Heading into another beautiful week in Augusta, Georgia, it's only right to dive into the field and make some bold predictions.
Winning the Masters and receiving that coveted green jacket from the previous winner is golf's most prestigious tradition, and here are the golfers you need to watch this weekend.
The first three favorites are standard in Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. However, golfers worldwide know that once the field is set, anything can happen—2007 Masters winner, Zach Johnson, serving as a perfect example. Johnson won just one PGA event prior to his green jacket, and shocked all bookmakers in the process.
What's even more remarkable is the winning score over the past five tournaments.
Johnson won in 2007 finishing at one over par, yet the following year South Africa's Trevor Immelman fired eight under par, followed by 'El Pato' at 14 under par in 2009, Mickelson's 16 under par in 2010 and finally Charl Schwartzel's 14 under par last year.
Diving right into this year's field, here are your four Masters tournament favorites:
McIlroy has not won a Masters tournament yet, but it's obvious it's only a matter of time until he does. Following last year's final round collapse where he squandered a four-shot lead on Sunday, McIlroy yearns for redemption this year.
After setting a record as the youngest to fire a seven-under-par round on day one, Mac Daddy followed it up with a solid three-under-par round Friday, and a two-under-par Saturday—ultimately giving himself a four-shot lead going into the final round on Sunday.
If there was one round McIlroy would like to have back—it would be the 2011 Masters Final Round. Rory collapsed that Sunday shooting 80 (+8, +7 on the back nine) and finished tied for 15th overall.
Looking ahead to this week, it's safe to say McIlroy will be playing with an unmatched desire for redemption.
Odds to Win: +450
Ah, Tiger. I wonder what it's like being the most scrutinized athlete in sports? Triumph, tragedy, and everything in between, Tiger can't escape the media.
Heading into the 2012 Masters, Tiger carries seven consecutive top-10 finishes at the Masters, as well as a final round 67 in 2011—the best final round score of his Masters career.
He's impossible to stop when he's on his game, and coming off the recent win (his first since 2009)—all eyes are on Tiger once again.
In my mind, we saw vintage Tiger on Sunday at Bay Hill and riding that into the Masters is all Tiger could ask for. Last year, Tiger hadn't played in a tournament all season long, didn't drive or putt well at all, and still managed to finish in fourth place.
Augusta National is Tiger's course, and he is my overwhelming favorite going into Thursday's opening round.
World Golf Ranking: 7
Odds to Win: +325
It only took until week six for Mickelson to win a PGA event this 2012 season, when he took down the field at the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble.
Last week in Houston, Phil fired a first-round 65 to hold a share of the lead—yet finished tied for fourth after a string of rounds in the 70's.
Phil is always a favorite to win on the PGA Tour, as his mental game is one of the best on the tour. With three Augusta wins already under his belt (2004, 2006 and 2010), there's no doubt in my mind Mickelson is confident he can win his fourth in 2012.
World Golf Ranking: 14
Odds to Win: +700
Aside from Golf's "Big 3" in Tiger, McIlroy, and Mickelson, the next favorite is England's Lee Westwood.
With two top-five finishes already this season, Westwood is no stranger to final round glory on the links.
Since Tiger's recent in-and-out nature, Westwood has moved into the No. 3 slot on the World Golf Rankings. Westwood's best finish at Augusta was second in 2010—three strokes behind Phil Mickelson's remarkable 16-under-par weekend.
Westwood isn't an extremely large favorite, but coming into the Masters at 10/1 can only be a toast to his skill with the sticks.
World Golf Ranking: 3
Odds to Win: +1000
(Odds from sbgglobal.com)