Feb 23, 2012; Marana, AZ, USA; Tiger Woods reacts after his tee shot on the fifth hole during the second round of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship at Ritz-Carlton GC. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-US PRESSWIRE

Looking at The Field for The Masters

Don’t look for the azaleas this week. Due to an “early spring” (can it eve get here soon enough?), the word is they have already bloomed.

Here’s some obvious, and maybe not so obvious, players to look at during this week’s Masters tournament.

Favorites

Tiger Woods

He’s the favorite much to practically no one’s surprise. Woods is coming off a won at the Arnold Palmer Inviatational at Bay Hill held two weeks ago. He seems to have fine tuned his swing a bit more and the putter may be coming around as well. That could spell doom for the rest of the field. Add that his mental game may be approaching a level it once was (he remembers how to win) and you may have the beginnings of the re-emergence of golf’s biggest star.

Despite all the negativity surrounding Tiger’s game over the past couple of years, he has managed to finish 4th in the last two Masters. A lot of players would take that in a minute.

Rory McIlroy

If any player has unfinished business at Augusta, it’s Rors. He held the 54-hole lead last year only to card an eye-popping 80 for his final round. He quickly learned the lesson as he took that humbling experience and parlayed that into a win at the US Open. He’s also looking to re-claim the top spot in the OWGR, a goal he’s already accomplished, but what love nothing more than to get that back.

Phil Mickelson

You cold forget the sight after Lefty claimed his last Masters title? If you have, then I wonder if you have a pulse. No question winning a fourth Masters would merely be more icing on his already Hall of Fame career cake.

Drive it straight, putt it well. Two ingredients for that fourth win.

Luke Donald

Hard to believe the OWGR’s #1 is a little below the radar, but it seems like he is. Donald would love nothing more than the backup his top rank with his first major win. Donald’s game doesn;t eexactly fit this track, but his tenacity usually serves him well.

Donald is also not participating in the Par-3 today. He states that the greens are not the same. Can’t say I blame him.

Hunter Mahan

Mahan became the season’s first player to log multiple victories (WGC-Accenture Match Play, Shell Houston Open). He has discovered that his short game is developing nicely, too. The flat stick will be the key in order for Mahan to contend.

Lee Westwood

He’s under the radar a bit as well. Westwood has contended before (2nd in 2010 and T11 last year) and he’s also looking for that first major triumph. He’s currently #3 in the OWGR so he’s not to be taken lightly. He didn’t finish that well last week at the Shell Houston Open, but do not rule him out. Add this: Westwood could become OWGR #1 with a win.

Dark Horses

These may sound crazy, but…

Nick Watney

In the past Watney has shown he can play with the “big boys”. Proof of that was his win in 2011 at the WGC-Cadillac where he overcame a two stroke deficit. He finishes in majors isn’t overly impressive as his failed to make the cut in two majors in 2011. That tells me he’s looking to take another big step.

Watney did post a pair of top 10’s (The Masters, The Open Championship) back in 2010. Maybe just needs to find some of his old form. Seeing as his current rank of 20th is the lowest it has been since the weel previous to his WGC win (31st), there is a little motivation.

Steve Stricker

Augusta does not appear to be a place where Stricker cold land his first major win although he does own a pait od top 10’s (2001, 2009). One vital part of a player’s game is the putter. And we all know Stricker can putt. That’s why I have him here.

Last one?

Keegan Bradley

Surely you can’t overlook the last player to notch a major win, can you? He’s developed a great relationship with Lefty and he has undoubtedly attained a little local knowledge. One thing Bradley has overcome this season is missing cuts, as is he has made all 8 stroke play events in which he has entered. Yes, the Hyundai doesn’t have one, but you get the picture. He missed 10 last year. He’s already notched three top 10’s this season and all three have come since the beginning of February.

Tags: Dustin Johnson Golf Hunter Mahan Lee Westwood Luke Donald Nick Watney PGA Phil Mickelson Rory McIlroy Steve Stricker The Masters Tiger Woods

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