The Masters: Underdog Pairings to Watch on Thursday and Friday

John Stewart@johnstewartiiiContributor IIApril 11, 2013

The Masters: Underdog Pairings to Watch on Thursday and Friday

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    Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson are some of the favorites heading into the first day of the 2013 Masters. Many of the past winners are favored but there are 93 golfers in the field and the majority of them have never won a major championship.

    There are many pairings that are full of contenders and highly ranked players, but there are also many players that come out of nowhere because everybody is watching guys like Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald

    With television coverage being scarce until the afternoon, which underdogs and pairings should you focus  on while you are watch online, and once the tournament hits the air?

1. Ben Crenshaw, Matteo Manassero, Tianlang Guan

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    This is one of the most interesting groupings in the tournament, based on the ages of the golfers.

    61-year-old Ben Crenshaw has won the Masters twice, in 1984 and 1995. Crenshaw also holds two second and two third place finishes. He may not be in contention, but he is going to be fun to watch due to his previous success and experience.

    Matteo Manassero is just 19 years of age and already has a Masters appearance under his belt. Not only did he play in 2010, but he made the cut and was the low amateur. The young Italian has a chance to make the cut yet again and maybe crack the top 10.

    One of the biggest stories heading into the week is Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old from China who is the youngest ever to play in The Masters. He qualified for the event by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, where he was the youngest player in that field as well. Chances are you'll be hearing his name again in the future, so make sure you watch him.

2. Fred Couples, Dustin Johnson, Branden Grace

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    Fred Couples has played in 28 Masters Championships, including a win in 1992. He tied for 12th last year and in his 28 appearances Couples has missed just two cuts. Look for Couples to contend yet again this year.

    Dustin Johnson is currently ranked 19th in the world so you can hardly call him an underdog. But after missing the Masters last year with a back injury it has been two years since he has been to Augusta. His tie for fourth last week at the Shell Houston Open should give him the confidence to play well this week.

    Branden Grace is a newcomer to the Masters but he has won four events in Europe, two in South Africa and is currently 32nd in the world. He has only had his European Tour card for a year and has seen some success, but Augusta has not been kind to first time winners. Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 is the only player to ever accomplish that feat since the first two Masters in 1934 and 1935.

3. Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Peter Hanson

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    The 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel is hardly an underdog but nobody knew who he was before his record four straight birdies to end the final round. Of the eight South Africans in the field Schwartzel is among the best, and chances are he won't be rattled by the late round dramatics if he is in contention.

    Webb Simpson has only played at Augusta once, last year, where he finished 44th. This year Simpson has two top 10 and four top 20 finishes. He will probably be in contention to make the cut again this year, but not much more than that.

    Peter Hanson is looking to become the first Swedish player to win the Masters and he was very close last year. He tied for third after holding the 54 hole lead so the only thing that may be in question is his resolve.

    If Hanson can stay composed he will have a shot to win.

4. Stewart Cink, Nicolas Colsaerts, Thaworn Wiratchant

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    Stewart Cink, the 2009 Open Champion, finished third in 2008 at Augusta. Cink has many good finishes in major championships but has struggled since 2008. He has the ability to perform and coming off of a tie for 6th at the Shell Houston Open, Cink may be able to turn his fortunes around.

    Nicolas Colsaerts has one asset that Augusta demands—length. Colsaerts is first on the PGA Tour this season in driving distance at 307.2 yards. This gives him a serious chance to post a solid number and stay in contention. However, this is his first Masters so we'll see how he reacts.

    Thaworn Wiratchant is possibly the least known player in the field this week. The Thai player holds the record for most Asian Tour victories. Wiratchant was given a special exemption that Augusta typically reserves for foreign golfers not on the PGA Tour.

5. Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Padraig Harrington

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    Jason Day burst onto the Masters scene two years ago when he finished second behind Charl Schwartzel in his first ever attempt. The Aussie has a chance to repeat that feat this year after three top 10 finishes to start 2013. His distance and putting is exceptional and if he can hit greens, Day may walk away with a green jacket.

    Fan-favorite Rickie Fowler has had a great start to the 2013 season with three top 10 finishes. One thing is for sure—he will be one of the most colorful players on the course in his Puma attire.

    Three time major champion Padraig Harrington hasn't had a great start to the year, but the 2008 Player of the Year has the potential to find his game and play well. Harrington is nine of 13 in cuts made at Augusta and his best finish was fifth in 2002 and 2008.

    This is by far my favorite underdog group of the tournament. Chances are that all of them will make the cut. If you need an underdog group to bet on, this is the one.