The Masters: Favorites and dark horses to watch

2016 Masters Dark Horses
2016 Masters Dark Horses

The Masters Tournament — the first of golf's four annual majors — is finally here, culminating months of anticipation. As the event gets underway, here are some favorites and dark horses to watch:


Jason Day - What can you say about this guy? Everyone thought once he won his first major, the floodgates would open and, boy, have they ever. He's got a great swing, crushes the ball, very stoic on the course, and absolutely rolls the eyes out of it. He has done very well at Augusta in the past and there's no reason to think that he cannot win it this year.

Jordan Speith - His form is not good, he has struggled a little, he has too much going on outside of golf - blah blah blah blah. I would never bet against this kid. He almost took down every major in 2015, and he has steely nerves and he possessed the greatest putting display ever on these famous greens at Augusta last year. He will be in the conversation Sunday.

Rory McIlroy - I really like him this week, but my one fear with him is that he wants it too much, and sometimes that can affect play. Everything he has done the last six months was to get ready to peek for this week.

Bubba Watson - At 10-1 I think this is a no-brainer bet. Bubba's one knock is putting, but with his scary length, and the way he can work the ball, he can overpower the course.

Adam Scott - Very interesting that he has won 2 of his last 3 starts with David Clark on the bag, and he has opted for the legendary Steve Williams this week. Adam won his green jacket in a playoff over the aforementioned Cabrera with Steve on the bag, and he has had some of his best years of his career with Steve under the straps.

Ricky Fowler - Very, very quietly having a good year. I am not sure if he is ready to take the next step yet, but this is a guy I 100 percent plan on watching in practice rounds.

Dustin Johnson - Man, I still cringe when i think of that finish at Chambers Bay. That is the knock on DJ -- he cannot close it out. But the guy is so talented and, like Bubba, can overpower the golf course. I think at 20-1 you have to have something on him.

Under the Radar:

Phil Mickelson - I do not think Phil can ever be under the radar, and if he makes a charge on the weekend the crowd here is going to absolutely lose it. I think you have to have him in the mix. Right now he is the sixth favorite behind only Day, Spieth, Rory, Bubba, and Adam, so that should tell you something right there. Phil has three jackets and he always plays personal games with himself to get motivated. Do not think it is lost on him that only four players in modern time have won a major after their 45th birthday.

Henrik Stenson - The runner-up to Herman last week, he could be a sneaky pick, and again coming in this week a little stealthy.

Louis Oosthuzien - For a little guy, he crushes it. He has a very striking iron game and is a magician around the greens. He plays the majors very well, has a great track record here and seems to always rise to the top when the most is on the line.

Charl Schwartzel - I have to put the 2 Old Palm guys back to back as both Charl and Louis live there. He has fallen off the map since he won his Masters, but his game is finally starting to take shape. He had a top 10 in the US Open last year -- and got back in the winners circle at The Valspar in Tampa earlier this year. His odds are long, but you can never count out former Masters Champs in good form.

Justin Rose - Like I mentioned with Jason Day, I thought when Rose broke through at Oakmont the floodgates would open. Not that he has been a disappointment because he has had a very solid career and year, but I am waiting for him to pop up and make some noise. I know he works very hard on his game and I like the fact that he played sparingly leading up to this week so he can be at his freshest.

Zach Johnson - A former Masters champ, Johnson won his second major at St. Andrews last year. He finished Top 10 here last year and always plays the par 5's very well at Augusta in spite of his lack of length off the tee.

Patrick Reed - No one impressed me more with bravado than this guy at the 2014 Ryder Cup. He followed that up with a couple of wins early in the 2015 campaign and has already had three top 10's this year, very quietly. He is flat-out not going to let anyone or any place intimidate him. A good recipe for success at Augusta.

Sergio Garcia - I say every year the guy is going to get off the schneid in a major and it never happens. He has the a talent, the ability and the experience to do it, but can he stay out of his own way? More than likely not.

A couple of other things I want to add ...

I did not know this until I saw it on Instagram, but this is the first time in 12 years where Luke Donald has not been in the field.

On the flip side, this is the first Masters for Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III since 2011. The win in Greensboro at the Wyndham earned him a spot in this weeks field.

One of the saddest news events of the week was hearing that Arnold Palmer will not hit that first shot on Thursday morning alongside Nicklaus and Player due to some problems in his shoulders. I can tell you right now this sport would be nothing without what he has done for the game.

Speaking of champions, this will be Tom Watson's last Masters. He is one of the few guys in recent memory who has announced that this will be his last Masters and has a chance to make the cut. The man is timeless. The three-time champion will get a well deserved goodbye from the patrons, hopefully on Sunday.

By: Raymond Floyd Jr.

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