Masters Golf Tournament 2013: Biggest Key for Each Top Contender at Augusta

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2013

DORAL, FL - MARCH 08:  Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland chats to Tiger Woods of the USA during the second round of the WGC - Cadillac Championship at the Trump Doral Golf Resort & Spa on March 8, 2013 in Doral, Florida.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Warren Little/Getty Images

The Masters is underway at Augusta National Golf Club. Over the next four days, the best golfers from around the globe will attempt to conquer the picturesque course in Georgia and claim the first major championship of the 2013 season.

As golf fans would expect, the players generating the most buzz are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy. All three players have reason to believe they can be in the mix on Sunday, but can't afford any setbacks if it's going to happen.

While they are the best three players when in top form, there are plenty of talented guys waiting for their opportunity to steal the spotlight. With that in mind, let's examine the biggest key for each of the three superstars if they want to win the green jacket.


Tiger Woods: Putting

Woods enters the Masters on a mission. He hasn't won a major since the U.S. Open in 2008 and his last triumph in this event came all the way back in 2005. If he wants to end both those droughts, his putting must remain strong.

He ranks first on PGA Tour in strokes gained putting. It's the main reason he's won three of the last four stroke-play events he's entered. When Woods is rolling the ball on the greens as well as he's capable, which has been the case lately, it makes up for other flaws in his game.

Even though he's still a little wild off the tee at times, his ability to knock down mid-and-long range putts is key. At the same time, getting back to a point where anything inside 10 feet is a virtual gimme is a huge edge. If he keeps it up, he'll make noise on Sunday.


Phil Mickelson: Accuracy Off Tee

Mickelson ranks just inside the top 50 in putting, which means he doesn't have as much leeway off the tee as Woods. He needs to find the fairway more consistently (53 percent so far in 2013) in order to tame Augusta for the fourth time.

While accuracy off the tee has never been Mickelson's strong suit, he can't afford to miss half the fairways this week and expect to keep pace with a red-hot Woods. Even if he has to sacrifice a little bit of yardage to find the short grass, it's worth it.

The good news is that he's still been hitting 70 percent of the greens in regulation. So if he finds more fairways, that number should rise and give him more looks at birdie. It's a trickle-down effect that will turn him into a final-round threat.


Rory McIlroy: Composure

The final three rounds of last week's Valero Texas Open showed McIlroy is getting his game back. He's starting to look comfortable with his new clubs and his short game is back to a point where it won't prevent him from contending.

During his struggles, however, the one constant was that he struggled to right the ship when things starting to go downhill. A couple bad shots in a row and suddenly the entire round would get away from him. That can't happen this week.

Augusta is unforgiving. Every player is going to drop a couple shots along the way. When it happens to McIlroy, he must maintain his composure. If he can remain in a positive state mentally, he should prove those early-season struggles are a thing of the past.