Let's face it, labeling any of the golfers in the field at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational as a Sleeper is a stretch. Most are winners on the global stage in recent memory and qualified by virtue of that title. For the purposes of this week's feature, all five below are outside the current top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, have never won a major and have never played in a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup.
Sleeper picks: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
Russell Henley ... Winning the Sony Open in Hawaii to begin the year laid the foundation for starts in all four majors, THE PLAYERS Championship and all three World Golf Championships. He's capitalized on the opportunities, adding two top 10s and another two top 25s to form a strong case for Rookie of the Year honors all the while gathering invaluable experience against the best fields in the game. Ranks 20th in total driving, 11th in strokes gained-putting, T43 in adjusted scoring and 21st in par breakers.
Harris English ... First appearance in a World Golf Championship. Hasn't let up since breaking through at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, going 4-for-4 with T15s in his last two starts, the latter of which was at Muirfield. He's survived 39 of 48 career cuts (81.25 percent), so he'll pad that gaudy clip this week. Currently 36th on the PGA TOUR in distance off the tee, 57th in greens in regulation, 28th in strokes gained-putting, 37th in adjusted scoring and 13th in par breakers.
John Merrick ... Arrives with fresh, positive vibes. Rode a bogey-free 62 in the second round of the RBC Canadian Open to a share of sixth place. Ranked T5 for the week in greens in regulation and 12th in strokes gained-putting. Overall, he's 28th on TOUR in GIR, T25 in par-3 scoring and T56 in par-4 scoring.
Shane Lowry ... After going 2-1 at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship where he eliminated pal Rory McIlroy in the first round, Lowry poked around a few PGA TOUR stops between trips back to Europe. He went just 1-for-4 on U.S. soil (T15, Valero Texas Open), but has survived seven consecutive cuts on his home circuit, four of which going for a top 25. His below-average tee-to-green game puts pressure on his putter, but it's that club that has lifted him time and again.
Mikko Ilonen ... The 33-year-old native of Finland once rose to 62nd in the Official World Golf Ranking. That was in the second half of 2007. He plummeted outside the top 525, climbed back inside the top 190, and then sat as low as 581st just under 14 months ago. He's currently 64th on the strength of a victory at the Nordea Masters and a pair of runner-up finishes, all in his last nine starts. Like a first-time, Major League Baseball All-Star, you know that he's embracing every minute of his first appearance in a World Golf Championship. His value in length off the tee is greater than his accuracy, and he ranks 59th on the European Tour in greens in regulation, third in putting and 16th in scoring average.