2012 Masters Preview: The Tournament Favorites, Sleeper Picks, and More

Ralph LongoAnalyst IIIApril 4, 2012

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 04:  Tiger Woods putts during a practice round prior to the start of the 2012 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 4, 2012 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

This year's Masters seems to be an extremely hot topic, mainly due to the possible return of Tiger Woods to his previous form. Tomorrow, Woods tees off at 10:35 A.M. and embarks on a quest to win his first major in what seems like forever. 

However, there are many other players in this field who can capture the illustrious green jacket on Sunday. 

The two top contenders to win, obviously, are Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. These two are basically even in my opinion. Tiger seems to be playing his best golf in years as of late, especially with his March win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

His putting inside 10 feet at the Arnold Palmer was absolutely outstanding, and he'll need to keep that up at Augusta if he wants to win. He's been the most accurate on tour in terms of hitting the fairway lately, and if he is able to maintain that he'll be very difficult to beat. 

Tiger's got the momentum right now, and if he carries it through the tournament and is leading after Saturday, he'll take home the green jacket.  

The second favorite to win in mine and everyone else's view is Rory McIlroy. He's just 22 years old but is already playing terrific golf. He's already got one major to his credit and is looking to add a second this weekend. 

The one knock against Rory that is his collapse on Sunday last year at Augusta, where he was embarrassed and completely fell apart on Sunday. 

If Rory is in the lead on Sunday, his debacle last year will certainly be in the back of his mind. It will be fascinating if, after 9 holes on Sunday, McIlroy and Tiger are tied up. 

Will McIlroy rise to the occasion and defeat Tiger or will he fall again as he did last year? It's definitely a possible scenario and would be great to watch. 

The last guy I give a legitimate chance to win is Phil Mickelson. For some reason, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is Phil's year. He's quietly played pretty solid golf this year so far, and has been somewhat cast aside this week as Woods and Rory seem to get all the attention at Augusta.

In fact, I can't even recall seeing Phil's name on ESPN other than a brief mention when they were covering the Masters. The media is focused elsewhere and that could serve to take some pressure off Phil which can help him this year.

He's going off at about 12-1 right now, which I think is a steal if you're betting on the Masters, compared to Tiger at 4/1 and Rory at 5/1.

Besides the top three golfers mentioned above, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are two men to look out for. They're ranked first and third in the world, respectively, and shouldn't be counted out at all.

My Masters sleeper pick this year is Vijay Singh. He's played very well this year and has flown about as much under the radar as you possibly can. If he's aggressive on the Par 5's he'll have a shot, and at 100+/1 odds, he's a good value pick if you're looking for it.  

Another possible sleeper is Anthony Kim. He hasn't played that well this year, but has played well at Augusta in the past. There's a chance he'll play terribly and miss the cut, but I wouldn't be shocked to see his name somewhere on leaderboard at some point in the tournament.

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