With Tiger and Phil struggling and the Tour's youth movement in full swing as we countdown to Augusta, this may be the most wide-open Masters in recent memory. But how many of these youngsters have what it takes grab a green jacket? Our Anonymous Pro separates the pretenders from the contenders in the 2014 Masters field.
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Thorbjorn Olesen: Contender: When I first saw him play early in 2013, I thought I was watching the most under-the-radar, soon-to-be superstar in golf. One year later, I am not as convinced about his potential, but his sixth-place finish at last year’s Masters tells me he has a knack for the course.
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Chesson Hadley: Pretender: He won twice on the 2013 Web.com tour and has already won on the PGA Tour in 2014. At 26, he seems to have a wonderful future ahead of him, but he has yet to play in a major and will need a few years of experience to find comfort in the game's biggest events.
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Matteo Manassero: Pretender: Manassero reminds me of Jose Maria Olazabal in so many ways. He is not long but makes up for the lack of distance with a jaw-dropping short game and a very gutty disposition. If his iron play were just a little sharper, he could win at Augusta, but it’s not.
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Rickie Fowler: Pretender: Fowler is in the middle of swing changes -- which I like and will eventually make him better -- but for now he is missing the most important attribute an athlete can have: confidence.
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Harris English: Contender: English has it all and before he’s done, perhaps before April is over, he’ll have a green jacket in his closet.
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Ryo Ishikawa: Pretender: Ishikawa’s commitment to learn English is impressive, and his aggressive style of play makes him fun to watch, but he still needs to improve his distance control to contend at the majors and, in particular, at the Masters.
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Hideki Matsuyama: Contender: Matsuyama has everything he needs to succeed at Augusta: he hits long, high draws, he putts well and is very confident. He will be the first Japanese player to win a major. Full stop. Period.
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Patrick Reed: Pretender: Reed has never played in a major championship, but he thinks he’s better than players who have won them. I guess when he plays Augusta National we’ll find out where he truly ranks as a player. As a person, he seems every bad stereotype about Americans rolled into one pudgy little ball, but at least he didn't thank Jesus for being “a top five player in the world.”
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Jordan Spieth: Contender: Spieth keeps surprising me. By now, I should be used to seeing him on leaderboards where he has either very little experience or none, but every time I see him, my first thought is HE’S 20 YEARS OLD. Tiger and Phil, at 20, seemed to have more talent than he does, but he has a maturity rarer than their talent. He will contend in his first Masters, and I will be surprised, but I shouldn't be.
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Jason Day: Contender: If he weren't injured, Day would have been the favorite at Augusta. He has power, touch and confidence. Unfortunately, he also has a sore left thumb. His time will come, but it is not now.
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