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Commentary: Like old times, The Masters is Tiger Woods v. the field

Courtesy of MCT

One of the most exciting tournaments in golf is finally here.
The top players in the world will stroll down Magnolia Lane to tee it up at the legendary Augusta National Golf Course for The Masters, the first of four annual major championships on the Professional Golfers Association Tour.
The 93-player field will feature top players, past champions and even the youngest competitor in Masters’ history: 14-year-old Tianlang Guan from China, who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in November to punch his ticket to Augusta, Ga. (I couldn’t imagine doing anything of this magnitude at age 14).
This year’s edition features a common theme from past Masters tournaments: Tiger Woods versus the rest of the field. With three wins in five starts on the 2013 PGA Tour, and regaining the No. 1 ranking in the world after a whirlwind three years, I think Woods is a shoe-in to win for the fifth time at Augusta National.
Woods is definitely my favorite to win the Masters, but here are my top-10 players who can also win the green jacket:

1. Brandt Snedeker: If there is anyone in the world who is as hot as Woods, it’s the 32-year-old from Nashville. The winner of the season-long race for last year’s FedEx Cup, Snedeker carried that momentum into 2013, posting a win and four top-three finishes in just seven starts so far on the PGA Tour.
2. Matt Kuchar: After finishing T-3 in last year’s Masters, and picking up a win earlier this year at the World Golf Championship Accenture Match Play Championship, Kuchar’s consistency over the last three years with 21 top-10 finishes makes him a key player to look for this year.
3. Justin Rose: The Englishman hasn’t finished worse than T-17 in eight events on the PGA and European tours this season. Expect him to be in the mix late afternoon on Sunday.
4. Rory McIlroy: The 23-year-old Northern Irishman has had an eventful year so far, highlighted by the switch to Nike golf clubs and inconsistent play so far. But last week’s second-place finish at the Valero Texas Open gave him the confidence he needed to try to win his third major championship.
5. Dustin Johnson: The big-hitting American’s power of the tee will be crucial to his success this week. Look for him to score some low numbers on the par-5s, and this could be the year for him to break through for his first major championship.
6. Phil Mickelson: A three-time Masters champion playing in his favorite event? You know Lefty is going to bring his A-game to Augusta this week.
7. Lee Westwood: His success in majors in astonishing, except for one stat: wins. Westwood has yet to win that first major, despite having eight top-10 finishes in the last 16 majors.
8. Bubba Watson: The emotional roller-coaster, and last year’s Masters’ champion, Watson knows what it takes to win at Augusta, especially with his incredible shot-shaping abilities.
9. Ian Poulter: The 37-year-old Englishman knows how to thrive on golf’s biggest stages. A Ryder Cup hero for the Europeans, Poulter will look to improve from his seventh place finish last year.
10. Keegan Bradley: Another big-hitting American, poised to add a second major championship to his impressive resume. When he won the 2011 PGA Championship as a rookie, everyone knew he could handle the pressure of a big-time tournament. 

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