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5 Golfers Who Can Challenge Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in 2013

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2012

5 Golfers Who Can Challenge Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in 2013

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    Rory McIlroy is the top-ranked golfer in the world and there's no reason to think he won't continue to play stellar golf and add to his victory and major championship total in 2013.

    Tiger Woods is coming off a solid year in which he was the No. 2 money winner on the tour behind McIlroy and he also won three tournaments.

    Woods did not win any majors and had some flaws when it came to finishing tournaments on Saturdays and Sundays, but he played with the hunger and desire that golf fans expect to see from him.

    He's not going away any time soon.

    However, the PGA tour is filled with golfers who can challenge McIlroy and Woods. Here's a look at five who could make a run at the top spot.

Bubba Watson

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    Bubba Watson is one of the most charismatic golfers on the tour as well as one of its biggest hitters.

    Watson won the Masters last year and in the weeks leading up to the first major, he was playing his best golf of the season. In the three events he entered prior to the Masters, Watson finished second in the World Golf Championships, second in the Tavistock Cup and fourth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

    After the Masters, there seemed to be a letdown in his game. He did not make the cut in the U.S. Open and he didn't make the top 10 in the British Open or the PGA.

    Neverthless, Watson won $4.6 million on the tour and is capable of dominating. While he is the longest hitter on the tour, Watson needs to work on keeping it in the fairway (135th in driving accuracy) if he wants to give McIlroy and Woods a run for the top two spots.

Jason Dufner

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    Jason Dufner is not the kind of golfer who you are going to look for if you happen to attend a PGA tour event.

    At least not on Thursday or Friday. However, if you are there on moving day or Sunday, you just may want to know where Dufner is because he will likely be one of the contenders.

    Dufner won $4.8 million on the tour and recorded the first two victories of his career. That may not seem like he's getting ready to make a run at being one of the best on the tour, but he was the No. 4 money winner on the tour in 2012.

    He was also fourth in scoring average and he made 21 consecutive cuts. No other golfer made as many cuts in 2012 as Dufner.

    He could be ready to take it a step further in 2013.

Justin Rose

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    Justin Rose has shown that he can play well on the PGA tour whenever he comes over from Europe to take on the best golfers in the world.

    He won just under $4.3 million last season, won one tournament and finished in the top 10 eight times. Few would argue that Rose does not have one of the most picture-perfect swings on the tour.

    Rose makes very few mistakes. He made 70.34 percent of greens in regulation, a figure that led the tour. If he can continue to execute his shots with that kind of consistency, he will be very hard for McIlroy and Woods to hold off.

Keegan Bradley

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    Keegan Bradley is not about to take his success on the tour lightly.

    Golf fans saw just how excited Bradley can get during the Ryder Cup when he was teamed with Phil Mickelson in the first two days of the competition and the pair rolled to three victories against their European rivals.

    While the third day of the competition proved disastrous for the U.S. team, Bradley demonstrated how well he can play in big moments.

    Bradley won just over $3.9 million on tour last year and he had a first-, second- and a third-place finish on his resume along with five top-10 finishes.

    Bradley ranked third in eagles and 19th in birdies last year. He is capable of going on a hot streak and rising to the top of the money list.

Luke Donald

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    Luke Donald was the No. 1 money winner on the tour in 2011 with just under $6.7 million in earnings.

    Donald did not have a bad year in 2012, but his winnings fell to just over $3.5 million.

    Donald has shown he is capable of getting to the top spot and the 35-year-old Evanston, Ill. resident (by way of Hermel Hempstead, England) has more than enough ability to get back to the top.

    Donald won the Transitions Championship in March, a victory that earned him $990,000. He is one of the best finishers on the tour. He had an average score of 69.07 in the final round, the second best mark in that category.

    If Donald is contending at any point in a tournament, he must be taken seriously. He could challenge McIlroy and Woods for the top spot in 2013.

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