeper" designation after others have grabbed the headlines through three rounds.

 

Keegan Bradley

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Once an American favorite for his participation at the 2012 Ryder Cup, Bradley has fallen from grace for the use of a belly putter in tournament play.

After the USGA drafted a rule to make the club illegal in tournament play, Bradley continues to make headlines and enemies because he is one of a handful of golfers who still use the club (via Yahoo! Sports).

The 2011 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year is playing a solid game at the Honda Classic and managed to play an even round during the windy conditions on Saturday to stay at four-under and within striking distance of the two leaders.

Although Bradley might have lost some of his luster from the Ryder Cup, he's still a talented young golfer with plenty to prove. He's facing cat calls of being a cheater from both fans and writers everywhere, and that ups the stakes for a win at the Honda Classic.

What better way to shut people up (or stir the pot even more, for that matter) than with a big win? Look for Bradley to be motivated and excited to prove doubters wrong just four strokes off the pace on Sunday.


Justin Rose

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The European ace has been playing great golf this year, finishing second at Abu Dhabi after grabbing a final-round lead at the opening tournament of 2013. He's yet to crack the winner's circle, but this might be that chance.

Europe's 2012 Ryder Cup hero shot a two-over 72 on Saturday, but with the windy conditions and tough weather at Palm Beach Gardens, 72 ended up being about par for the course.

There's a 40 percent chance of rain on Sunday (via Weather.com), but that won't stop Rose from making a push towards his first championship of the season.

Like Bradley, Rose is four shots off the pace. He'll enter the final round with a great chance to unseat the current leaders with a strong opening sequence at Palm Beach Gardens.


Rickie Fowler

We all know the loud Fowler is going to be donning one of his bright orange Oklahoma State outfits on Sunday afternoon, but we also know that he posted the third-best (tied for third) score of 69 with an absolutely brilliant finish to his third round.

After a ho-hum round in which Fowler had registered two bogeys, he entered the final two holes needing two birdies just to make par. Instead of picking up those two strokes, he went ahead and added one more, posting a birdie and an eagle on the par-four and par-five holes that ended his day.

As noted by the Miami Herald, Fowler is a huge dark horse to win this whole thing. His strong finish to Round 3 not only gives him momentum heading into the final round, but it also will be of use during the final two holes of the tournament. 

Not only will Fowler win best (or at least loudest) dressed, he is just three strokes back of Thompson and Guthrie and will start in a favorable pairing just ahead of the leaders.

 

Tiger Woods

Although he's not a "sleeper" based on career accomplishments or media coverage, Tiger has shot three straight even-par rounds at the Honda Classic—an event he has taken home top honors at in the past. 

Eight strokes off the pace, Tiger has plenty of work to do. That, and not his name, is the reason he is a sleeper on Sunday.

After the course has proven to be both difficult and consistent for the top golfers this weekend, it would be extremely surprising to see Woods shoot at least nine strokes under what the two leaders and the rest of the field accomplish.

But of course, Tiger is still Tiger.

After a brilliant shot to save par from the water in Round 1, Woods showed us that he still has plenty of magic left in his swing. Eight strokes back, he'll need every drop of it to win the 2013 Honda Classic, but you never count Woods out at a PGA Tour event.

 

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