It’s the biggest week on the golfing calendar, as the best in the game head to the land of Magnolia Lane, Amen Corner, and Butler Cabin, for a tradition unlike any other. The spreadsheet Fantasy League has been tearing it up of late, with wins in a record 10 straight tournaments, and the league looks poised to win only its third major in nine attempts. Here are the best bets to be leaving Augusta National with some new swag at the end of the weekend (as in a new green jacket)
1) Tiger Woods – No player has been more dominant during any stretch in recent memory, and coming off a 5 shot win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational two weeks, it looks like Tiger has his roar back. And how could bet against him considering he is playing at his favorite course. He currently leads the tour in par 5 birdies, and four VERY birdieable par 5’s at Augusta, you have to figure will suit the course just fine once again. Finished T4 here the last two years.
2) Luke Donald – The world’s number one player will once again be looking for his first major, and it comes at the time he’s playing his best golf of the year. Coming off a playoff win at the Transitions Championship, Donald’s game suits August National as good as any other player out there. The question is can he take the pressure of being a number one player without having a major under his belt.
3) Rory McIlroy – He held down the world number one for two weeks, and now he wants it back. Plus he wants to avenge last year’s final round debacle. McIlroy has been fire so far this season, with a win, a 2nd, and 3rd place finish in just three North American starts. He will be a force to be reckoned with this weekend.
4) Hunter Mahan – Don’t look now, but Mahan has moved into the #4 spot in the world, by posting two wins in the last 6 weeks, including this past weekend in Houston. The Masters has never been that kind to this guy, but if there was ever a chance for that trend to change, it’s definitely this weekend.
5) Adam Scott – Scott’s been pretty quiet so far on tour this year, only playing in three tournaments. However, last year the long hitter shot 10 under over the final two rounds to finish in second. And here’s another factor that hasn’t been specified by many pundits. This will be the first Masters for Scott with Stevie Williams on the bag. Don’t forget who Tiger’s caddy was when he was always donning a green jacket.
6) Keegan Bradley – The man who won the last major (last August’s PGA Championship) has been on fire ever since that win, and he will have the chance to perform on golf’s grandest stage. Many thought Bradley’s major championship was nothing more than a fluke, but his stellar play this year has proved it was anything but. Now he looks to take another step toward the ‘Bradley Slam’
7) Phil Mickelson – It is a bit of a surprise I’m sure to see lefty so far down on this list, but he will have his hands full beating those ahead of him. Phil was unable to post any type of a solid number on the weekend at the Shell Houston Open on a course that begged for birdies. Still, it would be simply uncivilized to ever count him out at Augusta
8) Justin Rose – Few in the world are playing better golf than Rose, who is coming off a huge win at the WGC event at Doral. Has been in contention at major’s before, and is hoping this is the week he gets it done.
9) Steve Stricker – A wise choice by this wiley vet to play this past weekend in Houston to get the kinks out of his game. Will need to be in top form to compete, but he’s played here so many times before, he knows the course. Don’t count him out come Sunday afternoon.
10) Dustin Johnson – If you can hit the ball long, you will rewarded Augusta National, and if there is anyone who can hit the ball long, it’s DJ. Has an up and down year so far in 2012, but if this week is an up one, the field had better look out.