2013 Masters Underdogs Who Will Be in Contention on Sunday

Nick Juskewycz@@NickJuskewyczContributor IIIApril 11, 2013

2013 Masters Underdogs Who Will Be in Contention on Sunday

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    Now that the wait is finally over for the 2013 Masters, we can all watch closely to see if Tiger Woods will win his fifth green jacket and 15th major championship.

    However, since Woods won his last major title at the U.S. Open in 2008, there have been 16 different major winners in the 18 events. Needless to say, there are plenty of players with an excellent chance at slipping on the green jacket on Sunday.

    There are three golfers who stand out against the rest as the favorites to win the 2013 Masters: Tiger Woods (3-1), Rory McIlroy (8-1) and Phil Mickelson (10-1). 

    (All odds are according to VegasInsider.com.)

    Everyone else will play the underdog role. There are three aspects to look at when trying to pick the golfer that will triumph the field at Augusta National: greens in regulation with solid iron and wedge play, the ability to get up-and-down and make putts and getting hot at the right time.

    Remember, four of the last six players to win the Masters still only have one major championship under their belts.

    These are the golfers who will give Woods, McIlroy and Mickelson a run on Sunday.

Justin Rose: 20-1

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    Believe it or not, Justin Rose is the favorite to win the 2013 Masters outside of Tiger, Rory and Phil. Even though he has never won a major, there is good reason that Justin is getting this kind of respect.

    According to PGATour.com, Rose is not only No. 1 in scoring average in 2013, he's No. 1 in greens in regulation from 75 yards or closer.

    Augusta National isn't a particularly long course, and even though Rose hits the ball 301.3 yards off the tee (eighth on PGA), his wedge game on a hole like No. 3 will prove to be particularly beneficial.

    Rose also gets it done around the green, seeing as he is No. 1 in sand save percentage and No. 2 in scrambling. The key to success at Augusta is the touch around the greens, and Justin's superb short game will serve him well.

    In the three stroke-play PGA events Rose has participated in for 2013, he's finished in the Top 10 every time. In his seven Masters appearances, he has finished in the Top 10 twice and has never missed a cut.

    While Rose is certainly one of the biggest competitors to watch out for this week, a win would put the No. 3 player in the World Golf Rankings in the spotlight for at least the rest of the season.

Adam Scott: 25-1

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    It was tough to watch the Aussie blow the 2012 Open Championship by bogeying his last four holes, but that shouldn't keep people from writing Adam Scott off for the 2013 Masters.

    In Scott's last eight majors, he has placed in the Top 10 four times, including his last two Masters appearances. Had it not been for Charl Schwartzel's remarkable four-straight birdie finish in 2011, Scott might already be a Masters champion.

    Scott has a similar game and resume to Rose for 2013. He has the No. 2 scoring average and is sixth in scrambling (per PGATour.com).

    Although, Adam really does his damage with his length. Scott is sixth in driving distance at 302.9 yards and is No. 1 in making birdies or better on par fives 70.45 percent of the time.

    While it does depend on the conditions, all four par fives at Augusta are reachable in two shots with Adam's length. If Scott makes red numbers early on those holes, look for his name to be near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.

    A green jacket would erase our memory of his meltdown at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

Keegan Bradley: 25-1

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    With one of the most passionate and intense facial expressions in crucial moments, Keegan Bradley got to Augusta National as quickly as he could.

    According to the New York Daily News, Bradley was the first one to sign in for the Masters after 2012 champion Bubba Watson.

    Keegan, who has the seventh-best scoring average this year, is off to as good of a start as anyone in 2013. Tied with Bill Haas, both players lead the Tour with five Top 10 finishes.

    Length is Bradley's biggest strength with a 301-yard average off the tee (ninth on PGA Tour), but he has great balance in his game. That balance has led to Bradley only missing one cut in nine stroke-play events this year.

