Thursday, April 8, 2010

2010 Masters Preview

The most magical of golf's four majors gets underway on Thursday when PGA Tour pros tee it up at Augusta National for the 2010 Masters.

The story of the week, without question, is the return of the world's top player, Tiger Woods, who hasn't played in 144 days while dealing with a sex scandal that rocked the golf world. Woods is sure to be rusty upon returning to the tour, but he is perhaps the greatest player ever, and even when he doesn't have his "A"-game, Woods could still make some noise.

Here's a look at the top 10 contenders to win this season's first major, and the coveted green jacket.

1. Tiger Woods - Never count him out. He's won here four times, although none since 2005. If he's in the hunt on the weekend, nearly everyone will be watching.

2. Ernie Els - The South African has won twice already this season, and appears to be back on top of his game. The Big Easy has played well before at Augusta, and seeing him near the top of the leaderboard this week will not be a surprise.

3. Phil Mickelson - The 2004 and 2006 Masters champion, Mickelson has been plagued this season by bad rounds. One awful round has taken him out of contention in two of his last three outings. But Lefty loves this course, because he can be agressive with his driver and let his short game make up for any mistakes.

4. Padraig Harrington - Many seem to forget about Harrington, who has won three majors in his career. Harrington has been playing well lately, and he's a clutch player who, if in contention on Sunday, has shown that he can close the deal.

5. Retief Goosen - Like his fellow countryman Els, Goosen has also been resurgent this season. He has made six cuts in seven events, and has five top 10s. The former U.S. Open champ should be in the mix this week.

6. Lee Westwood - Westwood has played well lately in majors, finishing third in last season's British Open and PGA. He's off to a fast start this year as well, and has played well at Augusta in the past.

7. Jim Furyk - After winning earlier this season, Furyk has proven he's got his game back. He certainly knows the Augusta National layout, and has finished in the top 35 there for five straight years.

8. Mike Weir - The Canadian lefty won at Augusta in 2003, and he's off to a great start in 2010. It would not be a surprise to see him in contention on Sunday.

9. Chad Campbell - The Texan was a part of the three-man playoff last year, but was eliminated on the first hole by eventual winner Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry. Campbell has played well thus far in 2010, and could be back near the leaders in this event.

10. Steve Stricker - At the end of last season, Stricker was one of the best players on the tour. He's continued that momentum this year, although he didn't play well at Bay Hill. Stricker has a ton of experience, although he's never won a major.

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