The first major of the year is upon us: it's time for the Masters. A field of 97 will tackle Augusta National Golf Club this week, where the winner will receive a coveted green jacket.
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1. Bubba Watson: Only three men have ever successfully defended a Masters title, but Watson could become No. 4. The southpaw's game is clearly well-suited for Augusta National, and the wet conditions early in the week should only accentuate his advantages. He has only one round over 71 this season, with no result worse than T-14, and has been one of the most consistent players on Tour this season.
2. Jordan Spieth: Spieth was a runner-up at this event last year and finished second each of the past two weeks in Texas, so perhaps this spot is an appropriate one. Six of his nine starts this year have yielded top-10 finishes, including a win in Tampa, and he ranks third on Tour in scoring average and fifth in strokes gained putting.
3. Jimmy Walker: Walker is the only two-time winner on Tour this season, having lifted the trophy two weeks ago in San Antonio. He finished T-8 in his Masters debut last year, a strong effort from a first-timer, and currently leads the Tour in birdie average while ranking third in strokes gained putting and fourth in par-5 performance. All three metrics will be key to his success this week at Augusta National.
4. Rory McIlroy: The world No. 1 enters in search of the career grand slam, but his play in the weeks leading up to the Masters hasn't been as strong as he would have hoped. Combine that with the palpable pressure he'd face if in contention over the weekend while vying for a third straight major, and this seems like a week when McIlroy records a solid result but doesn't get the elusive green jacket.
5. Jason Day: Day was second here in 2011 and followed with a T-3 finish in 2013, the lone two times the Aussie has been fully healthy at this event. He is in good shape this time around, boosted by his win at the Farmers Insurance Open in February. Day will give himself plenty of chances, but the key to his title run will be getting a balky putter - he is 52nd on Tour in strokes gained putting - to cooperate.
6. Dustin Johnson: DJ doesn't have the best history at Augusta National, but he can counter that with his red-hot current form. His win at Doral highlights a stretch of four top-6 finishes in his last five starts, including a T-6 result in San Antonio when he rebounded from an opening 78. Johnson clearly has the length to handle Augusta National, but success at the Masters requires as much careful strategy as it does brute strength.
7. Henrik Stenson: The world No. 2 enters off a run of three straight top-4 finishes, including a runner-up at Bay Hill when he probably should have won. The Swede has finished T-14 and T-18 each of the last two years at the Masters, but the key to his success will be the area of his game that let him down last month in Orlando: putting.
8. Adam Scott: The Aussie is back to the long putter he used to win here in 2013, which is probably a good idea considering how poorly he putted with the shorter flat stick earlier this year. Scott was also a runner-up in 2011 and hasn't finished worse than T-18 each of the past five years, with only four rounds over par across that span.
9. Patrick Reed: Reed played poorly in his Masters debut last year, but he should fare considerably better this time around. His preferred draw shape is a draw, which bodes well for Augusta National, and he enters off four straight top-25 finishes highlighted by a playoff loss in Tampa. Reed also won in Hawaii in January and won't be lacking for confidence once the competition begins.
10. Justin Rose: This is a nod to past history over current form, as Rose's exemplary Masters record outweighs his poor start to the season. The Englishman has five straight top-25 finishes at this event, highlighted by a T-8 finish in 2012, and while he has missed three cuts in five starts this season, he did show signs of progress with his play last week in Houston.