I realize that over the next seven or eight days you will be bombarded with more Masters info than any of us really need to know.
The last thing you need is another columnist giving you his idea of what will happen at this year's tournament.
I'm going to take a slightly different angle. Rather than tell everyone that Tiger, Phil and the rest of the usual cast of characters will rise to the top of the leaderboard, I decided to give you a few names to keep an eye on, ones that have likely been overlooked on most people's list of tournament favorites.
Also, I plan to dispel the myth that only the longest hitters on the tour stand a chance at Augusta National. Sure, hitting long is a huge advantage, but it is not an absolute necessity. Just take a look at last year's tournament leaderboard.
Chris DiMarco, who finished second after losing to Tiger Woods in a playoff, would never be accused of being John Daly. Also, top finishers like Luke Donald (T3rd), Mark Hensby (T5th) and David Howell (T11th) all are back in the pack when it comes to driving distance.
Three players who finished tied for 13th - Thomas Levet, Tom Lehman and Justin Leonard - are average, at best, in terms of distance off the tee.
Now, we all know that the course has been lengthened again for this year's event. However, will the changes really cut out most of the field? I don't think so. Sure, Tiger, Phil and the other big boppers on tour have a distinct advantage, but is there a golf course in America where driving distance does not help? I've yet to see one.
So I have come up with a list of sleepers to look out for at the 2006 Masters Tournament. Not all are big hitters.
- Luke Donald - This kid has incredible talent and finished tied for third at last year's Masters, yet he really is not a household name in golf. Just give him another year or so, and that will change.
Donald is cool under fire and is deadly accurate with his irons. He is not a long hitter, but he is 12th on tour in greens in regulation and 17th in driving accuracy Also, Donald is sixth in scoring average, at 69.57 so far this season.
- J.B. Holmes - Holmes is a big hitter (a really big hitter). The former Kentucky star is second on tour, averaging 312 yards off the tee in 2006.
Rookies do not normally fare well at Augusta, but the new breed of young player is fearless, and Holmes falls into that category. He is also 15th in 2006 earnings with more than $1.1 million.
- Bubba Watson - Another young, talented player who can hit it a country mile. Watson currently leads the tour in driving distance with an amazing 319.4 yard average off the tee.
Also, this lefty will likely be a fan favorite because he played his college golf in Athens, Ga.
- Arron Oberholser - Here is another guy who doesn't pound it off the tee, but he has had a terrific start to the 2006 season.
Surprisingly, Oberholser is fourth on tour in scoring average (69.46), despite averaging only 281 yards off the tee (145th on tour). He is also ninth on the money list, having earned $1.3 million in 2006.
A bonus pick: Zach Johnson - He does not hit it long but is sixth on tour in eagles.
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