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Weeks: Finding the true contenders for the Green Jacket

Bob Weeks, TSN.ca
4/14/2013 9:59:16 AM
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No more rulings. No more controversy. Now, hopefully, it's just a run to the Green Jacket.

After a moving day in which one big part of the repositioning was made by a committee rather than a player, it appears the players and the golf course are ready to deliver an enticing finish at the Masters.

Eight golfers are within four shots of the lead and only two of those – Tiger Woods and Angel Cabrera – have a major title to their credit.

Another five players are five back and that includes Jim Furyk, who last won a major 10 years ago, and Bernhard Langer, whose most recent major was two decades in the past.

But the crop of challengers all vying for the Masters crown includes a slew of those you just know are good enough to win majors. Brandt Snedeker, who was the hottest player in golf at the start of the season and perhaps the fastest too; Matt Kuchar, the ever-smiling winner of the Player Championship; and Adam Scott, who painfully coughed up last year's British Open.

They could win.

So could Jason Day, who finished tied for second here two years ago, or maybe his Aussie mate Marc Leishman, who is staying around the top of the leaderboard when many figured he'd have fallen into the pack a long time ago.

To me, this will come down to three players – the two at the top of the leaderboard and the guy who got knocked down it even before he teed off.

Snedeker has all the tools to be a major champion but the best arrow in his quiver is that he happens to be just about the best putter in the game. I love the way he just steps up an raps it without a lot of plumb-bobbing and triangulation. If he can drive the ball in the fairway he could win.

Angel Cabrera plays well around Augusta National. Very well. He's made 15 birdies this week, tied for best in the field. That comes even though he's only hit 27 of 42 fairways. The Argentine, who looks well beyond his 43 years, is simply a magician with the golf ball, using a handsy swing to guide it around the course. He'd be the 17th player to win multiple titles at the Masters.

Another reason to like one of these two is that only three times in the last 22 years has the winner not been in the final group starting Sunday.

For Woods to win and get his 15th major, he'll need to do something he's never accomplished before – win one of the big four from off the lead. He's held at least a share of the lead in the final round in each of his 14 previous wins. Woods may not have intimidation on his side any more but he does have an intimate knowledge of this golf course and an ability to make birdies. If he can tighten things up a bit on Sunday, his red shirt will accent the Green Jacket very well.

Whoever pulls through will have to do so on a course that woke up yesterday.

Augusta National was a brute on Saturday and in near perfect conditions – sunshine and little wind. The greens were slick and bordering on U.S.-Open style baked out. Player after player talked about the speed and firmness, saying it was tough to get the balls to stop. Only some afternoon rain predicted for Sunday might soften them up.

Still, you can expect some fireworks on a day that rarely disappoints. With this many quality players and holes that can provide tremendous swings with one good or bad shot, we're set for another good finish.

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