Here are five players to watch during this weekend’s tournament in Augusta, Ga.
Age: 24. World ranking: 9
Masters starts/cuts made: 5/4
Best finish: T15 (2011)
Might win because: Sunday’s 65 at the Shell Houston Open was McIlroy’s first sub-70 tour score since March 1, and could serve as a springboard this week. Maybe a return to Augusta National will help, as well. He came close to winning three years ago before a final-round 80, but that was before he was a major champion. Now he has won two majors. Will need to keep big numbers off his card; last two third rounds here were 77 and 79.
Age: 43. World ranking: 5
Masters starts/cuts made: 21/20
Best finish: Win (2004, 2006, 2010)
Might win because: He is Phil Mickelson, and this is the Masters. While it’s not his birthright to contend every year (he tied for 54th last year), Mickelson has been in the top five in 10 of his 21 Masters appearances. If you’re into trends and numbers, this is an even-numbered year, and Mickelson has challenged almost every time that’s the case: wins in 2004, 2006, and 2010, a tie for fifth in 2008, and a tie for third two years ago. Watch out.
Age: 40. World ranking: 37
Masters starts/cuts made: 14/11
Best finish: 2d (2008)
Might win because: This pick has everything to do with Westwood’s track record at the Masters, and not his recent form. He tied for 17th last week in Houston, which is his best finish of the season. But he hasn’t been worse than 11th in the last four Masters, and was second in 2008, tied for third in 2012, and tied for eighth last year. Westwood was ranked No. 1 in the world at the end of 2010, and was No. 2 a year later. Now he’s 37th.
Age: 33. World ranking: 19
Masters starts/cuts made: 6/5
Best finish: T3 (2008)
Might win because: Had his best finish of the season in his most recent start, a tie for eighth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational three weeks ago. But he has scuffled this year, hurt most by a balky putter, which has long been Snedeker’s strength. He is 77th in strokes gained putting this season; he led that tour category two years ago, and was fourth last year. Snedeker took the lead into the final round here last year, then shot 75.
The winner: Adam Scott
Age: 33. World ranking: 2
Masters starts/cuts made: 12/10
Best finish: Win (2013)
Will win because: He has conquered Augusta National before, and knows he can do it again. He won the Masters last year because he led the field in greens in regulation (76 percent), three-putted just twice, and used his experience from close calls in previous majors to his advantage in bagging his first. He’ll have a tough task this week: Only three players have won back-to-back Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo, and Tiger Woods.