Ranking the Top 25 Golfers Entering the Masters

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2013

Ranking the Top 25 Golfers Entering the Masters

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    As the golf world collectively salivates in expectation of the 2013 Masters Tournament, it's time to rank the top 25 golfers. 

    This isn't necessarily a regurgitation of betting odds or the eternally maligned official world golf rankings; it's an installment in Bleacher Report's PGA Tour rankings entering golf's rite of spring. 

    Where will Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson place?

    Read on to find out.

     

    Note: Changes were made to the original form of this article to reflect the April 8 update of the official world golf rankings

25. Michael Thompson

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    Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR): 44

    Best of 2013: Thompson won the Honda Classic and finished in the Top 10 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He's played well in the tournaments he's made the cut in, although he's only done so in three of his eight starts.

    Why He's Here: Thompson has earned the 11th-most OWGR ranking points this year, proving he's played well in significant tournaments. He is inconsistent, but when he's good, he's very good. 

    Masters Projection: Barely makes the cut. Thompson is a guy who can rise to the occasion, and he'll do so to slip inside the cut line at Augusta. He could gain confidence into the weekend and finish even higher.

24. Jim Furyk

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    OWGR: 25

    Best of 2013: Furyk has had three Top 25 finishes so far, rebounding somewhat from a dismal and disappointing 2012 season. His best finish so far is third at the Valero Texas Open.

    Why He's Here: He has made the cut in all of his PGA Tour starts this year. One of the true grinders in the game, Furyk is a bulldog whose game is heading in the right direction.

    Masters Projection: Top 15. Furyk finished 11th last year, and as his game is in better shape this year. I don't see a reason why the veteran would perform worse than he did in 2012...unless he forgets his 5-Hour Energy. 

23. Luke Donald

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    OWGR: 4

    Best of 2013: Luke Donald has made the cut in all four of his PGA Tour starts this year. His best finish is fourth at the Tampa Bay Championship.

    Why He's Here: It's tough to drop the former world No. 1 this far down the list, but his performance this year really merits a plunge in the rankings. Simply put, he hasn't played much on tour this year, and he's hasn't particularly impressive in tournaments he's entered.

    Masters Projection: Top 20. Despite uninspiring play so far in 2013, I think Donald will manage a solid showing. I certainly don't see him getting his elusive first major win.

22. Thorbjørn Olesen

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    OWGR: 40

    Best of 2013: Olesen played well on both the PGA and European Tours. He finished seventh at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The 23-year-old cooled off with an 82 and a withdrawal in his last tournament. Will he be able to regain his form at Augusta?

    Why He's Here: Some fans may not have heard of the Dapper Dane (I'll take credit for that nickname if it sticks), but the new Nike acquisition is truly a rising star on both tours.

    Masters Projection: Barely misses the cut. Although Olesen finished in the Top 10 at the Open Championship last year, one's rookie start at the Masters is an entirely different challenge.

21. Ian Poulter

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    OWGR: 12

    Best of 2013: The flamboyant Poulter is five-of-five in the cuts department this year. He finished ninth at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and, of course, lost in the much-maligned consolation match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play.

    Why He's Here: Poulter is making cuts but seems distracted this year, preferring to rage on Twitter rather than dominate on the golf course. His OWGR ranking belies his play of late.

    Masters Projection: Top 25. Clearly Poulter wants to win a major. He finished seventh at Augusta last year, and even if he plays poorly, he'll make the cut. 

20. Bubba Watson

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    OWGR: 14

    Best of 2013: Watson had Top 10 finishes at the WGC-Accenture Match Play and Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He finished tied for 14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational too—his last tuneup before the Masters.

    Why He's Here: Last year's Masters champion has been consistently good this year but not great. Maybe Augusta is just what the doctor ordered.

    Masters Projection: Top 25. I certainly don't think a repeat victory is in the cards. Watson likely makes the cut on a track he bested last year, but doing much better than that is unlikely for the new father and Oakley spokesperson.

19. Webb Simpson

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    OWGR: 20

    Best of 2013: Simpson finished sixth at the Northern Trust Open and fifth in the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Beyond this, last year's U.S. Open winner has made the cut in seven of his nine starts on tour.

    Why He's Here: The strength of his Top 10s moves him ahead of Bubba Watson on this list. However, a missed cut in his last start doesn't give him a lot of momentum heading into the Masters.

    Masters Projection: Barely makes the cut. Simpson only just made the cut at the Masters last year; I don't see him doing markedly better than that in 2013.

18. Graeme McDowell

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    OWGR: 17

    Best of 2013: The new bar owner finished third at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Additionally, he's made the cut in four of five starts on the PGA Tour.

