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Punch Shot: Who's the favorite for the Masters?

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The list of PGA Tour winners this year hasn't exactly been an all-star roster, and with serious questions surrounding the game's top players, the distinction of being the Masters favorite is as wide open as it's been in a long time. Here are our writer's picks for the favorites heading into Augusta.


BY JASON SOBEL

The oddsmakers have enlisted the Masters favorite as a dead heat between Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott, but I’ll put the incumbent Scott as my favorite a week before the festivities in Augusta.

There isn’t a player in the field who isn’t shrouded in some sort of doubt entering the year’s first major, but I’ll take the guy who crumbled during the final round at Bay Hill over a pair of past champions who are loading up on Advil these days.

Scott is hardly a slam-dunk choice. I don’t think there will be any “Adam or the field?” questions. But he’s played some terrific golf recently and has shown an increased desire and ability to prepare for the game’s biggest tournaments.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Just because I think Scott should be the favorite doesn’t mean I’m picking him to win. (Shameless plug: My ranking of the entire field will be available on GolfChannel.com next week.) Based on so many unpredictable winners in the year’s first three months, this edition of the Masters might be one of the most wide open in recent memory.

With that in mind, Scott should be the favorite. There’s less doubt surrounding him than any of the other leading candidates.


By RYAN LAVNER

Rory McIlroy.

He’s the co-favorite among oddsmakers, to no surprise. Rory has finished inside the top 11 in eight of his last 10 stroke-play events, and his combination of long, high, drawing drives and sublime putting will always play well at Augusta.

In recent years, McIlroy has been plagued by awful weekends at the Masters, shooting 76 or worse in four of his last six weekend rounds. But this is his sixth crack at Augusta, and he’s not the same go-for-broke player that was humbled during that Sunday 80 in 2011.

In a year with no prohibitive favorite, take the guy with all-world talent and, in the wake of his Honda letdown, something to prove.


BY REX HOGGARD

Considering the hobbled and hurting landscape that is the top of golf’s marquee these days, the early favorite going into the year’s first major championship next week at Augusta National will probably be the most prolific physical therapist, but among the ailing all-stars one name stands out.

Jason Day, who withdrew from this month’s WGC-Cadillac Championship and Arnold Palmer Invitational with a thumb injury, may not have a ton of history at the Georgia gem, but what he does have is impressive.

The Australian finished tied with Adam Scott, two strokes behind eventual champion Charl Schwartzel, in second place in his first trip down Magnolia Lane in 2011, and last year he finished two shots out of the playoff after he bogeyed two of his final three holes.

Day’s worst showing came in 2012 when he withdrew with another injury, which may be his biggest concern heading into this year’s Masters. But following his victory earlier this season at the WGC-Accenture Match Play that ailment may be the only thing standing between himself and Australia’s second green jacket.

Few of the Masters’ favorites can say they are at 100 percent, which makes Day an easy early favorite regardless of his ailing thumb.