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Weeks: Nine players to watch at 78th Masters in Augusta

Bob Weeks
4/10/2014 8:17:17 AM
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There is no shortage of possible contenders this week as the Masters gets underway. Here are a few to keep your eye on and possibly include in your pool.

Rory McIlroy
Despite blowing up on the final nine in 2011, McIlroy showed he has the game to play at Augusta National. And, after a flat 2013 campaign, there are signs of life in his game this year that include a win in Australia at the end of last year and three top-10 finishes in five PGA Tour starts this year.

Phil Mickelson
Not many golfers have as impressive a record at Augusta National as Phil Mickelson who has only missed the top 10 three times since 1999. However one of those was last year and he also pulled an oblique muscle two weeks ago which forced him to withdraw from the Texas Open. The reigning British Open champion has won five majors in the last 10 years.

Dustin Johnson
Supremely talented and enjoying a good season, Wayne Gretzky's future son-in-law's best finish at Augusta National is a tie for 13th, which came last year. This year, he's ranked second in Driving Distance and third in Greens In Regulation, and no one has made more birdies this year than DJ. He's also a very good putter which will likely be his make-or-break club this week.

Graeme McDowell
Although he's missed the cut three of the last four times, McDowell has five top-10 finishes in his six starts this year and is leading the Strokes Gained – Putting category. Good putters do well at Augusta National and McDowell also knows how to play under pressure. And what Northern Irishman doesn't look good in green?

Jason Day
He's finished in the top three here in two of the last three years and is the fourth-ranked golfer in the world. He's pronounced himself healthy from the thumb injury he sustained a few weeks back and he has a win already this year. If his putting stays sharp, he will have a chance to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Adam Scott.

Graeme DeLaet
As we all know, first-timers haven't fared well around here of late, but with more than a quarter of the field made up of those on their maiden voyage at the Masters, the odds have never been better. DeLaet has a game well-suited for Augusta National and he's arrived feeling healthy and excited, and playing some excellent golf. He won't have any trouble getting the ball to the green but it's what happens once he's on those putting surfaces that will determine how he fares.

Sergio Garcia
After coming off this course and proclaiming that he would never win a major championship, Garcia has quietly become a legitimate pick around here again, thanks in large part to his improved putting. He seems to be an older, wiser player these days playing a much calmer game. However, a little of his old fire and passion wouldn't hurt him here this week. 

Adam Scott
It's tough for a champion to defend at any major. There's always so much attention and so many extra duties that throw the winner out of their regular routine. But Adam Scott seems prepared for that and has used his energy wisely this week. Still, there's probably a good reason why only three champs have ever followed up their victory with another win.

Matt Kuchar
Has anyone been more consistent this year than Matt Kuchar? Yes, he missed glorious opportunities to win the last couple of tournaments but the fact he was in the hunt speaks volumes about where his game is at. He has top-10 finishes both of the last two years around here and has played as well as anyone in the majors since 2010. He is due.



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