2010 Masters Preview: Tiger Vs. Lefty?

Thomas ConroyCorrespondent IMarch 13, 2010

AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 12:  Phil Mickelson shakes hands with Tiger Woods on the 18th green during the final round of the 2009 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2009 in Augusta, Georgia.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Capturing the green jacket is the ultimate goal for all golfers that compete on the PGA Tour. For over six decades, The Masters has been the premier golf event held in the United States. Augusta National Country Club is one of the most picturesque golf courses on the tour, if you're fortunate to be allowed access on the grounds. Even the world's most prominent businessmen cannot get a tee time without being accompanied by a club member.

This year's field is tough to handicap, as The Masters only offer an invitation to players that have won a tournament event last season and former Masters' champions. Let's take a look at this year's contenders:

Tiger Woods

He will play again on the tour; it's just unclear if Tiger will show up at Augusta this April. The No. 1 player in the world has been in seclusion since his extra-marital affairs became public last Thanksgiving weekend. Officials at Augusta National have not confirmed if they received any word from Woods on his future plans. And oh by the way, Tiger is the favorite because he is a four-time Masters champion.

Phil Mickelson

It's been a struggle for Lefty this season, as he posted rounds in the 60's, only then to struggle enough the next day to become an after-thought in contending for a tournament championship. Mickelson finished the West Coast Swing without a victory for only the sixth time in 18 seasons. The PGA desperately needs him to become the face of the tour in lieu of Tiger's absence. Lefty will need to regain his form during the Southern Swing in order to be considered a serious contender for his third green jacket.

Steve Stricker

In Wood's absence, Stricker has taken the responsibility of keeping the tour above water with four early-season wins. He leads in tournament earnings and is currently in second place of the FedEx Cup point standings. Statistically, Stricker's game is in good shape, as he currently ranks first in round average at 68.7 and third in birdies at 5 per round. Good karma for a guy who was without a tour card four years ago.

Padraig Harrington

On his blog, Harrington wrote that he is encouraged by his early season play. He felt if his lost in match play was a stroke event, then it could have been his first victory for the new year. Harrington's best finish this season was 16thplace at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He had a frustrating year on the tour last season, as the three-time major champion (two British and one PGA) felled short in every attempt to capture another major title.

Angel Cabrera

You have to mention the winner of last year's Masters, as who could forget how Cabrera captured his second PGA victory by defeating Kenny Perry in a thrilling playoff. He became the first Argentinean ever to win at Augusta. Thus far this season has been a struggle, as Cabrera's tee-shots have hit the fairway only 40 percent of the time. Once he straightens out this strength to his game then Cabrera will be back on top of the leader-boards.