Ranking Masters field, top to bottom
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- I could use this space to pontificate about what it takes to contend at the Masters Tournament, theorizing about what type of players will find the most success and touting the attributes of potential champions.
I could do all of that ... but I have a feeling you've already scrolled down to see where I've ranked Tiger Woods.
Hey, that's OK. I probably would have done the same thing if I were in your spikes.
Well, now that you've gotten a sneak peek, might as well check out my entire ranking of this year's Masters field. And for those who haven't scrolled, well, you won't need to go too far to find Tiger's name -- but it's below a few other worthy competitors on this list.
|1. Padraig Harrington||
The three-time major champion obviously has what it takes to make clutch putts down the stretch. He's playing well with a pair of top-10s in the past month and he has fared well at Augusta recently, with two finishes of seventh or better in the last three years.
Sure, his final-round 77 in Houston -- which included two doubles and four bogeys -- might have sent up a red flag, but Paddy has never been on top of his game prior to winning a major. Besides, would anyone else in the field look better in green?
|T-5, 2008, 2002|
|2. Retief Goosen||
The Goose is back. From 2002-07, he finished in the Masters top three on four different occasions; at 41, he is now on top of his game once again, with two fourth-place results and two fifths already this season.
The two-time U.S. Open champion is renowned as one of the world's best fast-greens putters -- and yes, the surfaces at Augusta are a little quick.
|2nd, 2007, 2002|
|3. Jim Furyk||
You may not remember it, since the tournament's conclusion coincided with the airing of Woods' first interviews of the year, but Furyk won for the first time since 2007 at last month's Transitions Championship.
He's never seriously contended at Augusta, but still owns a stellar record, with only one missed cut in 14 appearances and no other finishes of worse than 33rd.
|4th, 2003, 1998|
|4. Phil Mickelson||
Listen to Lefty and you'll hear a man who's confident despite his results. The two-time Masters champion is a notoriously fast starter, but hasn't finished better than eighth in any of his seven tournaments so far this season.
Even so, he maintains that his game is coming together, a statement that was evidenced on the back nine in Houston on Sunday, where he rattled off six straight birdies.
|Win, 2006, 2004|
|5. Lucas Glover||
The reigning U.S. Open champion hasn't competed at Augusta since 2007, but finished in a share of 20th that year. He's a much more improved, mature player now and should thrive in this atmosphere.
His game hasn't looked great lately, but remember: He wasn't very successful in his last few events prior to winning at Bethpage, either.
|6. Tiger Woods||
While most observers believe it will be mindset and focus that could derail Woods in his bid for a fifth career green jacket, expect something more tangible to act as the biggest factor.
Since winning his last Masters title in 2005, Tiger has struggled with the flatstick here, though he's remained in the top six during each of the last four editions of the tournament. Don't be surprised if he finds a similar fate this time around, too.
|Win, 2005, 2002, 2001, 1997|
|7. Lee Westwood||
There's no doubt this top-5 player has the talent to win a major someday, but you've got to question his chops while under fire; he's missed final-hole putts to reach a playoff on two separate occasions in the past two years.
Westy appears on his game entering this week, though, coming off a T-8 finish in Houston -- his second top-10 in his last three U.S. starts.
|8. Mike Weir||
The bad news for the 2003 Masters champion: If it rains, this might be too much course for him to contend. The good news: It's not supposed to rain, other than a possible quick thunderstorm on Thursday.
Weir maintains that his game is on the brink of a breakthrough and he always plays well at tough events, so this could be another big week for him.
|9. Ernie Els||
Many believe that the Big Easy -- who is the PGA Tour's only multiple winner so far this season -- should be enlisted as the favorite entering this event, but he's got plenty of demons at Augusta National.
Once believed to be a lock to someday shoulder a green jacket, Els' recent Masters results look like a McDonald's drive-thru order: MC-MC-MC.
|2nd, 2004, 2000|
|10. Jason Dufner||
Hey, we all know the entire leaderboard won't be comprised of superstars. Somebody has to be a dark-horse selection, so the pick here is Dufner, who is quickly earning a rep as one of the better iron players in the game.
