This week marks the 22nd event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour heads down Magnolia Lane for the Masters. A field of 97 players will tee it up this week at Augusta National Golf Club, where the winner of the season's first major will claim the coveted green jacket.
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Adam Scott returns to defend the title he won last year in a playoff over Angel Cabrera. Here are 10 players to watch this week in Georgia:
1. Rory McIlroy: The former No. 1 enters a Tiger-less Masters as the consensus favorite. While his next top 10 at Augusta will be his first, McIlroy has the game to contend here, as he showed in 2011 before his Sunday meltdown. He's shown flashes of brilliance this season - remember the approach to the 72nd hole at Honda? - and closed with a 65 Sunday in Houston. If he's on his game, few (if any) can keep up.
2. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar has become the king of close calls this season, with six top-10 finishes but no wins after squandering a four-shot lead at Shell. He remains one of the Tour's most consistent ball-strikers, though, and his solid play tee-to-green will be a huge asset this week. Kuchar has been T-3 and T-8 each of the last two years at Augusta, which parallels Adam Scott's record before his win here a year ago.
3. Adam Scott: The defending champ hasn't teed it up since blowing a big lead at Bay Hill, but despite that setback he remains a threat to go back-to-back. Like Kuchar, Scott is an elite player tee-to-green, especially at Augusta National. The question will be whether his sometimes balky putter cooperates this week, as it did a year ago. If Scott is making mid-range putts with any consistency, the green jacket will be his for another year.
4. Harris English: Augusta is rarely kind to first-time visitors, but this year's rookie class is exceptional and led by English, who boasts a stat line that could make him a true threat to contend. The Georgia grad has won twice since June and contended on several other occasions, and he currently leads the Tour in GIR percentage. He's also third in birdie average, fourth in scoring and fourth in the all-around ranking - a potent combination indeed.
5. Sergio Garcia: Will the golf gods ever permit the Spaniard to win a major? That remains to be seen, but Garcia has a great chance to end his drought this week. He hasn't been outside the top 20 since August, adding a win in Qatar earlier this year and a third-place finish last week in Houston. Garcia held the first-round lead last year and has finished inside the top 12 each of the past two years.
6. Phil Mickelson: Perhaps no one is more excited about the prospect of a Woods-less Masters than Mickelson, and no one in the field can challenge his track record at ANGC, which includes three wins and 14 top-10 finishes. But Lefty may still be sore from the pulled oblique suffered in San Antonio, and it remains to be seen how his body will respond when he inevitably goes full-bore after a driver on the back - er, second - nine.
7. Keegan Bradley: Bradley remains one of the longest hitters on Tour, and has a myriad of top-20 finishes to his credit this season - seven in 11 starts, to be exact. His runner-up finish at Bay Hill was his best shot at a win, but Bradley has a major title to his credit and has the ability to contend with the greats of the game down the stretch. This could be the week where he upgrades from "in contention" to something bigger, better - and greener.
8. Jason Day: The Aussie was one of the trendy names when he won the WGC-Accenture Match Play two months ago, but a thumb injury has kept him on the sideline ever since. Despite the longer-than-ideal layoff, Day's game appears ideally suited for Augusta National, as evidenced by his T-2 finish in 2011 and third-place finish last year, when he stood on the 16th tee during the final round with sole possession of the lead.
9. Lee Westwood: Westwood has hardly been a name to watch since his near-miss at Muirfield last summer, but he is one of only two men with top-15 finishes each of the last four years at Augusta National. Westwood brings a veteran's savvy into this event, and the Englishman has finished inside the top eight three times since 2010. He quietly notched a T-17 last week in Houston, his best result of 2014.
10. Dustin Johnson: Johnson was seen as a significant contender for this week before he bowed out unceremoniously from Houston, citing a bad back before withdrawing after a first-round 80. Despite the injury questions, Johnson has the length off the tee to remain aggressive at Augusta National, and prior to the W/D he had finished inside the top six in each of his four stroke-play starts in 2014.