Three out of the last four Masters Tournaments have been won by international players, which means that outside of Phil Mickelson winning his third Green Jacket in 2011, American golf fans have not had a whole lot to cheer for on the greens of Augusta. Will 2012 see another international star dominate Augusta, or will the U.S. take back control of the tournament? At least five top American golfers intend to have something to do with the answer.
Zach Johnson did not have a good 2011, nor did he have a particularly good 2010. Nonetheless, Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, does have a tendency to show up for big events. Although he will not be considered an odds-on favorite for the tournament, he may surprise a lot of people by being there on Sunday.
OVERALL OUTLOOK: Although he may be in the mix during the weekend, Johnson has not won a tournament in two years, meaning that another Masters Title probably will not be in the cards.
Keegan Bradley came out of nowhere to win the 2011 PGA Championship tournament. In doing so, he became just the third PGA rookie to win his Majors debut, after Ben Curtis and Francis Ouimet. This will be Bradley’s first Masters Tournament, which typically means a lot of nerves and a high score; but then, playing at the PGA for the first time did not seem to faze him.
OVERALL OUTLOOK: Bradley is a dark horse to keep an eye out for on the weekend. If he has a good showing on Thursday, he could easily become a surprise contender.
Unless you are a major golf fan, you probably do not know who Kyle Stanley is. However, you may want to note his name now; he is coming into his first Master's Tournament riding a solid 2012 so far with a victory in Phoenix and a playoff loss in San Diego.
OVERALL OUTLOOK: Stanley is another newcomer that could potentially make a splash early in the week.
Some golf stars just seem to play better than usual in certain events. For Phil Mickelson, the one tournament that he always seems to shine in is the Masters. In 2010, Mickelson was able to beat the field for his third green jacket, despite the fact that he did not win a title the rest of the year. The last two seasons have been rather lean for “Lefty,” but you can expect him to put his best on display at Augusta.
OVERALL OUTLOOK: If an American hoists the trophy this year, it is certainly possible that it could be Mickelson; he has beaten the odds before. With that said, most golf analysts do not expect the trophy to go to an American.
What, you thought Tiger Woods would be left off the list? Yes, he is hurt, and yes, the evidence has mounted that he is a former shell of himself. But even so, when Tiger Woods plays the Masters, anything can happen.
He has shown flashes of his former brilliance on the course over the last few months, and he always plays well at Augusta — just look at 2011. You can make a completely logical case that Woods should not make the cut at Augusta; you can also make a completely logical case that he could win the whole thing.
OVERALL OUTLOOK: You will know by the end of Thursday whether Woods will be a serious threat. He always plays his best golf here on Saturday and Sunday so if he is in play after the cut, take notice.
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