Masters 2013: Dark-Horse Candidates to Win Green Jacket
Parity has been a theme at golf's majors in recent history, with nine of the previous 11 winners being first-timers. In that context, it's at least somewhat feasible that a sleeper could emerge victorious from the elite field at the 2013 Masters Tournament.
Three players who exude swagger, power and general excellence on the course stand out as the most captivating bets amongst those with long odds to win.
Below is a breakdown of why each of the following stellar golfers deserve to be taken seriously as a dark-horse contender at Augusta National next week.
Note: All statistics obtained from PGATOUR.com. Odds are courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
Rickie Fowler (50-1)
With the hype and fanfare that Fowler generates, it's hard to believe he has only one PGA Tour victory on his resume.
What Fowler does consistently is fire at every flag, but that is to be expected from a young player still working on course management.
Despite the lack of tangible results in terms of winning, Fowler has exuded class at every turn. Even when he collapsed down the stretch at the Arnold Palmer Invitational alongside Tiger Woods, he remained optimistic:
The joint-third finish was still a positive development after Fowler lost the momentum generated by two top-six finishes to begin his 2013 campaign. The Masters will be his first action since then, and other than the shot Fowler referenced that he dumped in the water, he matched Woods blow for blow.
That valuable experience can only help Fowler moving forward, and he's long overdue to have a landmark victory. With his explosiveness and an improved putting stroke that has him 25th on Tour in strokes gained putting, don't be surprised if Fowler is squarely in the mix next Sunday.
Henrik Stenson (60-1)
When the brute Swede won the WGC match play event back in 2007, his upside seemed endless. Unfortunately, he was never able to take the next step into superstardom, and his play continued to fall short of his potential.
As Kyle Porter of CBS Sports points out, Stenson fell as low as 230th in the world in February 2012 after ascending into the top five just a half-decade before.
But Stenson is back in a groove this season, most recently posting a tie for eighth at Bay Hill and nearly pulling out a victory at the Shell Houston Open before settling for a joint second-place finish.
Who will win the most majors of these dark-horse candidates?
That final-round 66 proved critical, as it gave Stenson the opportunity to make the trip to the year's first major.
The ball-striking prowess that Stenson has displayed has been sensational—he ranks first in driving accuracy and greens in regulation percentage thus far. Stenson's biggest problem continues to be on the greens, where he's always been streaky at best.
If the flatblade heats up at Augusta, though, the seven-time European Tour winner has a wonderful chance to contend.
Temperament has been a challenge for the fiery Stenson over the years, and he must remain patient on Augusta's tough greens even if he isn't converting all of his opportunities early on.
Despite his outstanding play in this young campaign, it is still a risky proposition to bet on Stenson, whose best finish at The Masters is a tie for 17th. Having said that, if there were a time he could potentially make a run at the green jacket, this is it.
Nicolas Colsaerts (75-1)
The Belgian Bomber is definitely flying under the radar because he hasn't been in action since tying for 18th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
That marked his best finish in a regular stroke play event this year on this side of the pond, but due to his ridiculous length and sharp irons, Colsaerts is a legitimate threat.
No one has ever questioned Colsaerts' talent, yet he wasted away most of his 20s due to a lackluster work ethic. That all changed with a wonderful 2012 season highlighted by a win at the Volvo World Match Play Championship, where he beat Graeme McDowell in the final.
Colsaerts won't have much pressure, because this is the first time he will ever make the trip down Magnolia Lane. Among those making their debuts, though, he has the best chance to contend.
Putting continues to prevent Colsaerts from even better results. However, that didn't prevent Bubba Watson from winning in 2012.
Colsaerts' power will allow him to fire at flagsticks with wedges routinely, and if can find just a little bit of magic on the world-renowned greens as Watson did just over a year ago, he could really make some noise.
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