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Tour Confidential: Is Rory McIlroy the new favorite to win the Masters?

Rory McIlroy
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After struggling throughout much of 2013, Rory McIlroy's play has been solid, if not entirely strong, in 2014.

Every Sunday night, conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.

1. Rory McIlroy tied the low score of the tournament at the Shell Houston Open with a 7-under 65 on Sunday and was already in Augusta before the tournament finished. Does this momentum make him your new Masters favorite, if he wasn't already?

Jeff Ritter, senior editor, Sports Illustrated Golf Group (@Jeff_Ritter): Rory was my pick to win before and remains so today. He's playing well, is due for a win, and has demonstrated that he can handle the course (for three rounds, anyway). The stars are aligned, but somehow there are still a few seats left here on the bandwagon. Anybody else want on?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Picking a pre-tournament favorite has all the weight of a large cotton candy. Yes, Rory's got a good shot. I like Angel Cabrera, Patrick Reed and Charl Schwartzel better. I'm not even going to bring up Fred.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated (@MarkGodich): One round does not a favorite make. Adam Scott remains the man to beat until someone takes the jacket away.

Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): It's really great to have Rory back in the mix. Yet he's not really topping the leaderboard much, is he? Good stuff at the Honda (sort of), and a great win late last year in Australia, but he hasn't done enough to make him my favorite -- not even close. Jason Day, even with his injuries, has been better in that same period and has a stellar Masters record, and Adam Scott is in the same boat. Rory's in my Top 10 contenders for the week, but not my top three.

Eamon Lynch, managing editor, (@eamonlynch): One swallow doesn't make a spring, and a 65 in Houston doesn't count for an awful lot in Augusta. But it sure beats an 85. McIlroy was my pick for the week and remains so.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine (@CameronMorfit): I'd say he's as much of a favorite as most, but this year we're going to see a strong run made by one or more of the more recent jacket winners. I'm thinking Phil, Bubba, Charl, Zach, players like that. Guys have actually gotten it done.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): Rory was a Masters favorite by default already, wasn't he? Now he looks like the guy to beat, maybe by default. Would I bet on the Aussies? No. Would I bet on Rory? Definitely.

Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): Two words: Lee Westwood. Okay, a few more words. I know he struggles with his short game and has a special talent for shooting himself in the foot, but now that he's finally out of the conversation … when you least expect it, in other words.

2. What are the odds that Houston Open winner Matt Jones gets back-to-back wins by claiming a green jacket at Augusta?

BAMBERGER: Not better than 1 in 100. He has a slightly better chance than Sandy Lyle but his odds are not as good as Bernhard Langer's. I'm not going to even bring up Fred.

LYNCH: The odds are stacked against first-timers winning at Augusta National, there having been just one such champion since 1935. Plus, Jones has only ever finished one major championship in his career, though I suppose that at least puts him one up on Patrick Reed.

GODICH: We'll have an Aussie winner, but it won't be Jones. He and Bowditch will just be happy to be there (in other words, they won't be around for the weekend.) Scott will contend, but in the end he'll be slipping the green jacket over the shoulders of countryman Jason Day.

MORFIT: The odds that Jones wins at Augusta in his first look, a week after finally breaking through for his first Tour win, are better than Greg Norman's odds of winning. But perhaps not by much.

PASSOV: The odds of Matt Jones winning the Masters are slim, though perhaps they're better than what they must have been for him to drain a 46-foot birdie putt on one of the Tour's hardest closers, then dunk a chip-shot for birdie on the same hole to win his first PGA Tour event -- against a Top 10 player, no less. Yes, I'm picking an Australian to win the Masters with four letters in his first name, five in his last, but it's not Matt Jones, it's Adam Scott.

SENS: Vegas currently has him at 100 to 1, which means his true odds of winning are probably closer to 500 to 1. And I'm still not sure I'd take him at that number.

VAN SICKLE: I think those odds are pretty long, mate. I'm not taking that bet. Matt Jones fits the Aussie stereotype of great ball striker, so-so putter. When a guy like that gets hot with the putter, as Adam Scott did when he led the field in putting during last year's Masters, it can be lights out. Two weeks in a row anywhere is a stretch. When the second one is the Masters, well, I'd be dumbfounded.

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