The Boston Globe’s golf writer, Michael Whitmer, breaks down who he thinks the top contenders are at this year’ Masters:
Age: 26. World ranking: 11
Masters starts/cuts made: 1/1
Best finish: T27 (2012)
Might win because: Augusta National seems to be the perfect course for Bradley, who has the length and touch around the greens to play well here. Experience helps, too (a first-timer last won in 1979), so Bradley’s decent debut last year might pay off this year. He also has played really good golf lately, stringing together four straight top-10 finishes: T4 at Honda, seventh at Doral, T3 at Bay Hill, and T10 in Houston.
Age: 42. World ranking: 9
Masters starts/cuts made: 20/19
Best finish: Win (2004, 2006, 2010)
Might win because: No matter how Mickelson has been playing in the run-up to the Masters, he always seems to play well at Augusta National. He has 14 top-10 finishes in 20 starts, 10 in the top five. Since 1999, his three worst finishes came in the years after he won: T10 in 2005, T24 in 2007, and T27 in 2011. The other finishes, starting with ’99: 6, 7, 3, 3, 3, 1, 1, 5, 5, 1, 3. Mickelson didn’t win last year, so beware.
Age: 32. World ranking: 3
Masters starts/cuts made: 7/7
Best finish: T5 (2007)
Might win because: He finally seems to have figured out Augusta National, shooting par or better in his last seven rounds, including 68 each of the last two final rounds. He has always done well at the Masters, with a T39 in his 2003 debut his worst finish in seven starts. Was T8 last year, and despite a limited schedule, has played well on the PGA Tour this year: In three starts, has finished T4 (Honda), T8 (Doral), and second (Bay Hill).
Age: 37. World ranking: 1
Masters starts/cuts made: 18/17
Best finish: Win (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005)
Might win because: He has won here four times, he has won on the PGA Tour this year three times, and he is ranked No. 1 in the world again. Add it up, and he’s the heavy favorite to break a tie with Arnold Palmer and win his fifth green jacket, which would leave him one behind the record of six held by Jack Nicklaus. But Woods hasn’t won the Masters since 2005, his longest drought between wins. Don’t be surprised if he ends that emphatically.
AND THE WINNER WILL BE
Age: 34. World ranking: 10
Mastersstarts/cuts made: 6/5
Best finish: T3 (2012)
Will win because: The last two Masters winners have been first-time major champions, so Kuchar fits the mold. He’s a Georgia guy — Georgia Tech graduate, Sea Island resident — and he has always had an affection for the Masters, ever since he charmed his way to a T21 as a 19-year-old amateur in 1998. His best finish since then was last year’s T3, when he was two shots out of the Bubba Watson-Louis Oosthuizen playoff. Looks ready.