With so much emphasis on second shots at this course, the first-timer could surprise some folks. After all, someone's gotta do it, right?
|11. Steve Stricker||In his first major as the world's second-ranked player, he will try to eschew the label of being the best current pro without a major title.||T-6, 2009|
|12. Camilo Villegas||Makes enough birdies to climb the leaderboard in a hurry, but he will need to avoid the big numbers in order to seriously contend.||T-13, 2009|
|13. Nick Watney||Gotta like a guy who hits it not only deep but also high. Two top-20 results in two Masters starts bodes well for his chances this week, too.||T-11, 2008|
|14. Charl Schwartzel||Hottest player in the world this year? You can make a case for Els, but Schwartzel is at least in the discussion, with two Euro Tour wins and two other top-three finishes in the U.S.||(First Masters)|
|15. Paul Casey||Confession time: Casey was a top-fiver on this list prior to sleeping wrong on his left shoulder, which forced him to WD from Houston last week.||T-6, 2004|
|16. Matt Kuchar||It's been a dozen years since Kuchar finished T-21 as an amateur and eight since he last played here, but those good vibes could come back in a hurry.||T-21, 1998|
|17. Graeme McDowell||You read it here first: His initial PGA Tour win could come at a major championship, as his best golf often comes under tougher conditions.||T-17, 2009|
|18. Steve Marino||Hasn't shot an over-par score in his last nine PGA Tour rounds. As far as Masters rookies go, he is a solid dark-horse candidate.||(First Masters)|
|19. Hunter Mahan||In finishing T-10 last year, Mahan was in the top 15 in driving accuracy, greens in regulation and putts per round.||T-10, 2009|
|20. Angel Cabrera||Has there ever been a less heralded Masters champion? He's bidding to become the first back-to-back winner since Woods in 2001-02.||Win, 2009|
|21. Stewart Cink||Now that the reigning Open champion has proved he can win a major, perhaps the floodgates will open; he's been close here before.||T-3, 2008|
|22. Dustin Johnson||His name is often mentioned as a sleeper, but as a three-time PGA Tour champion at age 25, he can't hide anymore.||T-30, 2009|
|23. K.J. Choi||After an atypical down year in 2009, Choi has bounced back in a big way so far, finishing in the top 40 in all seven appearances this season, including a solo second at the Transitions Championship three weeks ago.||3rd, 2004|
|24. Edoardo Molinari||Earned his first top-10 in the U.S. two weeks ago, tying for second place at Bay Hill after rounds of 70-70-70-69.||MC, 2006|
|25. Sean O'Hair||Two straight finishes of 14th or better at Augusta should give him confidence, but he hasn't pulled a top-10 since the season opener in Kapalua.||T-10, 2009|
|26. Alvaro Quiros||If a long-drive contest breaks out on the course, this guy will blow away the field. When his short game gets a little better, watch out.||MC, 2009|
|27. Geoff Ogilvy||When he's good, he's as good as anyone; when he's not, though, he looks terrifically ordinary, making more mistakes than any top player should.||T-15, 2009|
|28. a-Matteo Manassero||This 16-year-old from Italy will turn pro after the Masters. His last start as an amateur could very well be a memorable one.||(First Masters)|
|29. Anthony Kim||Sure, he's coming off his third career victory at the Houston Open, but impending thumb surgery might prevent him from seriously contending once again.||T-20, 2009|
|30. Ricky Barnes||His lone previous Masters start was a 21st-place result as an amateur in 2003, but last year's U.S. Open co-runner-up is a much different -- and better -- player right now.||21st, 2003|
|31. Ben Crane||Is there another player in the field who could win the green jacket on Sunday afternoon and not know it until after making the winning putt? That was the case for Crane at Torrey Pines earlier this year.||MC, Twice|
|32. Robert Allenby||It has often been said that Augusta is a second-shot golf course and this Aussie is one of the purest strikers of the ball.||T-22, 2006|
