With Tiger Woods set to enter Augusta National this week as the world's No. 1-ranked golfer, many experts and fans are projecting that the four-time Masters winner will claim his fifth green jacket in 2013.
But while Tiger has looked impressive in winning his last two tournaments at Doral and Bay Hill and ranking No. 1 on the PGA money list this season, there are a handful of golfers who can beat him at the year's first major, including a pair of past Masters champions.
Here we'll take a closer look at the biggest threats to the world No. 1 in Augusta this April.
To say Rory McIlroy has been lackluster to start 2013 would be a severe understatement. The 23-year-old superstar has been a colossal disappointment, recording just two top-10 finishes since January, including a second place finish at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio on Sunday.
But his bizarre withdrawal from the Honda Classic is behind him now, and it seems that McIlroy is back in the right mindset, focused on the game rather than living up to the immense hype.
He's still No. 2 in the world rankings, and don't forget, he has won two majors in dominant fashion over the past two years.
Much like Tiger, when Rory is on the top of his game with little or no distractions, he's simply unbeatable.
Lefty has won the Masters three times in his career and each of those three titles have come since 2004. That said, no one—not even Tiger—has dominated this course like Phil Mickelson over the past decade.
Although Mickelson is always a risk to come unglued, the sky is the limit for the four-time major champ when he's on top of his game, driving the ball and putting with confidence.
Mickelson still ranks inside the top 10 of the world golf rankings and inside the top five on the PGA money list this year. While his play has been a bit erratic to start the season, his win at the Phoenix Open in February points to the sort of consistency he's capable of achieving on the golf course, especially one as familiar to him as Augusta National.
Tiger Woods was the last player to win back-to-back titles at Augusta National in 2002, but there's no doubt that Bubba Watson possesses both the talent and the courage to become the most recent repeat Masters champion.
Watson hadn't even recorded a top-10 finish at Augusta until last spring, meaning he won't be short on confidence this April.
Watson isn't afraid to take risks, and as he showed in 2012, he's capable of making those risks pay off in a big way. Watson had three top-10 finishes coming into the Masters. This year, Watson has just two. But the good news for him—the stage is set for him to leave his mark as Tiger's success has allowed Watson to fly way under the radar.
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