Tiger Woods, Rory McIlory and Top Stars to Watch This Weekend

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IApril 8, 2013

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 25:  Tiger Woods of the United States acknowledges the crowd at the par 4, 18th hole during the final round of the 2013 Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard at Bay Hill Golf and Country Club on March 25, 2013 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
David Cannon/Getty Images

Will this be the major where we finally get to see a Sunday showdown between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy? There is a good chance. 

Tiger has been excellent, and Rory appears to have turned the corner. 

While the world's two best golfers will be garnering the lion's share of the attention heading up to the Masters, they aren't the only stars poised to make some noise. I'll break down Tiger and Rory below, and two other top golfers who command our attention. 


Tiger Woods

He's Tiger Woods. Of course, he's a star to watch. Even those golf fans who are annoyed by the massive amounts of press Tiger receives must have a hard time admitting they aren't curious to see how he does. 

Tiger rolls into this Masters with the highest expectations since he crashed into a fire hydrant, and for good reason.

Woods has won his last two Tour events and three of the four stroke-play Tour events he's played this season.

Woods is on top of his game. While he is still struggling a bit with driving accuracy, but accuracy off the tee at Augusta is not vital. Meanwhile, Tiger leads the Tour in putting at 1.476 strokes gained-putting.

Woods will tee off going for his fifth green jacket and 15th major victory, and he has a great shot of getting it.


Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy doesn't play many rounds that aren't entertaining, and that has certainly held true this year. Rory has spent much of this year wondering where his shots will land. 

McIlroy leads the Tour in driving distance at 310.8 yards, but he is 160th in accuracy at 53.7 percent. In only his rookie season of 2007 did he hit a lower percentage of fairways, and that inaccuracy hasn't been limited to just the tee. 

However, he may have turned the corner. He has now finished in the top 10 in two of his last three Tour events, and he is coming off of a solid second-place performance at the Texas Open. 

He is dialing in, as this approach shot from the 12th hole in the final round this past Sunday shows us:

Let's not also forget that it was just two years ago when McIlroy's authored his gut-wrenching collapse at Augusta. His final-round meltdown began on the 10th with an errant drive that led to an ugly triple bogey. 

Now, we will get to see him stare down the demons on that hole, and this whole tournament, for four rounds. 


Phil Mickelson

This is setting up to be a great Masters, and evidence of that is the fact that Tiger and Rory are justifiably garnering so much attention that three-time green jacket winner Phil Mickelson is almost an afterthought.

Phil is still capable of beating anyone, and he's been in good form this year. He won in Phoenix at the beginning of February, and in his last three events he has a 16th and third-place finish. Sure, those results sandwiched a missed cut at Bay Hill, but a little inconsistency from Lefty is nothing new.

And for all his inconsistency, Mickelson typically musters a good performance at Augusta. He tied for third last year, 27th the year before that, and he won in 2010. 

Phil can always get in trouble with errant drives, but as we discussed, accuracy is not a huge necessity at Augusta.

One of the big keys for Phil is always his putting stroke, and he's been solid this year at 46th in strokes gained-putting. 


Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson had his big breakthrough here last year as he claimed his first major victory.

That is certainly no guarantee he will play well this year. There are no guarantees with Watson.

His go-for-broke style is custom-made for excitement at Augusta. That was never more apparent than it was last year after he struck this remarkable recovery shot: 

One of the great things about this tournament is that Augusta can offer big rewards to bold play. And if Watson, and his tremendous distance, is firing on all cylinders, he will be very tough to beat.

Watson hasn't won a tournament this year, but he's been solid. While he has his work cut out for him if he wants to repeat, no matter what happens, it is bound to be entertaining.