|Justin Rose of England reacts after sinking a putt during the Par 3 contest prior to the start Wednesday's practice round at Augusta. (GETTY IMAGES)
AUGUSTA - It’s crazy to call any golf tournament a three-horse race before the first round begins, but this year’s Masters has turned into The Tiger, Rory, Phil Show. The game’s most high-profile players are in top form but the depth of talent is at an all-time high. For the moment, let’s ditch the big three and focus on the rest of the field. Frequent showers this week have softened the course and the players can expect very little roll on the fairways and receptive greens. These conditions favour aggressive, long bombers. Keeping that in mind I did not consider any player who averages under 290 yards off the tee, which eliminates World No. 1 Luke Donald from the list. Here, then, are my top 5 Masters picks not named Tiger, Rory or Phil:
1. Justin Rose: The teen prodigy burst on the scene as a 17-year-old amateur when he finished tied for fourth at the 1998 British Open. Fourteen years later, that is still his best finish in a major but the now 31-year-old is playing the best golf of his career. Like Tiger Woods, Rose is a student of Canadian swing coach Sean Foley. Rose won the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral earlier this season which vaulted him to ninth in the world rankings. He’s seventh in Fedex Cup points and 7th in PGA Tour all-around ranking.
2. Keegan Bradley: He’s got the attitude of a grinder with the talent of a star. That combination proved to be the perfect mix last season when he won the PGA Championship as a rookie. The 25-year-old is one of the game’s longest hitters and could be exactly the type of player Mickelson was thinking of when he said Augusta’s conditions this week will favour young, aggressive players. The two have played practice rounds together this week. Bradley has shown signs of nerves down the stretch at tournaments but he has also shown the ability to battle through them.
3. Adam Scott: Like Justin Rose, Scott is a major talent that has yet to break through at the major championship level. He has eight PGA Tour victories and another eight on the European Tour. Armed with Tiger’s former caddie, Steve Williams, and his now trusty long putter, Scott has a chance to improve on last year’s second-place finish at the Masters. Scott has played only nine competitive rounds this season but says he has been practising hard and feels fresh and ready to go.
4. Angel Cabrera: The man they call “El Plato” (The Duck) won’t worry about the weather. Why? Because he doesn’t seem to worry about anything on the golf course. Armed with a green jacket and six top-15 finishes at The Masters, the two-time major champion is always a good bet at Augusta. He averages 300 yards off the tee and has one of the highest ball flights on tour, perfect for attacking Augusta’s greens. He’s had a rough start to the year but seems to peak at the right time.
5. Louis Oosthuizen: They used to call him “Shrek” and now they call him “King Louis.” That’s what winning the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews by seven strokes can do for you. He hasn’t missed a cut on the PGA Tour this season and was poised to win last week’s Shell Houston Open before a final round 75. His driving display at St. Andrew was one for the ages and he leads the PGA Tour in putting under five feet this season; a good combo for Augusta. With Ernie Els forced to sit this one out, Oosthuizen would love nothing more than to win a green jacket for his South African fans.