Corey Conners … This sets up to be a special week for the Canadian. He led the PGA TOUR in ball-striking last season and he arrives having gone 4-for-4 with a T8 and two top 25s in the last six weeks, so the remaining variable in the equation is course knowledge. He has some of that, too. In his second appearance in 2019, he sat T22 entering the final round before fading to finish T46, but he did what he does best in ranking T4 in total driving and T17 in greens hit.
Si Woo Kim … Just 25 years of age and already in his sixth full season on the PGA TOUR, the native of South Korea turned around months of struggles post-hiatus with six top 20s, including a T8 at TPC Summerlin and a T17 at Shadow Creek. No stranger to the biggest and brightest stages, he prevailed at THE PLAYERS Championship in 2017 and has four top 25s in the majors, including a pair at the Masters in 2018 (T24) and 2019 (T21).
Jimmy Walker … Augusta National is one of a very few places that can forgive the absence of form in favor of experience. He’s a far cry from the talent who broke through at the 2016 PGA Championship, but the regression isn’t surprising given his extended battle with Lyme disease. The victory at Baltusrol yielded five years of exemptions into the Masters and the Texan hasn’t wasted the opportunities in adding to what is now a 6-for-6 record overall with three top 20s.
Justin Harding … He enjoyed a strong 2018-19 PGA TOUR season as a non-member in maxing out his 12 starts with three top 25s among nine cuts made. It included a T12 in his debut at Augusta National. Remarkable for any first-timer regardless of pedigree, he led the field in putting while hitting 45 greens in regulation, just 1.4 lower than the field average for the week. Also started the final round in a five-way tie for seventh place that included eventual co-runners-up Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele. Now 34 years of age, the South African has scuffled throughout 2020, but he’s still mustered a pair of third-place finishes and a T11 worldwide since the restart.
Yuxin Lin … The 20-year-old is one of the six automatic qualifiers among the amateurs, but he’s the only among them with experience in competition at Augusta National. This is his second trip as the latest Asia-Pacific Amateur champion. It’s been a little over 13 months since he outlasted Takumi Kanaya in the first-ever playoff in the 11-year history of the tournament, then contested in his native China at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai. The lefty joined Hideki Matsuyama (2010, 2011) as the only multiple winner. Despite little competition on the college circuit due to the pandemic, the USC sophomore arrives on the strength of a T8 at the Azalea Invitational over in Charleston, South Carolina on Nov. 1. Three months ago, he finished T4 at the Alpharetta Classic on the LOCALiQ Series. And in his last start before competition was shut down in March, he was the co-champion of the Southern Highlands Collegiate. Currently 29th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, one slot behind U.S. Amateur champion Ty Strafaci.
NOTE: Sleeper is a relative term, so Rob uses unofficial criteria to determine who qualifies. Each of the following usually is determined to be ineligible for this weekly staple: Winners of the tournament on the current host course; winners in the same season; recent major champions; top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking; recent participants of team competitions.
Source: PGA tour