|33. Fred Couples||Fast becoming a popular pick due to his early dismantling of the Champions Tour, but let's remember: This isn't a 54-hole event with the geezers.||Win, 1992|
|34. Luke Donald||Once thought to be a potential multiple major champion, he's slipped through the cracks a bit, but still owns plenty of game.||T-3, 2005|
|35. Ross Fisher||No one collectively played better at the four biggies last year, though he did suffer a meltdown early in the final round at Turnberry.||T-30, 2009|
|36. Trevor Immelman||If Cabrera is the most uncelebrated champion in recent history, Immelman -- who won in 2008 -- might be second, but he was nothing short of dominant that week.||Win, 2008|
|37. Ian Poulter||Expect to see plenty of Poults in the short grass, as he's never finished worse than 13th in driving accuracy in five starts at Augusta, and led the field with an 89.3 percent mark last year.||T-13, 2007|
|38. Adam Scott||One-time phenom finally showed signs of life last week, posting four rounds of par or better with a T-14 in Houston. Baby steps ...||T-9, 2002|
|39. Steve Flesch||Trivia question: Which three players have finished in the top 10 in each of the last two editions of the Masters? Answer: Woods, Mickelson ... and Flesch.||T-5, 2008|
|40. Jerry Kelly||Has been working diligently for weeks on not only hitting his iron shots higher, but his short chips shots, as well.||T-5, 2007|
|41. Robert Karlsson||Healed from the eye problem that persisted throughout last season, the Scientist proved he's all the way back with a recent win in Qatar.||T-9, 2008|
|42. Marc Leishman||How is last year's PGA Tour ROY in the field? He reached last year's Tour Championship on the strength of a pair of strong late finishes. Hey, it's all about timing, right?||(First Masters)|
|43. Tim Clark||He was solo second when Mickelson won in 2006 and owns three career finishes in the unlucky -- or is it lucky? -- 13th-place spot on the leaderboard.||T-2, 2006|
|44. Francesco Molinari||Seeking bragging rights over brother Edoardo, as they form the first sibling tandem at Augusta since the Ozakis a decade ago.||(First Masters)|
|45. Shingo Katayama||The 26-time Japan Tour winner was fourth in last year's Masters, thanks to his grind-it-out brand of fairways-and-greens golf.||4th, 2009|
|46. Rory Sabbatini||Came oh-so-close with a T-2 finish three years ago, but has looked ordinary this year after starting the season with a runner-up at Kapalua.||T-2, 2007|
|47. Henrik Stenson||Inconsistency, thy name is Henrik. Two weeks ago, he was a stroke off the lead after an opening 67 at Bay Hill, then nearly missed the cut with a 78 one day later.||T-17, 2008, 2007|
|48. Ben Curtis||Simply put, he's one of the most unpredictable players in the game, consistently lulling prognosticators to sleep before contending for a title.||T-39, 2006|
|49. Sergio Garcia||It's getting a bit lonely on the El Nino bandwagon. The smart money here says he will still win a handful of majors, but that run doesn't start this week in Augusta.||T-4, 2004|
|50. Soren Hansen||If they ever move the Masters to another country, watch out. He hasn't finished outside the top 20 in a half-dozen international events so far this season.||MC, twice|
|51. Louis Oosthuizen||One of the last men to receive an invitation, the South African qualified via his win in Andalucia, Spain, which was preceded by a T-2 in Morocco one week earlier.||MC, 2009|
|52. Miguel Angel Jimenez||Is he The Most Interesting Man in the World? The fast-driving, cigar-smoking, long-haired guy nicknamed Mechanic sure fits the role. His win in Dubai earlier this year was pretty interesting, too.||T-8, 2008|
|53. Zach Johnson||His victory three years ago set a blueprint for the shorter hitters in the field, as the so-called Zach Attack strategy showed him laying up on each of the par-5 holes every day.||Win, 2007|