    Why He's Here: Top 10 finishes at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, the Honda Classic and the WGC-Accenture Match Play push McDowell within the top 20 of this list. He's ranked 17th in the OWGR, and that seems a good approximation of his play recently.

    Masters Projection: Top 25. McDowell finished tied for 12th last year. Given his play as of late, he's likely to finish in about the same position this year.

17. Fredrik Jacobson

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    OWGR: 46

    Best of 2013: Jacobson has been flying under the radar in 2013. This year, the Swede has only missed one cut and has three Top 10s.

    Why He's Here: He's only finished outside the Top 20 once in his last six starts and has a sub-70 scoring average. The king of the painter cap has been playing much better than his OWGR ranking as of late.

    Masters Projection: Top 25. Jacobson hasn't competed for the green jacket very often since turning pro in 1994. However, he finished tied for 19th last year and should be able to do about the same this year.

16. Jason Day

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    OWGR: 36

    Best of 2013: Jason Day made the cut in all of his starts on tour this year. Additionally, he finished third at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

    Why He's Here: Beating Ian Poulter head-to-head in match play bumps him up a couple of notches. Day's OWGR ranking doesn't adequately represent his improved play in 2013.

    Masters Projection: Top 15. Day withdrew from the Masters last year with some unwanted notoriety. He finished tied for second in 2011, though. I see him using last year's events as motivation, propelling him to a strong finish.

15. Bill Haas

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    OWGR: 29

    Best of 2013: The Charlotte, N.C., native has made eight-of-nine cuts on tour this year. He notched a third-place finish at the Northern Trust Open. 

    Why He's Here: Spearheaded by five Top 10 finishes, he's 20th in OWGR points in 2013.

    Masters Projection: Barely makes the cut. Haas has finished around 40th the past few Masters. His putter doesn't agree with Augusta's greens at this point.

14. Rickie Fowler

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    OWGR: 28

    Best of 2013: Fowler finished third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational after a Sunday showdown with Tiger Woods. The Oklahoma State alum started the year with two consecutive Top 10 finishes.

    Why He's Here: Fowler's been consistently very good this year, with three Top 10s. Not shooting 80 when paired with Tiger on Sunday shows he's improved since his Sunday showdown with Woods last year.

    Masters Projection: Top 25. The Southern California native finished tied for 27th at the Masters last year. He's playing well but hasn't yet refined his talents to the point that he's going to finish inside the Top 20.

13. Louis Oosthuizen

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    OWGR: 6

    Best of 2013: King Louis won the Volvo Golf Champions on the European Tour. On American soil, the South African finished 10th at the Shell Houston Open. 

    Why He's Here: Oosthuizen has missed a couple cuts on the tour this year, but his win in Europe bolsters his standing on this list. His OWGR ranking reflects his consistency and the fact that he is routinely very good.

    Masters Projection: Top 10. Oosthuizen is a perennially solid performer. There are no indications that he'll do much worse than he did last year when he lost in a playoff to Bubba Watson.

12. Charl Schwartzel

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    OWGR: 15

    Best of 2013: Schwartzel made the cut in all of his PGA Tour starts and finished in the Top 10 in his three European Tour events. 

    Why He's Here: In a word: consistency.

    Masters Projection: Top 25. The former Masters winner will finish inside the Top 25. He knows the course and manages his game well.

11. Sergio Garcia

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    OWGR: 16

    Best of 2013: Garcia has made four-of-five cuts on the PGA Tour this year. And who can forget when he hit his ball out of a tree

    Why He's Here: Garcia has placed no worse than 17th in a PGA Tour event this year, and he's accumulated the 13th-most OWGR ranking points.

    Masters Projection: Top 40. Garcia historically hasn't played well at Augusta National and has often voiced displeasure with the course. No reason to imagine he'll play better than he traditionally does this year.

10. Keegan Bradley

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    OWGR: 11

    Best of 2013: Bradley has made nine-of-10 cuts this year, with five Top 10 finishes. 

    Why He's Here: Bradley has finished no worse than 10th in his past four tournaments. He's ninth in OWGR points accumulated this year and is basically tied with Hunter Mahan in this ranking. 

    Masters Projection: Top 25. Bradley has only competed in the Masters once, finishing tied for 27th last year. Given the steep learning curve at Augusta, I don't see him bettering that result by much this year.

9. Hunter Mahan

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    OWGR: 21

    Best of 2013: Mahan finished better than 26th in every tournament but one. He lost to Matt Kuchar in the final match of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

    Why He's Here: Mahan would be ranked in the top five were it not for an anomalous missed cut in his last start at the Shell Houston Open, which suggests that he might be cooling off heading into the season's first major.

