With the start of the golf season already upon us, all the eyes of the golf world are turning to the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. The WGC has already crowned two champions, Matt Kuchar in Match Play in Arizona and Tiger Woods in the Championship in Florida just last month.
Tiger Woods is now the number one golfer in the world (for the first time since 2010) going into the Masters, with Rory McIlroy not far behind in the rankings.
The official tee time to start off round one will be 8:00 am EST, and these golfers are the ones to watch with the best hopes for a green jacket on Sunday:
10. Keegan Bradley (1:41 EST tee time)
At age 26, Bradley is an underdog for the title, but he is still a contender, winning the PGA championship in 2011 and last year winning the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. He is a strong driver, and coming off a handful of top 10s, he is in the hunt for his second major this weekend. We can expect to see him on the weekend vying for a spot, if he can get his accuracy up.
9. Luke Donald (10:45 EST)
Possibly the best Englishman on the tour this year, Donald has yet to win a major in his career. A former number one in the world rankings, he has since dropped to four due to not playing much on the tour this year. His competition is fierce, but he does have a chance to win the so far evasive green jacket. Last year was a much better year for him, and if he can find that form of his number one year, there is hope for him to see the top of the leader board.
8. Matt Kuchar (1:52 EST)
Kuchar is still out to win his first major, but with a win this year already in February, he has proven himself capable of topping the leader boards. Last year at Augusta, he showed a good amount of ability finishing with a tie for third. He is familiar with the course, and it would not be surprising to see him back in the top 5 this year, and a win would not be out of the question.
7. Phil Mickelson (1:30 EST)
Mickelson has so far been having a good year, but with his lackluster performance in the previous year, it is hard to think of him as a real contender. His putting ability seems to have returned to him, and we’ll see if his new driver will be able to bring him back to his winning form. With four majors under his belt, he is no stranger to the winners circle, including at Augusta where he has three wins.
6. Brandt Snedeker (9:17 EST)
The 2012 FedEx Cup winner is coming off a great year at the tee, but is still in the hunt for his first major. At number five in the world golf rankings, he has gained more points than most golfers this year, second only to Tiger Woods. The injury to his rib is a cause for concern, but with two top 20 finishes at Augusta in the previous two years, and a great start to this year, Snedeker has the ability to win big this weekend.
5. Steve Stricker (12:13 EST)
Stricker, the veteran in the field at 46, is still on the hunt for his first major. Coming off a second place finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championship last month, he is playing a reduced amount of tournaments this year, in hopes that he will rest up for the important ones. Though he is older than most other competitors, his putting has been on point this year, enough to put him in contention for a top spot.
4. Ernie Els (12:13 EST)
After a 2012 Open Championship, Els shows no unfamiliarity with winning in the big tournaments. Going for his fifth major, Els did not make the cut for last years Masters. This is no sign of a downward turn for his career when he won later that year, and the drive to prove he can still compete. At 43, he is one of the most experienced golfers in the field, and his patience and coolness under pressure can be the factor in him finishing in a top spot this weekend.
3. Bubba Watson (10:34 EST)
Watson is entering this tournament as the defending champion, winning his first major and green jacket last year. He has been solid so far this year, and if he can continue on this path, and put his knowledge and experience on this course into effect, he has a very good chance of a repeat victory. Watson will have to be at the top of his game to win again this year, but that should not be a problem for the defending champ.
2. Tiger Woods (10:45 EST)
All the talk about Tiger being back may be true, with his win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship last month, but the competition for the green jacket is fierce this weekend. His experience on the course is unrivaled by today’s players, with four wins at Augusta. If he wins this weekend, this will be his 15th major, and will put him closer to the elusive and seemingly impossible bar set by Jack Nicklaus at 18. Tigers last major win was in 2008, and while it seems that he is back, the field has become much more competitive in his absence from the spotlight.
1. Rory McIlroy (1:41 EST)
After withdrawing from the Honda Classic in early March, it seemed that McIlroy was not in tour shape this year. But since he has been back to his normal self, making the cut in four of his five PGA tour starts. McIlroy has won two majors in his young career, and at 23 he is one of the youngest golfers in the field. In 2011, he famously choked on the final day of the tournament, but later that year won his first major at the U.S. Open. In 2012, he again did not perform well at the Masters, but won the PGA Championship by the widest margin ever at eight shots. McIlroy is looking for redemption at Augusta this year, and it would be his third major win if he could pull it off this weekend.