Five Players Who Might Win:
Rory McIlroy. It’s been a tumultuous year for Rory. Every part of his life has changed. He bought a house in Florida, moved to the U.S. He got the additional attention of being No. 1 in the world -- well, for a while. Then he changed out all of his clubs, and his golf ball, for a mega-deal with Nike that has surely added a layer of pressure. That’s a lot to adjust to and until San Antonio last week, he hadn’t shown a lot of signs of his game coming around. He can find it in a day, though. He’s proven he can handle Augusta tee to green. Can he handle the greens? That’s his big question.
Luke Donald. Just because his reign at No. 1 is over, possibly forever, doesn’t mean he’s not a Masters contender. He’s had a few chances to win here. Donald isn’t as short off the tee as you think. His bunker play, the best in the business, and his short game make him a threat to contend any year. His biggest concern? It’s been over a year since his last PGA Tour win, at Innisbrook.
Keegan Bradley. It would add some spice to the conversation if some of the next 12 major champions are players who use the destined-to-be-banned anchored-putting style. Bradley is tough with his belly putter and among the Americans, there may be no one else (besides Tiger) you’d rather see facing a must-make 12-footer. He’s got the length, he’s got the towering iron shots, he’s got the short game, and, let’s not forget, he’s got a PGA Championship to his credit already. A Masters would put him on the fast track for an extremely special career.
Dustin Johnson. He fits the power-hitter profile at Augusta and looks to have all the tools of a big winner. He’s racked up wins, too, just not in majors. But he has had a few stumbles. He was a contender in Houston a few weeks ago, a course well-suited to a big hitter, but he made some errors on the final nine. His putting has looked spotty at times. Can he really handle the nightmarish speeds and slopes of Augusta National? We’re still waiting to see.
Adam Westwood (combining Adam Scott and Lee Westwood into a field entry). Both of these players have felt the wrath of the haven’t-won-a-major monkey and in both cases, it’s because of the short game. Scott displayed superb ball-striking as he appeared to be en route to winning last summer’s British Open, but a few missteps with his long putter and a tactical error off the tee on the 72nd hole cost him a lead and a title he won’t soon forget. Westwood, also a terrific ball-striker, has racked up a batch of high finishes in majors. But the weak chip here, the short missed birdie putt there, has kept him out of the winner’s circle. The clock is ticking on both gentlemen. Will they or won’t they?