Masters Field 2014: Safest Picks to Earn Green Jacket

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Masters Field 2014: Safest Picks to Earn Green Jacket
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The big story heading into Augusta may be the fact that Tiger Woods can't participate due to injury, but the big star after Augusta will surely be the latest man donning the green jacket. 

Will it be a previous winner? Will a young star earn his first? Will a surprise contender emerge from the shadows and shock the field?

Let's take a closer look at a few of the top contenders at this year's Masters.

Adam Scott

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You never ignore the player who won the Masters just a year before, especially when he tied for second and tied for eighth in his previous two appearances before last year's green jacket. And especially when he is on the cusp of being the game's top-ranked player.

Scott has three top-10 finishes this season and is fresh off of finishing third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, though if he putted better on the final day he likely would have won that tournament.

Despite that disappointment, Scott seems primed to defend his green jacket, as he told Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe:

It’s been an incredible experience being the Masters champion, and it’s something I’ll be trying to do again, for sure. To have that green jacket hanging in your closet is worth any bit of extra stuff you might have to deal with in your professional world. Coming back to defend is going to be an incredible experience, like everything has been since last April.

Don't be shocked if he pulls off the feat.

Jason Day

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Despite a long layoff from play due to a thumb injury, Jason Day comes into the Masters as one of the favorites, as his game matches up well against the course, according to Steve DiMeglio of USA Today:

The course suits his power game. He finished tied for second in his debut in 2011 and was poised to become the first Australian to win the Masters last year when he made birdie on the 15th in the final round and had the lead to himself on the 16th tee. But consecutive bogeys did him in and Adam Scott became the first Aussie to slip on the green jacket.

'I always wanted to be the first Australian to win it ... but I'm happy to be the second,' said Day, whose three starts this year include a runner-up finish in the Farmers Insurance Open and his win at the Accenture, his second career title.

It wouldn't be shocking if he was the second Aussie to pull off the feat, in as many years. He's finished in the top 10 in three of the four tournaments he's played this year, and seems poised to break out and begin winning more tournaments this season.

He's only 26, remember, and still seeking his first major. Don't be shocked if he gets it at Augusta.

Phil Mickelson

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Lefty's always in the running, isn't he? Especially at a tournament he's already won three times in his career.

Picking Phil Mickelson to win a tournament has become boring and cliche, perhaps, but he's still capable of winning any tournament he enters. And though he hasn't played particularly well this year, that's never hurt him in the past, as Sean Martin of notes:

Look out for Lefty—you never know when he'll steal another major.

Rory McIlroy

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As always, the talent is there, but can McIlroy move to within one major of a career Grand Slam? 

With three top-10 finishes this year and a final-round 65 at at the Shell Houston Open a week ago, McIlroy appears to be coming to Augusta in solid form. But McIlroy has never finished better than 15th at Augusta, though that doesn't appear to be weighing too heavily in his mind, as he told Iain Carter of BBC Sport:

I've played pretty well there for the most part. I think the big thing for me is that I'm halfway there for a career grand slam. There are two bits of that puzzle left and one of them, the Masters, should be set up really well for the way I play my game.

I mustn't put too much pressure on myself going in and trying so hard that it doesn't enable me to play the way I know I can. So I go in there with great expectations but also to just try and enjoy it.

With Woods out of this tournament and far, far away from the man who once dominated the golfing world, the stage is set for McIlroy to become the game's next great star. A win at Augusta would certainly go a long way toward continuing that narrative.

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