Masters Favorites 2012: Rory McIlroy and 5 PGA Stars You Should Bet on

Zac Sweeney@@sweeney_zacContributor IIIApril 2, 2012

Masters Favorites 2012: Rory McIlroy and 5 PGA Stars You Should Bet on

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    With the Master's looming on the horizon, golf faithfuls across the nation are giddy with anticipation to see who will emerge as this year's Green Jacket winner and who will choke and consequently fall from grace.  

    Out of the close to 100 golfers that make up the field for this year's tournament, the pressure will be on an elite few. Out of these few, one will prevail and go down in golf lore as a Master's champion as he dons the legendary Green Jacket. 

Rory McIlroy

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    Rory McIlroy will be coming into this year's Master's Tournament fresh off of a third place finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championships where he shot 14 under. This is actually the worst finish McIlroy has seen so far this season, so that, in itself, says a lot about how he's performing so far this year.

    McIlroy posted a 12-under to win the Honda Classic and won five of his six matches during the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships to take second behind Hunter Mahan.

    It should not be forgotten that McIlroy is the second best golfer in the world right now behind Luke Donald. McIlroy's natural skill, current momentum and drive to out-perform last year's Master's finish, where he tied for 15th and shot four-under, will surely make him a contender for this year's Jacket.

Tiger Woods

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    Tiger Woods will be coming in hot as he prepares for this year's Master's.  Woods will be coming off of a first place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he shot 13 under. This was Woods' first win since 2009. 

    Despite withdrawing from the Cadillac Championships due to tightness in his left Achilles tendon, Woods has done well in most of his tournaments this year. Even at the Cadillac Championships, Woods shot a 67 in the second round and 68 in the third. Woods even managed to start what would have been a late comeback in the final round before he injured himself teeing off on the 12th hole.

    Woods tied for second at the Honda Classic with 10-under and tied for fourth at the Tavistock Cup, a non-PGA event, where he was even par.

    Woods seems to be taking all the necessary steps to come out on top and take home another Green Jacket. With his swing looking good and short game improving, be sure to look for Woods near the top of the leader boards come April 8th. 

Phil Mickelson

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    Granted, Phil Mickelson has had an up and down year, but you should never count him out of any tournament he participates in. 

    Despite lows like his shared 49th place finish at the Humana Challenge in January and a shared 43rd place finish at the WCG-Cadillac Championship, Mickelson has picked up a few quality finishes. Most notably being Mickelson's win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he shot 17 under. 

    Besides this win, Mickelson posted a shared second place finish at the Northern Trust Open where he shot a seven-under and most recently, a shared fourth place finish at the Shell Houston Open on April 1st where he shot a 12-under.

    Look for Mickelson to build off his recent success and make a legitimate run at this year's Green Jacket.

Luke Donald

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    Luke Donald being the number one golfer in the world should be enough to convince anybody that he has a legitimate shot at winning this year's Green Jacket. 

    If this isn't enough for you than take into consideration that Donald is coming off of a 13-under win at the Transitions Championship in mid-March and a shared sixth place finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championships where he shot a solid 12-under, a tournament where Justin Rose had to shoot a 16-under to win.

    Donald will be coming in with confidence and the skills that can only be possessed by the best golfer in the world. No questions asked, Donald will be a serious contender for the Green Jacket despite him playing in so few events. 

Charl Schwartzel

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    Defending Master's champion, Charl Schwartzel has spent the majority of this year flying under the radar, taking part in just a handful of PGA and European Tour events. For the most part, his limited play has brought him a fair amount of success.

    Prior to being cut from his last two PGA events, Schwartzel had seen success in both PGA and European Tour events. He finished tied at fifth after shooting a seven-under at the Honda Classic and tied for fourth at the WGC-Cadillac Championships where he shot 13 under. He found similar success on the European Tour where he finished fifth at the Volvo Golf Championships where he shot a 10-under back in January.

    If Schwartzel did it once, he can do it again. Some may say it was a fluke considering that he won on four straight birdies late in the final round last year but one does not just walk onto Augusta National and pull that kind of performance out of nowhere, it takes skill. 

    That being said, Schwartzel will have to be on top of his game to come away with the repeat but it is a real possibility, for sure. 

    On a side note, Schwartzel will be making Master's history come Green Jacket or not. The annual Champion's Dinner, held the Tuesday before the tournament starts, will be hosted by Schwartzel due to his defending champion status. Schwartzel will be taking it upon himself to transform the traditional sit down dinner into an all-out South American "braai", or barbecue. 

    Guests will be able to pick their out their own meat from a selection arranged by Schwartzel himself and if this isn't enough, the guests will than be able to cook their own meat to their liking. 

    "I've thought about keeping it very relaxed," Schwartzel told The Telegraph, a UK newspaper "standing around and cooking. I think everyone must be able to enjoy it."

Graeme McDowell

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    Setting aside Graeme McDowell's less than outstanding most recent finish at the Shell Houston Open, McDowell has had a successful season, putting up numbers that cold easily win him a Green Jacket.

    His year, so far, being crowned with a shared first place finish at the Tavistock Cup, an unofficial event, where he shot three under. McDowell has also experienced success at the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he finished second after shooting an eight-under-par and a shared ninth place finish at the Honda Classic where he shot a five-under.

    McDowell also made a showing in the European Tour, most notably at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championships in January. McDowell shot 11 under to capture third place. 

    McDowell may be a bit of a wild card but the former US Open champ still has a chance at taking home a Green Jacket.