Capsules of top Masters contenders

Question of the Day

Should Congress make English the official language of the U.S.?

View results

A look at 20 players who could contend at the 76th Masters, to be played April 5-8 at Augusta National (listed in predicted order of finish):

___

RORY McILROY

Age: 22.

Country: Northern Ireland.

World ranking: 2.

Wins: 5.

Majors: U.S. Open (2011).

Best Masters moment: The 25-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole in the third round of 2011 that staked him to a four-shot lead going into the final round.

Worst Masters moment: Losing a four-shot lead the next day with an 80 in the final round.

Forecaddie: Along with the obvious _ the beautiful, powerful swing and the vastly improved putting inside 10 feet _ he can lean on his experience last year as a positive instead of a failure. Being a major champion gives him a greater sense of freedom. A green jacket makes him the youngest with two majors since Gene Sarazen in 1922.

___

LUKE DONALD

Age: 34.

Country: England.

World ranking: 1.

Wins: 10.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Chipping in for birdie on the final hole last year, and the rare display of emotion that followed.

Worst Masters moment: Hitting 8-iron into water on the 12th hole when he was tied for the lead last year.

Forecaddie: What he lacks in power off the tee (though he’s long enough), he makes up for with his chipping and putting. Efficiency can go a long way at Augusta National. It has been 10 years since the No. 1 player in the world ranking won the Masters.

___

TIGER WOODS

Age: 36.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 6.

Wins: 84.

Majors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005), U.S. Open (2000, 2002, 2008), British Open (2000, 2005, 2006), PGA Championship (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007).

Best Masters moment: Winning in 2001 to give him a sweep of the four professional majors.

Worst Masters moment: A double bogey on No. 10 and a triple bogey on No. 12 in the opening round of 2000, sending him to a 75. Woods won the other three majors that year.

Forecaddie: He didn’t have much game in 2010 in his rush to return from scandal and tied for fourth. He had not contended at any tournament early in 2011 and tied for fourth. Imagine what he can do when he’s actually playing well, which he is. The question is whether the Bay Hill win signaled a return, or whether he putted well on a course where he’s won seven times.

___

PHIL MICKELSON

Age: 41.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 15.

Wins: 42.

Majors: Masters (2004, 2006, 2010), PGA Championship (2005).

Best Masters moment: The 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win his first major in 2004.

Worst Masters moment: The vertical leap to celebrate first major that was estimated at no more than 13 inches.

Forecaddie: Even though Mickelson has one less Masters title, he now rivals Tiger Woods as a perennial favorite. It doesn’t matter what form he’s on, and Mickelson at least has that win at Pebble Beach this year. He doesn’t feel as though he has to play perfectly. But he does have to make putts. Oddly enough, he has never been the runner-up.

___

CHARL SCHWARTZEL

Age: 27.

Country: South Africa.

World ranking: 7.

Wins: 8.

Majors: Masters (2011).

Best Masters moment: Becoming the first player to finish with four birdies to win the Masters.

Worst Masters moment: Learning that Augusta National won’t let him do the cooking at the Champions Dinner.

Forecaddie: He has not won since the Masters last year, though Schwartzel returns to Augusta National on good form with close calls at the Honda Classic and at Doral. He is trying to join Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Nick Faldo (1989-90) and Tiger Woods (2001-02) as the only players to win back-to-back at the Masters.

___

STEVE STRICKER

Age: 45.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 5.

Wins: 12.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Still waiting for one.

Worst Masters moment: Shooting an 80 in his Masters debut in 1996.

Forecaddie: His putting stroke is so good that even Tiger Woods asks him for advice. Won the season opener at Kapalua and has played well in his limited schedule. But he has only five rounds in the 60s at the Masters. Still part of the “Best without a major” conversation.

___

LEE WESTWOOD

Age: 38.

Country: England.

World ranking: 3.

Wins: 36.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Taking a one-shot lead into the final round of 2010.

Worst Masters moment: Shooting a 37 on the front nine Sunday in 2010 to fall three shots behind.

Forecaddie: After a brief stay at No. 1, he has shown he’s not going away that quickly. He comes to Augusta on the upswing. Chipping, which long has been his weakness, has improved significantly this year. But it will need to be even better for the Masters.

___

SANG-MOON BAE

Age: 25.

Country: South Korea.

World ranking: 28.

Wins: 8.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Getting his invitation in the mail.

Worst Masters moment: To be determined.

Forecaddie: Bae has the swing of a budding star, and he’s not afraid to take on shots. During the early part of the season, however, it’s his willingness to take on high-risk shots that have yielded big numbers, and those can be magnified at the Masters.

___

ADAM SCOTT

Age: 31.

Country: Australia.

World ranking: 10.

Wins: 18.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Hitting tee shot to a foot on the 16th hole to take outright lead last year in the final round.

Worst Masters moment: Coming off a win at The Players Championship in 2004, two weeks later he opened with an 80 at the Masters.

Forecaddie: Switching to the long putter at least gives him a chance, as he showed last year. Not to be dismissed is having experience of three Masters victories on the bag in Steve Williams. His schedule leading to Augusta has been peculiar at best. Scott will have played only nine competitive rounds before the Masters.