|54. John Merrick||Round of the day in last year's final round? That would be Merrick's, as he shot 6-under 66 to vault from 22nd place to a share of sixth in his first Masters start.||T-6, 2009|
|55. Rory McIlroy||Exciting? Yes. Talented? Absolutely. So why is this youngster so low on the list? Well, tough to have much confidence in a 20-year-old with an ongoing back problem.||T-20, 2009|
|56. Martin Kaymer||Coming off a foot injury and still needing more surgery, he obviously hasn't been affected too much, as evidenced by his win in Abu Dhabi earlier this season.||MC, twice|
|57. John Senden||Annually one of the top iron players on the PGA Tour, the Aussie shot 80-71 in his only previous Masters appearance two years ago.||MC, 2008|
|58. Oliver Wilson||No Charles Howell III or Vaughn Taylor? No problem. It's homecoming week for this England native, who played his collegiate golf at nearby Augusta State.||MC, 2009|
|59. Chris Wood||With two top-5s in the last two Open Championships, he could force plenty of double-takes with the headline: "Wood's in contention at the Masters."||(First Masters)|
|60. Justin Leonard||In 14 career Masters appearances, he's made the cut 11 times and finished third or better in driving accuracy on five of those occasions.||T-7, 1997|
|61. Ryan Moore||Twice made the cut here as an amateur, including a T-13 result in 2005; this will be his first appearance since turning professional.||T-13, 2005|
|62. Kevin Na||If slow and steady wins the race, keep an eye on Na, who is quickly -- or is it slowly? -- becoming known as the slowest player on the PGA Tour.||(First Masters)|
|63. Kenny Perry||Here's guessing he will have some very fond memories when he gets to the 16th hole this week ... and some very bitter ones when he plays the next two.||T-2, 2009|
|64. Scott Verplank||Missed the cut in his first six Masters starts, made the cut in his next six, then either broke the string or started a new one by MCing again last year.||T-8, 2003|
|65. Heath Slocum||Proved he could hang with the big boys at last year's Barclays tournament, where he topped a stellar leaderboard en route to the title.||T-33, 2008|
|66. Y.E. Yang||Back when he defeated Woods at the PGA Championship, it was the most shocking development of Tiger's career. Seems like a long time ago now, doesn't it?||T-30, 2007|
|67. Bill Haas||Bob Hope Classic champion said he would try to glean info from dad Jay, who had five top-10 results in 22 starts at Augusta.||(First Masters)|
|68. Ryo Ishikawa||All eyes may be on Woods this week, but there's no doubt who will be the second-most photographed player in the field, as the 18-year-old is a superstar in his native Japan.||MC, 2009|
|69. Thongchai Jaidee||In six starts on the European Tour this season, he owns three finishes of seventh or better, including T-5 at the co-sanctioned WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.||MC, 2006|
|70. a-Ben Martin||You can't step onto a PGA Tour driving range without running into a Clemson Tiger, and the U.S. Amateur runner-up is yet another one, the only collegiate player in the field.||(First Masters)|
|71. John Rollins||In a dozen rounds over four Masters appearances, he's broken par only twice, and each of those were scores of 1-under 71.||T-20, 2007|
|72. David Toms||This might be his final start before going in for surgery to repair a bone spur in his rotator cuff that has hindered his swing for a while.||T-6, 1998|
|73. Nathan Green||Aussie is making his Masters debut this year, thanks to his first PGA Tour title -- a playoff victory over Goosen at the Canadian Open.||(First Masters)|
|74. Chad Campbell||Talk about some distractions for last year's co-runner-up: In the past two weeks, his wife had a baby and they adopted another one.||T-2, 2009|
|75. David Duval||Strange-but-true stat: In his last 131 tourney starts (dating back to 2002), he owns a pair of runner-up finishes ... and not a single other top-10.||2nd, 2001, 1998|
|76. Simon Dyson||In a half-dozen combined starts on the PGA and Euro tours this year, he hasn't missed a cut. But he hasn't finished better than 28th, either.||(First Masters)|
