Masters Golf Tournament 2013: 5 Sleepers to Watch at Augusta National
Golfers named Tiger, Rory, Phil and Bubba will generate a lot of buzz at the Masters, and many top golfers should also find themselves in contention on the hallowed golfing grounds of Augusta National.
While the world's top golfers are expected to play well in majors, it's the unexpected strong play of middle-of-the-pack pros that often capture the biggest headlines.
That being said, let's look at five golfers ranked outside of the Top 20 of the latest Official World Golf Rankings that have a chance to make serious runs in the season's first major.
No. 21 Hunter Mahan
In nine PGA Tour events this year, Mahan has made eight cuts and notched seven top-25 finishes. While his statistics on tour aren't outstanding, he is ranked No. 1 on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation from 75 to 100 yards.
Having played in the Masters six times previously, Mahan has only once finished outside of the top 50 (No. 56 in 2008). Moreover, he has three top-12 finishes over his past four trips to Augusta National.
Despite currently being ranked No. 49 in total putting, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy is known for his putting prowess. If Mahan can get a hot putter in Georgia, the five-time PGA Tour winner has a good shot to bring home his first major at 30 years old.
No. 30 Bill Haas
Not only has Haas only missed one cut in nine outings this year, more importantly he's also compiled five top 10 finishes in 2013. The four-time PGA Tour winner currently ranks No. 3 in greens in regulation percentage, a statistic that should prove to be extremely beneficial at Augusta National.
Haas' biggest challenges at the Masters will be putting and weekend scoring.
He currently ranks No. 98 on the PGA Tour in total putting and has had considerable trouble outside of 15 feet this season (No. 155 from 15' to 20', No. 144 from 20' to 25'). Similar to Hunter Mahan, Haas will have to find success on the greens to compete over four rounds at the Masters.
As for scoring, it's been mixed bag for the 30-year-old early this year. While Haas ranks No. 10 in scoring average before the cut (69.24), he's only No. 70 in round three scoring average (70.50) and No. 129 in final-round scoring average (72). He'll have to halt the Sunday skid to have a shot at a green jacket.
Nevertheless, Haas will return to Augusta National this year looking to make his fourth cut in as many years and hopefully have a chance Sunday afternoon.
No. 39 Jason Day
Australian Jason Day finished No. 2, behind winner Charl Schwartzel, at the 2011 Masters.
Since then, the No. 39 golfer in the Official World Golf Rankings has been pretty quiet.
Day has recorded three top-10 finishes in 2013 and made cuts in each of his seven tournament appearances. Further, he's made cuts in his last 11 events on the PGA Tour. If nothing else, the youngster is playing consistent golf at the moment.
While he ranks No. 13 on tour in driving distance (299.6), Day only comes in at No. 156 in terms of driving accuracy percentage. He's a big hitter that often struggles to keep it straight, but he's fared quite well scrambling from the sand this year (No. 6 in sand save percentage).
If Day can just have a solid Saturday at the Masters, he should be primed for a weekend run. It's been the third round this year where he has had trouble, ranking No. 150 in third-round scoring average (72).
However, in final-round play the Australian has performed admirably in this season. Currently, Day ranks No. 30 on tour in final-round scoring average (69.5).
If he keeps his cut streak alive and posts a solid number in Round 3, Day could quickly creep onto the first page of the leaderboard on Sunday.
No. 50 Russell Henley
Henley will actually turn 24 on April 12, which coincidentally is the same day as Round 2 of the Masters.
While making the cut on his birthday would be special for Henley, even more memorable would be having the chance to win his first major at Augusta National. It's not impossible, either.
In his professional PGA Tour debut, Henley won the 2013 Sony Open in Hawaii. In doing so, he became the first golfer in 12 years to win in his professional PGA Tour debut. He's one of golf's hot young stars.
Already this season, Henley boasts the No. 4 all-around ranking on tour. The former Georgia Bulldog star is at his best on the putting surface, as he ranks No. 6 in total putting. In terms of his total game, Henley is playing as well as anyone from tee to green in 2013.
The Georgia native's biggest challenge at Augusta National will be his inexperience, as he'll be making his professional debut in the Masters. However, he did the same at the Sony Open earlier this year. That experience certainly turned out well, but how will he fare on golf's grandest stage?
No. 83 K.J. Choi
K.J Choi is no stranger to the Masters. In fact, he's a veteran.
Having played in 10 consecutive Masters, the world's No. 83-ranked golfer has two top-eight finishes in his last three trips to Augusta National.
While the eight-time PGA Tour winner has only notched two top-25 finishes in eight events this year, he's a seasoned professional that will be prepared for everything he faces in the year's first major.
From a statistical standpoint, Choi is nowhere near the top of the PGA Tour. Currently, he has a No. 58 all-around ranking on tour. However, the South Korean quietly goes about his business on the golf course.
He's been close several times in major championships, yet never finished at the top of the leaderboard.
There simply isn't a price that can be put on experience at Augusta National. That being said, don't be surprised if Choi quietly just hangs around for the first few rounds of the Masters. If that happens, anything becomes possible on Sunday.