aNewDomain — The second weekend in April is coming, and that can only mean one thing: The Masters and its “tradition unlike any other,” as CBS’ commercials constantly remind us.
But enough about exclusionary membership practices at Augusta National. Instead, let’s focus on the beginning of the PGA TOUR’s major championship season and a dozen players who could fight it out to slip on the coveted green jacket come Sunday afternoon.
Rory McIlroy (5-1): The world’s top-ranked player should have won the Masters in 2011, when he carried a four-shot lead into the final round. He wound up shooting 80 on the last day to end up tied for 15th in one of the biggest major championship disasters in the game’s history. Later that year, he went on to win the U.S. Open and has added three major titles since. It’s hard to imagine McIlroy not being in the running at Augusta.
Bubba Watson (6-1): Watson’s game just seems to be suited to the course. He has won two of the last three Masters titles. One of the longest hitters on tour, Watson also has a silky touch around the greens that allows him to compete on most any track. No player has repeated as champion here since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002, but that could all change this week.
Jordan Spieth (9-1): Just 21 years old, Spieth is quickly making his mark as the finest young player in the game. The Texan already has four wins and finished second at last year’s Masters, three shots behind Watson. Spieth seems to contend in most events he plays and that surely will include another go-round at Augusta.
Jason Day (11-1): Arguably the best player in the world to have never won a major, Day has finished second in three such events including the 2011 Masters. The Australian has seven wins, including last year’s World Golf Championships Accenture Match Play Championship. He’s ready for another run at Augusta.
Jimmy Walker (13-1): After going winless in his first 187 professional events, Walker has eight victories including three on the Web.com Tour. He already has two wins this calendar year, taking the SONY Open in Hawaii and the Valero Texas Open in his hometown of San Antonio. He wound up eighth at last year’s Masters, his first time in the event.
Dustin Johnson (15-1): A six-month leave of absence from the PGA TOUR hasn’t taken much shine off Johnson’s game. He’s seventh in the Official World Golf Ranking and already has a win at the WGC Cadillac Championship this season. He missed the cut at last year’s Masters and finished tied for 13th in 2013.
Adam Scott (18-1): The 2013 champ is going back to his long putter this week in hopes of getting his game back together. Playing with a more traditional model hasn’t done the Australian much good. He hasn’t won since last May and has tumbled in the all-important strokes gained putting category.
Phil Mickelson (20-1): Even at age 44 and with a game that fails him more often than in the old days, Mickelson is still a threat at Augusta. This was the site (in 2004) of his first career major title. He has since added green jackets in 2006 and 2010 and won the PGA Championship in 2005 and The Open Championship in 2013. His willingness to gamble can be both a blessing and a curse.
Patrick Reed (20-1): Reed went to college at both the University of Georgia and Augusta State, so he knows the state’s tracks quite well. The San Antonio native already has four PGA TOUR victories and seems like a lock to bring home a major title at some point. Will it be this week?
Henrik Stenson (20-1): The other player who can most legitimately lay claim as the best player to not win a major. Well, really, who would want to carry that around. Stenson has never made much of a dent on the Augusta National scoreboard (a tie for 14th is his best showing) and a recent battle with the flu won’t help.
Rickie Fowler (22-1): Fowler was the only player on Tour last year to finish in the top five in each of the four majors. A swing change a couple of years ago has made him a more consistent player and a legit threat to wear the green jacket on Sunday. Maybe even over a bright orange golf shirt.
J.B. Holmes (25-1): One of the game’s longest hitters, Holmes comes into The Masters as one of the hotter players on Tour. Two of his seven career victories have come in this calendar year, including last weekend’s Shell Houston Open. This weekend marks his first trip to Augusta National since 2008.
Yeah, no Tiger Woods. I just can’t.
Here’s a Best Masters Moments video my colleague Randy Waters did for our sister site, BreakingModern. Check it out.
Photos of Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson: Getty Images. All rights reserved