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Masters rookies to watch in 2013

Only three Masters rookies have ever won the tournament in its 77-year history. Every player in the field was a first-timer when Horton Smith took the inaugural event in 1934. Then a year later on his first trip down Magnolia Lane, Gene Sarazen won it in a 36-hole playoff over Craig Wood after making a double-eagle at the par-5 15th in the final round.

It would take another 45 years for another Masters rookie to win the event. In 1979, Fuzzy Zoeller beat Ed Sneed and Tom Watson in a playoff.

Even the greats have needed a few years around Augusta National to master its nuances.

Tiger Woods won the 1997 tournament on his third trip. However, that historic win came the first time he played it as a pro.

Jack Nicklaus earned the first of his six Masters in 1963 after finishing no better than a tie for seventh in his first four visits to Augusta.

Phil Mickelson played in 11 Masters before he won his first green jacket in 2004.

There are 17 players in this year's rookie class. The group includes 14-year-old Tianlang Guan and 46-year-old Thaworn Wiratchant, who won the first of his 15 Asian Tour titles two years before Guan was born.

While the Chinese teenager, who earned a berth into the Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in November, is the star of this class, he probably has the slimmest chance of this group to make the cut and contend on the weekend.

In 2011, Jason Day became the sixth Masters rookie to capture second place in the tournament when he and Adam Scott finished 2 shots back of Charl Schwartzel.

A second or even a victory isn't unrealistic for several of these newcomers in 2013.

Here are 11 Masters rookies who have a legitimate chance of having some real success this week.

Nicolas Colsaerts: The carefree and long-hitting 30-year-old Belgian is playing in just his sixth major championship. But with a tie for seventh last year in the Open Championship, he has some experience in contention at one of the grand slam events.

Colsaerts doesn't come into the Masters riding a wave of excellent play -- with just two top-10s on the year -- but his length off the tee could make him a factor at Augusta.

Scott Piercy: Best known for winning the $2 million Ultimate Game in 2007, the 34-year-old Las Vegas native can golf his ball. Sure, he's coming into the Masters off two missed cuts, but he's sneaky long and has a gear to take it low.

In the final round in Phoenix, he shot a 61 to finish third, his best result since finishing in a tie for second at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November.

Last July, he won the RBC Canadian Open after shooting a 62 in the opening round.

Russell Henley: Raised a couple hours from Augusta in Macon, Ga., the 23-year-old former University of Georgia star got to play Augusta National once a year during his time in Athens. Only three Georgia natives have ever won the Masters: Tommy Aaron in 1973; Claude Harmon in 1948; and Larry Mize in 1987.

Henley, who won in his first career tour start in January at the Sony Open, has the game to be the first Georgian to win the green jacket since Mize.

John Huh: In 2012, the 22-year-old South Korean was the PGA Tour rookie of the year after winning the Mayakoba Classic and finishing in the top 30 on the money list. He has struggled so far this year due primarily to an equipment change, but there is nothing like playing in your first Masters to get you fired up for the remainder of the season.

Jamie Donaldson: In January, the story at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the weekend was supposed to be about Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, but they both missed the cut. In the end it was about this 37-year-old Welshman, who beat Justin Rose and Thorbjorn Olesen by a stroke. Donaldson also won the 2012 Irish Open.

Branden Grace: The 24-year-old South African is in the U.S. this year on a mission to earn his PGA Tour card after taking five worldwide victories in 2012 to emerge as the next great player from his country. He knows how to win, so he could be dangerous if he can make it to the weekend.

John Peterson: You might be saying John who? But you would know better than to ask this question if you saw what he did at the Olympic Club last June in the U.S. Open. With no status on any major tour, he had a tie for fourth in his first major championship to get into this year's Masters and U.S. Open.

A former NCAA individual champion at LSU, the 24-year-old Fort Worth, Texas native has one top-10 in four starts on the 2013 Web.com Tour. Still, he has the street cred to be in Augusta with the best players in the world.

Thorbjorn Olesen: The 23-year-old Dane made a big splash on the world golf scene with a tie for ninth last year at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He has the game and the swagger to attract some attention at Augusta.

David Lynn: For the purposes of getting into the Masters, Lynn's second-place finish at the 2012 PGA Championship is all that matters. Don't bother with the fact that he was 8 shots back of the winner, Rory McIlroy. The 39-year-old Englishman hasn't won a tournament since the 2004 KLM Open in the Netherlands, and he's not likely to break that drought this week in Augusta. But he has finally made it onto golf's biggest stage.

Ted Potter, Jr.: There are two left-handers in the field this week from Florida. One you know as the defending champion and the owner of a hovercraft, and the other is the 29-year-old winner of the 2012 Greenbrier Classic with a last name made famous by J.K. Rowling.

This Potter has missed three consecutive cuts coming into the Masters, but he has been waiting for this week his entire life.

Thaworn Wiratchant: If the Masters didn't have its past champions category, this 46-year-old Thai native, who won three times on the Asian Tour in 2012, would be one of the oldest players in the field.

Wiratchant has appeared in only one previous major, the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, where he finished in a tie for 31st.

Ryo Ishikawa and Wiratchant were granted special invitations to the Masters in January.