Rob Lee on Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar's Masters hopes
Keegan Bradley, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler... Rob Lee blogs on the American Masters hopefuls.
Last Updated: 04/04/13 12:18pm
The Nashville native had begun the season in fine style, winning at Pebble Beach, finishing second at the Phoenix and Farmers Insurance Opens, and taking third spot at the campaign-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
However, Snedeker has missed the cut at both the Arnold Palmer Invitational and last week's Shell Houston Open since his return to action and he appears to be a little bit rusty at exactly the wrong time.
You wonder if that's down to Brandt trying to protect his rib and, in turn, not playing in as free-flowing a manner as he was, or it might be that his rib is still giving him a bit of jip, even after the rehab programme has been through.
Snedeker, who rose to a career-high fourth in the world rankings earlier this term, is here for good as a top-level golfer, but I think the Masters may come just a little soon for him and he will probably have to wait to capture his first Major.
Keegan Bradley, however, already has a Major trophy to his name, having scooped the USPGA Championship title in 2011, when he beat fellow American Jason Dufner in a play-off at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
And I reckon the 26-year-old could win in Georgia again in a week and a half's time, because he has bags of distance off the tee and the ability to rectify things if he gets slightly out of position.
Bradley also relishes the big occasion; not only has he won a Major, but he also defeated excellent company to win last year's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and lapped up the atmosphere at the Ryder Cup in Medinah.
Jim Furyk, David Toms and Stewart Cink are three other former Major winners who will tee off at Augusta but I don't see them adding to their trophy collection at the Masters, which Bubba Watson will be defending.
They could do something at the US Open in June as the Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania is not the longest, but I think the aforementioned trio, all now close to or in their forties, lack the power game to make an impression at the first Major of the campaign.
Matt Kuchar, though, who won the WGC-Accenture Match Plat in Tucson in February, doesn't pelt the ball down the fairway as far as Bradley, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson - but he is plenty long enough.
The Floridian has played well at Augusta before - he finished tied for third in 2012 - and is like a quiet assassin in that he steadily makes his way up a leaderboard and into contention to win big tournaments.
Kuchar smiles like Muskie Muskrat from Deputy Dawg, but beneath that friendly exterior is a very hard-nosed golfer and he is one of my top tips for success at the Masters.
Rickie Fowler loves to attack and that mantra could serve him well, too, while he also has big-time mentality and doesn't baulk at having to play in tough conditions, as he proved when he finished tied for fifth at the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's in diabolical weather.
I'm not sure Dufner will triumph at the Masters, though; the 36-year-old has not been the player he was last year and he hates putting - and if you have that philosophy at Augusta you cannot win because the examination on each green is so severe.
However, there is a very good chance that an American WILL win the Masters as golfers from the Sates have emerged victorious in the first 14 events on the PGA Tour this year.
I think McIlroy's schedule at the start of the year was too sparse so I reckon it is good that he has opted to play at this week's Valero Texas Open as he fine tunes his game ahead of the Masters.
Rory doesn't have to chase the dollar so he does not have to play every week, but nothing helps your game more than having a pencil and scorecard in your hand in a sanctioned tournament and he hasn't done that enough in 2013.
However, I've been watching the Ulsterman closely this season and I think he is on the verge of clicking; he had a good final round at Doral and at the Shell Houston Open last week he showed glimpses of form, particularly on the Saturday when he put together a string of birdies.
One of my highlights of the weekend, though, was when Denis Pugh purposely shanked a shot in the Sky Sports Shot Centre, which you can see in the video below, and the rebound nearly removed his left kneecap!
My colleague certainly has a chequered past when it comes to our interactive device, having previously missed the screen high with a driver and chopping a three wood under it - but it is more difficult than it looks.
You sit down in your seat talking about golf and then the producer says: 'Right, get up there and hit a few shots with your leather shoes on and somebody else's clubs'.
It's far from easy.
ROB'S TEXAS OPEN TIPS
I went with Rory last week and I am going to go for him again at 8/1 with Sky Bet, but I also think Charl Schwartzel at 9/1 will do well. If they both get their eye in, they will be major contenders at the Masters, too.
Sky Sports will show all four days of the Masters (April 11-15) live and in high definition, while there will also be special 3D coverage for certain portions of the event. Check out our Augusta microsite here for more details, as well as news, features, blogs, player profiles, and videos.