Players to watch at 2014 Masters

04/11/2014 8:22 AM

04/11/2014 8:40 AM

Professional golf has been unpredictable and unexpected this year, and it has rewarded the obscure. Not one of the top nine players in the world has a stroke play victory, and No. 10 Zach Johnson hasn't won since the first tournament of the season in Hawaii. Both Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott have had large final-round leads, only to falter and watch lesser known Russell Henley and Matt Every claim victories.

Other winners this year include Steven Bowditch, Matt Jones, John Senden, and Raleigh's Chesson Hadley. No offense to any of these up-and-comers, but almost no one in mainstream America would know them if they walked by.

So, a safe bet this weekend at The Masters is that history will repeat itself, and a lesser known player will emerge with a green jacket on Sunday. Here are a few names to consider:

Louis Oosthuizen (tied 2nd): He won the 2010 British Open and lost in a playoff here to Bubba Watson two years ago, yet is still not a big name with the masses.

Jimmy Walker (tied 5th): No one has more victories than Walker since the official season began in October. His three victories in that time include Pebble Beach, yet Walker was the unnoticed member of his group on Thursday. He's paired with Rickie Fowler and Graeme McDowell, two names that draw a large following. They're also two players that haven't won this year and trail Walker after 18 holes.

Jonas Blixt (tied 5th): Qualified for the tournament by edging out Charlotte resident Johnson Wagner at last year's Greenbrier Classic. The Swedish native had it to four under par at one point in his opening round.

With Tiger Woods at home recovering from major back surgery, the game of golf has never been more desperate for another star to win. McIlroy, Scott, or Bubba Watson winning would give the sport a shot in the arm. But if The 2014 Masters is anything like the rest of the season, expect the unexpected... to win.

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