Masters Predictions 2013: Underrated Youngsters Who Will Shine at Augusta

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIApril 8, 2013

DORAL, FL - MARCH 09:  Russell Henley walks off the first green during the third round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at the Trump Doral Golf Resort & Spa on March 9, 2013 in Doral, Florida.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Several young guns that may slip beneath the radar for most casual fans have a great chance to generate buzz at the 2013 Masters Tournament this coming week.

Two members of this talented trio have made a name for themselves across the pond, but have recently elected to take up their special PGA memberships. Meanwhile, an American upstart will look to continue his recently strong play in his maiden Masters appearance.

Here is a breakdown of the young 20-somethings to keep an eye on as the action begins to unfold on Thursday.


Thorbjorn Olesen

The precocious Dane took to Twitter after withdrawing from the Shell Houston Open, and the reasoning he provided for pulling out of the tournament was rather scary:

Olesen seems to be fine and ready to roll for Augusta, though. According to a report by Rex Hoggard of Golf Channel, he will have no long-term damage and will just be slightly rusty.

It will be interesting to see how he bounces back. If his form from earlier in 2013 is any indication, though, the 23-year-old should shine in the year's first major.

If there were any concerns as to how he would hold up under pressure, all he did in his second career major start at the 2012 British Open was play alongside Tiger Woods in Round 3. He held up well, too, posting a respectable one-over round of 71 at Royal Lytham and St. Annes to Woods' 70.

As long as his health checks out—and indications seem to be good from Olesen himself—he has the all-around adaptable game to emerge as a dark-horse contender.

Ball-striking is Olesen's strong suit, but he is averaging 28.75 putts per round overseas in 2013, where his results have included a tie for second at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship—an event in which Woods and Rory McIlroy missed the cut.

Olesen also tied for third at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and considering it has been a year since his first professional victory at the Sicilian Open, perhaps he is due to be the next breakout youngster at a major.


Matteo Manassero

With victories in each of his first three seasons on the European Tour, there is no question that Manassero knows how to close out a tournament against a top-flight field.

He will still be a teenager by the time The Masters wraps up, but Manassero's age shouldn't be confused with a lack of experience.

There is no reason to slow down the hype train on Manassero, and his style of play definitely caters well to this pristine venue. Manassero doesn't hit it very far off the tee, instead relying on precision and an uncommonly tidy short game for someone so young.

However, as his coach Alberto Binaghi wrote for Golf Digest back in October, Manassero has tweaked his swing to add more length—and it's apparently working. He's added 15 yards with the driver and roughly the same on all of his irons, according to Binaghi.

Since iron play is Manassero's strong suit as it is and power isn't absolutely essential to winning The Masters, there is a strong possibility that he will be in the thick of things at least to begin the weekend.


Russell Henley

Few people would notice that Henley is in the Top 50 of the world golf rankings. The American teed off his first full season on Tour in style by lighting it up at the Sony Open in Hawaii, firing three rounds of 63 and a 67 on Day 3 to beat Tim Clark by three strokes.

That tour-de-force performance in his debut afforded Henley an instant invite to The Masters and the PGA Championship.

It has been a relatively quiet rookie campaign for Henley since that electric opener, but that doesn't mean he should be discounted. When he's on, Henley can explode with a bundle of birdies, and the statistics indicate no glaring weakness in his game.

He ranks 10th in total driving and birdie average, sixth in total putting and fourth in all-around ranking. Henley's chipping could use some work, but his bounce back rate of over 29 percent shows that he can overcome mistakes.

Amongst the young players in the field, Henley has to be the favorite as a dark horse, if for no other reason than Olesen's health is a bit of a concern and Manassero's conservatism may ultimately backfire.