2012 Masters Preview: The Top 10 Contenders.

The three biggest names in golf Rory Mcilory, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson are all playing well at the same time. These are the only three golfers in the world that can move the needle just by showing up, and they all have their games peaking at the right time.

This will be the most anticipated Masters since maybe 2001, when Woods set out to complete his Tiger Slam. I’ll take those three and give you the field… Who else can contend in this year’s Masters?

1. Rory Mcilory

Better get used to Mcilory being on the short list of favorites for a Major. Earlier this year he rose to number 1 in the world, and is currently ranked number 2. He’s played 3 PGA tour events and hasn’t finished outside the top 3 yet. That includes a win at the Honda Classic. He was lapping the field at last year’s Master’s until a final round 80, but he quickly put that behind him with a U.S Open victory. He has a major and all the tools. Let the Rory Mcilory era begin…

All Sports Discussion Odds of Winning: 8 to 1

2. Phil Mickelson

The 3 time Masters winner seems to have his game order. He won at Pebble Beach, finished 2nd at the Northern Trust Open had another top 10 finish at this weeks Shell Houston Open. These days it’s a matter of motivation for Mickelson. He’s seems pretty motivated at the moment. When Mickelson is at his best, I still think he does things that only a couple of other golfers in the world can hope to approach.

All Sports Discussion Odds of Winning: 10 to 1

3. Tiger Woods

Those swing changes from Sean Foley are finally taking hold. Woods won at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has slew of top 10 finishes. That win was huge for Tiger’s confidence, and reestablishes himself as a major force in golf, not just a big name as he had been the last 3 years. Even during his lengthy slump, Woods still contended at the Master’s the last few years, but you never really felt he could close the deal. This year everything is coming together for Woods to make a legitimate run at this year’s Masters.

All Sports Discussion Odds of Winning: 12 to 1

4. Hunter Mahan

After winning the Shell Houston Open to become the only multiple winner on the PGA Tour, Hunter Mahan became the highest ranked American golf in the world at number 4. He stared down Rory Mcilory at the Match Play Championship, and is one of the hottest players in the world. I like a player that is playing well and that is certainly Mahan. He has 2 top 10s at the Masters so he’s contended at Augusta before. Don’t be surprised if his name is on the leaderboard on Sunday.

All Sports Discussion odds of Winning: 20 to 1

5. Luke Donald

For a guy ranked that spent a good bit of the last year ranked in the top 3, and is currently number 1 in the world, you can kind of forget about Luke Donald. He is not especially long off the tee ranking 178th in the World. Augusta is a long hitter’s course, but Donald’s 3 top 10 Master’s prove he can play the course. He was T4 last year. Donald is one of the better putters on tour, and on Augusta’s lightning fast greens good putting is an absolute must.

All Sports Discussion Odds of Winning: 25 to 1

6. Lee Westwood

Since 2008 there probably hasn’t been a better player in Majors than Lee Westwood. He has 7 top 10s in the last 14 Majors he’s played including a runner up finish at the Masters in 2010. He obviously has the game to contend at the biggest events in golf, but you start to wonder if all those top 10s without winning are starting to wear on Westwood.

All Sports Discussion odds of Winning: 30 to 1

7. Adam Scott

Is it time for Adam Scott to finally win a major? He nearly pulled it off at last year’s Master’s with T2 finish. His career slumped a couple of years ago, but he’s now back in the top 15 in the world. The thing I really like about Scott is that his caddy Steve Williams knows a little something about winning Masters. He was on Tiger Wood’s bag for 3 of his 4 Green Jackets. His experience could lift Scott to his first major win.

All Sports Discussion odds of Winning: 35 to 1

8. Keegan Bradley

Keegan Bradly won the PGA Championship last year making him the last major winner in 2011. You wondered if Bradley had any staying power, but it appears the young American golfer does. In 9 PGA tour events he has 9 Top 25 finishes with a runner up and 2 more top 10 finishes. It might be his first Masters, but the PGA Championship was his first major ever. Normally first time players in the Masters don’t do well, but with Phil Mickelson as a mentor he will have notes this week from one of the best Masters players ever.

All Sports Discussion odds of Winning: 40 to 1

9. Dustin Johnson

Johnson has never contended at the Master’s before, but he’s no stranger to Major Championship contention with already 4 top 10 major championship finishes since 2009. I debated whether to include long bombers like Johnson and Bubba Watson, because their short games are not strengths. I went with Johnson over Watson because; Watson can be a more erratic player. Johnson’s prodigious length could give him an advantage over most of the field, if he can putt reasonably well which is an absolute must at Augusta. (Editors Note – Johnson Withdrew from the Masters Tuesday due to injury)

All Sports Discussion odds of Winning: 45 to 1

10. Steve Stricker

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know I reserve the 10th spot on my contender’s list for a darkhorse. If there is major where a veteran can contend in, it is normally the Masters. The last few years 45+ year olds like Kenny Perry and Fred Couples have made spirited runs at the Green Jacket. Heck back in 1998 a 58 year old Jack Nicklaus finished in the top 10. Steve Stricker turned 45 this year, but shows no signs of slowing. He won at the Tournament of Champions on January and has a couple of more top 10s on the year. He’s known as one of the best putters on tour, and that is a big asset at Augusta.

All Sports Discussion odds of Winning: 50 to 1

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