    As far as majors go for the 26-year-old, Bradley won his first major in his first major appearance at the 2011 PGA Championship and made every cut in 2012. That included a tie for third in the 2012 PGA Championship.

    Most young guys have the jitters in their first few major championships, but Keegan is an exception. Bradley comes into the 2013 Masters as the guy who would play the perfect spoiler to prevent one of the favorites from winning a green jacket.

    If Keegan wins his second major in just six attempts, he will go from a solid young player to one of the most dangerous players on the PGA Tour.

Ian Poulter: 40-1

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    Speaking of fiery players, no one wears his heart on his sleeve like Ian Poulter. That surely came into play when Poulter jump-started the incredible European comeback to stun the Americans in the 2012 Ryder Cup.

    Poulter was quiet yet arguably the most consistent player when it came to major championships in 2012. He made all four cuts and finished in the Top 10 at every event except the U.S. Open.

    This will be Ian's ninth Masters appearance, and he has made the cut every time he's played the tournament. His seventh-place finish in 2012 is his best.

    Poulter has only played in five PGA Tour events in 2013 but has made the cut in all of them and has a current streak of 20 consecutive cuts made (second on PGA).

    This is mainly because of his 23rd ranking in putts. Additionally, he's seventh in making putts inside five feet at 98.15 percent and seventh in scrambling with a 67.29 up-and-down rate (per PGATour.com).

    Even though Poulter is 37 years old and has yet to win a major, he's played his best golf over the last couple seasons.

    Every year we see several golfers miss the short ones on the speedy greens of Augusta National. It will take someone with Poulter's experience, consistency and short game to conquer the Masters.

Graeme McDowell: 50-1

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    When examining the odds on each golfer to win the Masters, almost all of them make sense. Graeme McDowell's doesn't.

    Not only was McDowell the 2010 U.S. Open champion, he finished no worse than a tie for 12th in all four majors in 2012. Furthermore, in his five PGA appearances in 2013, he's finished in the Top 10 three times. 

    Again, getting up-and-down for par on the delicate Augusta greens can make all the difference in the world. McDowell is crushing the rest of the PGA Tour in scrambling with a 74.49 scrambling percentage (via PGATour.com).

    Graeme's finish in a tie for 12th at the 2012 Masters is his best result at the event. Along with being an accurate wedge player and ranking fourth in driving accuracy, his relaxed yet competitive demeanor should help the man from Northern Ireland this week.

    The 50-1 odds for McDowell is the best bet of the week.

Bill Haas: 60-1

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    Bill Haas is still trying to crack the Top 10 at a major, but that shouldn't discount him as one of the strongest sleepers heading into the 2013 Masters.

    Haas has already placed in the Top 10 five times in 2013 and is the No. 1 player in greens in regulation at 72.96 percent. He's also No. 1 in greens in regulation from 175-200 yards and in the Top 10 from 150 yards or more (via PGATour.com). 

    There are several holes where this accuracy will come into play on Augusta's slick and multi-tiered greens. The par threes on the front nine are lengthy and downhill shots. There are also several par fours that will have demanding second-shots, such as No. 11 to start Amen Corner and No. 18 to finish up the round.

    It's time for Bill to make a name for himself at the majors.

Ernie Els: 125-1

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    After nearly winning the U.S. Open in 2012, Ernie Els captured the Open Championship in dramatic fashion.

    But what fueled that run? The South African wasn't given a special exemption to the 2012 Masters, something that was heavily discussed leading up to the event, such as on GolfChannel.com.

    The Big Easy might not be playing his best golf in 2013, with two missed cuts in his five PGA events, but you can't just ignore four major titles and 33 Top 10 major finishes. Els has finished second in the Masters twice and in the Top 10 six times. 

    Els knows the course, and he knows how to win on the big stage. Being left out of one of the greatest golf tournaments in 2012 must be a huge motivational factor to win the 2013 Masters. If he does, his automatic bid will ensure that absence will never happen again.