This year’s Masters features the return of Tiger Woods in the form we are all familiar with. This weekend, it feels like it is Woods and everyone else in the field. Despite that notion, there are golfers to look out for this weekend. Golf is too unpredictable to rule out the rest of the field.
Nobody can talk about Masters contenders without bringing up Phil Mickelson. The three-time Masters champion is playing solid golf this year. According to Bleacher Report’s Steve Silverman, Mickelson is ranked fifth in earnings this year. That means he is consistently finishing in the top half of the field. Mickelson is at his best in big moments when he is consistently playing smart and is confident.
The only thing that can prevent Mickelson from contending for his fourth jacket is if he tries too hard. Phil needs to play smart golf and not try to win the tournament on one magnificent shot, which happens often. He needs to place each ball in a strategically smart position. If he can do that, then he will remain a contender until Sunday.
If all of that happens, then anything can happen with some of the memorable moments Phil brings to the Masters. Expect Phil Mickelson to be right there at the end like in years past.
4) Keegan Bradley
Keegan Bradley is an exciting player that has a chance to win his first green jacket this year. He has one of the best swings in golf, which allows him to crush the ball 300 yards down the fairway. Bradley’s distance off the tee allows him a chance to shoot under par on almost every shot. Those birdies will add up quickly if he limits his mistakes on the green.
Expect Bradley to come out hot in the first two rounds of the tournament. It is not outside the realm of possibility that Bradley could lead the tournament heading into Saturday or even Sunday.
3) Steve Stricker
Steve Stricker is also a player to watch for this weekend. He has never won a green jacket. In fact, he has never won a major tournament, but his putting ability might allow him to win his first this weekend.
Putting is vital to the performance of every player in the Masters. A solid short game will allow Stricker to stay conservative and make fewer mistakes on the fairway. He is an underdog selection by most experts, but this year’s tournament should come down to which golfer has the best short game. Steve Stricker fits right in.
2) Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy has the ability to win this tournament. The only golfer with superior talent is Tiger Woods. Will that ability show this weekend? That remains a huge question. McIlroy must find his game and play well enough through the first two rounds just to make the cut. He has not had the start to 2013 that many were expecting, and his inconsistent play allowed Tiger to once again become the world’s No. 1 golfer.
Despite a rough start, McIroy played very well last weekend at the Valero Texas Open. He might just start playing his best golf at the right time of year, but he’ll have to be extremely sharp if he wants to beat a player like Woods. Right now, it does not seem like he is sharp enough to wear his first green jacket.
The Masters is also the major tournament that stumps McIlroy. His 2011 showing at Augusta featured one of the biggest meltdowns in recent memory. For some reason, Rory never plays his best golf at Augusta National.
1) Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is in prime position to contend for his fifth Masters title. Woods is currently No. 1 in the world for the first time since 2010. He is currently putting at a tremendous rate. In a tournament as big as the Masters, solid putting makes the difference between winning the first major championship of the year and going home early after missing the cut.
According to Ashley Mayo of GolfDigest.com, in his last two starts, Woods made 35 putts of eight feet or longer. That is outstanding. If Woods can putt like that, he is the obvious favorite heading into the tournament.
Tiger’s power off the tee is also a major advantage going into this weekend. He obviously has the ability to hit the ball a long way down the fairway. The only thing that could possibly stop his power from being an advantage is accuracy. Woods must remain on the fairway this weekend. If he finds himself in the woods or in a sand trap, then his biggest weakness will begin to show itself on one of golf’s biggest and brightest stages.
No golfer will have a perfect tournament this weekend. Golf’s biggest stage brings moments where overcoming adversity is a major factor in who ends up wearing the green jacket.
Tiger Woods is a perfectionist on the links. That allows him to break down mentally when things do not go his way. One bad shot can affect the outcome of the next four or five. It is key that Tiger contains his emotions during frustrating moments. With his unbelievable putting ability and distance off the tee, it would be a shame to see his advantages wasted on a short temper.
Despite his temper, Woods should win this tournament. If it comes down to a golfer’s short game, then everyone should trust Tiger more than anyone else in the field. Expect Woods to bring home his fifth green jacket.