The top players on the PGA Tour have dominated this season, causing us to wonder if the Big Three is about eight too few to contain the list of the world’s elite players.
As we head toward April and inch closer to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, picking a favorite to don the green jacket only seems to get more difficult, particularly with Jason Day once again back in the mix.
Here’s our ever-changing list of some names to watch when the first major of the season kicks off at Augusta National on April 7-10.
Adam Scott (No. 6 in the world)
Recently: T12 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Won WGC-Cadillac Championship, Won Honda Classic
Adam’s file: All Adam Scott has done this season is win twice, finish runner-up twice and post two other top-12 showings, including a T12 at Arnold Palmer where he was a couple of bad holes on Friday away from competing for the title. Scott looks as comfortable as ever with the short stick in his hand, a prerequisite for any potential Masters favorite. And, oh yeah, he’s already won at Augusta.
Jason Day (No. 2 in the world)
Recently: Won Arnold Palmer Invitational, T23 at WGC-Cadillac Championship, T11 at AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Jason’s file: Day hadn’t done much this season — save his Sunday 65 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions that helped him finish in the top 10 — but then came Bay Hill. The long-driving, short-game grinding, putting machine version of Day we saw late last season returned en route to a gritty win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Bubba Watson (No. 4 in the world)
Recently: 2nd at WGC-Cadillac Championship, Won Northern Trust Open, T70 at AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Bubba’s file: If it weren’t for a balky back, Watson may very well be leading this list. He’s a two-time Masters champion with two wins already this season, plus a runner-up finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Watson’s inability to close the deal at Doral may be cause for concern as well, but no one can visualize and execute the creative shots necessary to navigate Augusta maze quite like Watson.
Rory McIlory (No. 3 in the world)
Recently: T27 at Arnold Palmer Invitational, T3 at WGC-Cadillac Championship, Cut at The Honda Classic
Rory’s file: The betting favorite from our friends in the desert, McIlroy has truly yet to show anything this season indicating a drastic turnaround outside of a brief glimmer at Doral. But we would have said the same thing about Jason Day right up until he held off some of the best players in the world to win the API. Rory is too talented to be kept down for long and we’ve seen before when he gets on a roll, there’s no one on this planet or any other capable of beating him.
Jordan Spieth (No. 1 in the world)
Recently: 2nd at Arnold Palmer Invitational, 4th at Valspar Championship, T4 at WGC-Cadillac Championship
Jordan’s file: Spieth won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions going away and it looked like 2016 would look like 2015. And then it didn’t. Spieth hasn’t had a top 10 since that win and has generally not been able to sustain any level of success. He seems worn out, and has admitted to struggling with his schedule and the fame. Spieth’s mental toughness put him in his own world last season. If he’s mentally worn out, it’s hard to see him getting on track at the most mentally challenging course on Tour.
Phil Mickelson (No. 19 in the world)
Recently: 5th at WGC-Cadillac Championship, T37 at the Honda Classic, 2nd at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Phil’s file: Lefty’s season can best be summed up thusly: close but no cigar. He’s played six tournaments this year and finished top 11 or better in four of them, including three top 5s. He probably should have won at Pebble and had his fair share of chances to take down Adam Scott at Doral. Mickelson says he’s enjoying the game more than he had in a while, and he’s playing loose. Mickelson may not have very many chances to compete at Augusta at a high level left. You have to imagine he knows that and will play like it. The question for him is will the pressure elevate his game, or tighten it?
Rickie Fowler (No. 5 in the world)
Recently: T8 at WGC-Cadillac Championship, T6 at The Honda Classic, P2 Waste Management Phoenix Open
Rickie’s file: Fowler’s 2016 is emblematic of his career. He hasn’t quite been able to put it together in the big ones. In his last six tournaments, he has five top-8 finishes including one of the more brutal playoff losses at TPC Scottsdale. He’s third on Tour in scoring average, fourth in greens in regulation and seventh in putting, which portends well for Augusta, but it’s been the long stick where Fowler has scuffled.
Dustin Johnson (No. 9 in the world)
Recently: T14 WGC-Cadillac Championship, 4th at the Northern Trust Open, T41 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Dustin’s file: Dustin Johnson’s game suits Augusta so well it has long seemed inevitable we would see DJ donning a green jacket. Imminently. But it just seems as though Johnson has yet to look like the player we’ve seen go on a tear with birdies and eagles flooding his card the way we know he’s capable of doing. And yet he’s the leader on Tour in birdie average. Johnson still ranks 87th on Tour in strokes gained putting, and you can’t win the Masters if you can’t make putts.
Justin Rose (No. 8 in the world)
Recently: T9 at Arnold Palmer Invitational, T17 at WGC-Cadillac Championships, T16 at Northern Trust Open
Justin’s file: Rosie has yet to get it going in 2016, but he’s one of the most consistent players on Tour tee-to-green (9th on the year), and has the fifth-best scoring average. Rose finished runner-up to Jordan Spieth last year and is one of the best ball strikers around. His putting will have to get better—like 2013 U.S. Open levels—if he wants to have a shot at a green jacket, but we’ve seen the formula executed from Rose.
Henrik Stenson (No. 7 in the world)
Recently: T3 at Arnold Palmer Invitational, T11 at Valspar Championship, T28 at WGC-Cadillac Championships
Henrik’s file: At a certain point, Stenson looks likely to wind up in the Sergio Garcia category of immensely talented ball striker who never putted well enough to make the leap and win a major. The 39-year-old Swede can no longer claim to be on the verge of a breakout even if it always seems as though he is. And for a long hitter, Stenson’s aversion to using his driver lately could preclude him from being a factor at Augusta. Oh, and he’s 116th in strokes gained putting.