___

DUSTIN JOHNSON

Age: 27.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 12.

Wins: 5.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Making an eagle on Nos. 13, 14 and 15 during 2009 Masters.

Worst Masters moment: Not breaking 70 until his 10th round at Augusta.

Forecaddie: He has the length, he favors a draw and he doesn’t have a lot of clutter between the ears. But his short game raises questions at the Masters. He has yet to crack the top 30 in three tries. It’s too early to dismiss him as a contender at Augusta, but more has been expected of him.

___

MARTIN KAYMER

Age: 27.

Country: Germany.

World ranking: 4.

Wins: 10.

Majors: PGA Championship (2010).

Best Masters moment: Tuesday press conferences.

Worst Masters moment: Never making it to the weekend.

Forecaddie: Of the young players, he has been the most proficient at winning against strong fields. But he has never made the cut at the Masters, and last year at No. 1 in the world, he set out to change his swing for Augusta. If he’s not careful, he’ll start believing that he can’t win the Masters _ if he hasn’t started believing that already.

___

BUBBA WATSON

Age: 33.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 18.

Wins: 3.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Referring to entrance as Magnolia Lane instead of “that tiny road with trees that starts with an M.”

Worst Masters moment: Closing with a 78 last year when everyone around him was making a move.

Forecaddie: If Augusta National taps the creative side, few have more imagination than this guy. His length is an advantage, along with the various shapes he can create. But when he gets his ball position out of sync, it can be difficult to get it back. And he looked shaky on fast greens at Bay Hill.

___

JUSTIN ROSE

Age: 31.

Country: England.

World ranking: 8.

Wins: 10.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Taking a two-shot lead into the weekend in 2004.

Worst Masters moment: Losing the lead in 2004 with an 81 in the third round.

Forecaddie: He has had enough good moments at the Masters to believe he can contend. He has won on quality courses, from Muirfield Village to Aronimink. Rose put a lot of emphasis on the Florida swing and came away with a big win at Doral.

___

HUNTER MAHAN

Age: 30.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 14.

Wins: 4.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Made the cut as an amateur in 2003.

Worst Masters moment: Missed the cut in his Masters debut as a professional in 2008.

Forecaddie: Picked up his second World Golf Championship title at the Match Play with an efficient, and motivated, win that denied Rory McIlroy from going to No. 1. His strengths are driving accuracy and his iron play. His weakness has been chipping, one of the more crucial elements at Augusta National.

___

BRANDT SNEDEKER

Age: 31.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 22.

Wins: 3.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Making a 35-foot eagle putt on the second hole of the final round to tie for the lead in 2008.

Worst Masters moment: Hitting into Rae’s Creek on the 13th hole to lose hope of winning in 2008.

Forecaddie: Rallied from seven shots behind to win at Torrey Pines this year. He has a quick tempo to go with a game built around feel, and the Masters figures to be one major where he can contend if enough things go right for him. His lesson from 2008? Keep emotions at an even keel.

___

BILL HAAS

Age: 29.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 16.

Wins: 4.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Watching his father, Jay, tie for third in 1995.

Worst Masters moment: Having to wait five years after turning pro before he qualified for his first Masters.

Forecaddie: The FedEx Cup champion is finally living up to his potential as one of the top Americans. Coming off Tour Championship win last year, validated it with a playoff win at Riviera when he holed a long birdie putt across the 10th green.

___

WEBB SIMPSON

Age: 26.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 9.

Wins: 2.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Playing the course for the first time at age 12.

Worst Masters moment: Blowing a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole as a 12-year-old for a chance to break 80.

Forecaddie: He nearly won the PGA Tour money title last year with two wins and contending on a regular basis. He does a good job thinking his way around the course and relying on his putter. For a Masters rookie, expectations are high.

___

KEEGAN BRADLEY

Age: 25.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 20.

Wins: 2.

Majors: PGA Championship (2011).

Best Masters moment: Earning a spot in the field by winning his first major.

Worst Masters moment: Getting the short end of a money game against Phil Mickelson in a practice round at Augusta.

Forecaddie: Another Masters rookie with big hype, and not just because he won the most recent major. A late bloomer, Bradley is long off the tee and has a beautiful touch with the belly putter. Two wins as a PGA Tour rookie should not be considered a fluke.

___

K.J. CHOI

Age: 41.

Country: South Korea.

World ranking: 23.

Wins: 17.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Holing out for eagle on the 11th hole in the final round of 2004.

Worst Masters moment: Making a bogey on the 12th hole of the final round last year when he had a share of the lead.

Forecaddie: He was among eight players who had a share of the lead at some point in the final round last year, and this follows a good run in 2004 and 2010. He feels comfortable at Augusta, and has contended at this major more than the others.

___

JASON DAY

Age: 24.

Country: Australia.

World ranking: 11.

Wins: 1.

Majors: None.

Best Masters moment: Making a birdie on the 18th hole last year to tie for second.

Worst Masters moment: Still waiting.

Forecaddie: He made an auspicious debut at the Masters, and he’s a very explosive player. The only troublesome part for the Australian is being prone to injury, and having only one win in his first four years on the PGA Tour. His talent suggests that he should be winning more.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player