Four sleepers to keep an eye on at the Masters
The experts and oddsmakers have weighed in on this year’s Masters, and it appears they believe the winner of a three-way battle between Jason Day, Jordan Speith and Rory McIlroy will take home the Green Jacket. This group is as highly decorated as it comes, featuring the defending champion (Spieth), the World Golf Rankings’ top player (Day) and a young superstar one major away from a career grand slam (McIlroy). But, invariably, a longshot emerges in this tournament, captivating the audience, sometimes even carrying a lead into Saturday. Here are four sleepers to keep an eye on as action begins on Thursday morning.
The 24-year-old was a standout at LSU before turning pro in 2014, and has really turned the corner this season. Kaufman’s improved game has him in the running for PGA Rookie of the Year honors. He’s teed it up in 14 events thus far, cracking the top-25 in half of those, while also posting three top-10 finishes along the way. His eighth place finish at Doral is particularly impressive given the overwhelming talent in that tournament. This may be his first crack at Augusta, but don’t be surprised if it’s Kaufman who makes the cut and some noise on the weekend.
Lahiri is just the third Indian golfer to ever compete at the Masters, joining Arjun Atwal and Jeev Milkha Singh. The bar was set for Indian golfers in 2008 by Singh, when he finished in a tie for 25th. Lahiri has the opportunity to out-do his fellow countryman, particularly if his putter gets hot. He’s currently 34th on tour in total putting. He doesn’t have the ideal length for the course, but the 100th-ranked FedEx Cup golfer has an excellent birdie conversion rate of 34.19 percent (17th). If he can get off to a hot start, he’ll be playing on the weekend for the second straight year.
The young English superstar is short on experience but not on talent. His season got off to a wonderful start when he shot a final round 67 at the HSBC Champions tournament to finish in a tie for seventh. Since then, his play has been a bit uneven, but he nonetheless enters as the 43rd-ranked golfer in the Official World Golf Rankings. Fitzpatrick is also the ninth-best bunker player on tour and a very accurate golfer off the tee. He played poorly in the WGC Match Play, but that course has very little in common with the Masters. A confidently played opening round in the high-60s could lead to a surprising run for the 21-year-old.
This amateur will drive down Magnolia Lane carrying with him, arguably, more expectations for a first-timer at the Masters than any golfer before him. He’s crafted his own clubs, tailored his swing on a book written by an aircraft mechanic, and has already made a believer out of CBS’s Jim Nantz. The 22-year-old from SMU isn’t just a mad scientist either, he’s a natural born winner. In 2015, DeChambeau became just the fifth golfer in history to win both the NCAA Division-I Championship and the U.S. Amateur in the same year. He could he become the first amateur to win a coveted Green Jacket, and just the fact that golf experts are considering him a threat is wildly impressive.