|77. Brian Gay||Playing in his first Masters at age 38 after winning three PGA Tour titles in the past two years, including last year's post-Augusta event at Harbour Town by a record 10 strokes.||(First Masters)|
|78. a-Byeong-Hun An||At 17, became the youngest U.S. Amateur winner in the 109-year history of the event last year; will attend Cal-Berkeley in the fall.||(First Masters)|
|79. Todd Hamilton||His five-year exemption for winning the 2004 Open Championship expired a year ago, but he earned his way back here thanks to a T-15 finish in 2009.||T-36, 2008|
|80. Soren Kjeldsen||Mired in an unimpressive season before posting four sub-70 rounds at the Open de Andalucia two weeks ago.||MC, 2009|
|81. Anders Hansen||Shot 80-75 in his lone Masters appearance two years ago, needing a total of 65 putts while failing to make the cut.||MC, 2008|
|82. Vijay Singh||Former champion has been sidelined due to a back injury that has forced him to WD from each of his last three starts.||Win, 2000|
|83. Ryan Palmer||He's no relation to The King, but it would be pretty cool to see the name "Palmer" on a Masters leaderboard once again.||T-39, 2005|
|84. Yuta Ikeda||The best player you've never heard about? It may be Ikeda, a four-time winner on the Japan Tour last year who is currently ranked 40th in the world.||(First Masters)|
|85. Bernhard Langer||The two-time Masters champion has MC'd in each of the last four editions of the tournament, but isn't so far removed from a T-4 in 2004 and a T-20 in '05.||Win, 1993, 1985|
|86. Tom Watson||Sure, a reprise of his dream week at Turnberry would be fun, but don't hold your breath, as Watson has called the "new" Augusta too much golf course for him to handle.||Win, 1981, 1977|
|87. a-Nathan Smith||One thing you can be sure of: The reigning Mid-Am champion is the only investment adviser from Pittsburgh in this week's field.||MC, 2004|
|88. Mark O'Meara||It may not have been nerves, but his first tee shot while playing a Sunday practice round with Woods was a dead pull-hook into the trees on No. 10.||Win, 1998|
|89. Larry Mize||There are few better stories in Masters history than the Augusta native's playoff win in 1987, and his opening-round 5-under 67 last year helped rekindle the memories.||Win, 1987|
|90. Craig Stadler||The 1982 champion made the cut in 21 of 33 career starts here, including four of the last eight years.||Win, 1982|
|91. a-Brad Benjamin||Ex-University of Memphis player was last year's U.S. PubLinks winner; says he's played Augusta "nine or 10 times" since December.||(First Masters)|
|92. Sandy Lyle||Don't count him out just yet. Lyle has made the cut in each of the last three editions of this tournament, including an improbably impressive T-20 last year.||Win, 1988|
|93. a-Han Chang-won||Last year, Augusta National helped start the Asian Amateur Championship, with the winner receiving a Masters invitation. Han is the first recipient of such a perk.||(First Masters)|
|94. Michael Campbell||Is this Cambo's last stand? Playing on the final year of his five-year exemption for winning the 2005 U.S. Open, he has clearly lost his game along the way.||MC, 9 times|
|95. Ben Crenshaw||No, he won't contend -- or even make the cut -- but you know Gentle Ben will relive the glory days by rolling in a few 30-footers during the first two rounds.||Win, 1995, 1984|
|96. Ian Woosnam||The 1991 winner actually made the cut two years ago at age 50, but hasn't finished better than 44th in a pair of Champions Tour starts this season.||Win, 1991|
Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
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Most of the bounces seemed to go Phil Mickelson's way Sunday at Augusta. None was better than seeing wife Amy greenside as he captured his third Masters title. Rick ReillyThe Masters
Date: Apr. 8-11, 2010
2010 champion: Phil Mickleson
Course: Augusta National Golf Club
Where: Augusta, Ga.
Yardage, par: 7,435 yards, par-72