    Masters Projection: Top 15. Even with the missed cut, I still see Mahan righting the ship. He's finished in the Top 15 at the event three out the last four years.

8. Steve Stricker

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    OWGR: 8

    Best of 2013: Stricker has three Top Fives in his four PGA Tour starts, including a second-place finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. 

    Why He's Here: Playing a reduced schedule as he heads toward his golden years, Stricker has been brilliant. If he plays well at the Masters, his approach may win a few converts. He would be ranked higher were it not for a 38th-place finish at the Shell Houston Open.  

    Masters Projection: Top 25. "The Stricker Strategy" seemed to be working early, but it won't pay tremendous dividends at Augusta. His putter, however, will guarantee a finish in the Top 25.

7. Dustin Johnson

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    OWGR: 19

    Best of 2013: Johnson won the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He has cooled off a bit, but he's made the cut in five of the seven tournaments he's finished since. 

    Why He's Here: Only a handful of players have accumulated more OWGR points than DJ this year. He's been trending in the right direction with finishes of 12th and fourth in his last two tournaments and could be poised for a strong showing at Augusta.

    Masters Projection: Top 25. Johnson has had some bad luck in the majors. I don't think he has what it takes to make a serious run at a green jacket this year, but expect him to have a decent showing.

6. Phil Mickelson

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    OWGR: 9

    Best of 2013: Mickelson won the Waste Management Phoenix Open and has made seven out of eight cuts in 2013. He finished third at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. 

    Why He's Here: The three-time Masters champion has been buoyed by a new driver and a resurgent putter in 2013. He finished 16th at the Shell Houston Open in his traditional Masters tuneup, which suggests that recent good form will continue at the first major of the year. 

    Masters Projection: Top 10. Mickelson's "Phrankenwood" will put him near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday. I don't think he'll win, but he'll be a factor. 

5. Brandt Snedeker

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    OWGR: 5

    Best of 2013: Snedeker won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and finished second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    Why He's Here: Snedeker was on fire prior to his rib injury. However, he missed the cut in his two starts since his return from that injury, raising doubts about how he'll perform at the Masters.

    Masters Projection: Top 25. Snedeker has finished inside the Top 20 the past two years at Augusta. Even with his recent injury, I see him continuing that trend this year.

4. Rory McIlroy

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    OWGR: 2

    Best of 2013: Certainly not the Honda Classic...McIlroy closed with a 65 at the WGC-Cadillac to finish in eighth place and has made the cut in four of his five PGA Tour starts.

    Why He's Here: McIlroy was staring into the abyss two months ago, but he has made the right moves to get back to form since then. With a strong showing at the Valero Texas Open, McIlroy has put many doubts to rest and is poised for a strong showing at Augusta. 

    Masters Projection: Top 20. McIlroy famously melted down at Augusta in 2011 after heading in to Sunday with the lead. Even given the demons he'll be facing, I see him finishing inside the Top 20.

3. Justin Rose

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    OWGR: 3

    Best of 2013: Rose finished second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sneaking in behind Tiger Woods. He has made the cut in all four of his PGA Tour starts. 

    Why He's Here: Between his European and PGA Tour stroke-play starts, Rose has finished outside of the Top 10 only once. He's one of the hottest golfers in the game right now and is peaking at the right time.

    Masters Projection: Top 10. Rose is definitely my pick to win if Tiger doesn't. He finished tied for eighth last year.

2. Matt Kuchar

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    OWGR: 10

    Best of 2013: Kuchar won at the WGC-Accenture Match Play. He's made the cut in all eight starts with three Top 10 finishes. He finished tied for fifth at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

    Why He's Here: In addition to prevailing in the difficult match-play format of the Accenture, Kuchar has been incredibly consistent this year and has accumulated more OWGR ranking points in 2013 than anyone other than Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker. 

    Masters Projection: Top 10. Kuchar finished in the Top Five last year, and given his strong play heading into the tournament, I think he'll be able to reprise his performance this year. He's definitely a candidate to win it all.

1. Tiger Woods

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    OWGR: 1

    Best of 2013: Tiger has already accumulated three wins: Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Cadillac Championship, Famers Insurance Open. His only bad round on the PGA Tour this season was a final-round 74 at the Honda Classic to finish T-37.

    Why He's Here: Oddsmakers, fans and naysayers all agree that Tiger has returned to form and is the man to beat heading into the Masters. He's first in the OWGR and first in 2013 OWGR ranking points, which puts him at the head of this class...by a lot.

    Masters Projection: Win. The surest bet this week (next to taking the field) is that Tiger will win. Woods is as prepared heading into the Masters as he has been in any year since 2008.