Masters preview: Which players could take the green jacket?

We’re just hours away from the start of The Masters, and that means it’s time to start lining up your picks. Who’s going to take home a green jacket, a newcomer or an old vet? We’ll find out soon enough, but here are a few of your best bets right here. (Please use extreme caution if you’re betting based on this writeup.)

Rory McIlroy: Still haunted by ghosts of 2011, when he took a lead all the way into the back nine on Sunday afternoon and then detonated. He’s had opportunities since then — he always seems to back-door his way into a Top-10 finish after the leader’s pulled away — but when he imploded last year in a one-on-one duel with Patrick Reed, you started to wonder ... will he ever bring it home?

Dustin Johnson: Still haunted by ghosts of 2017, when he fell down the stairs at his rental house and had to withdraw from the whole damn tournament. Other than that, he’s placed in the top 10 the last three Masters he’s played, so he’s a fair bet to chase down a win.

Jordan Spieth: Still haunted by ghosts of 2016 — there are a lot of ghosts at Augusta, folks — when he threw his second green jacket into Rae’s Creek with a collapse on 12 on Sunday afternoon.

Tiger Woods: We went deep on the four-time Masters winner here, but short version: he won’t win, but he’ll be within sight of the lead on Sunday.

Phil Mickelson: Who knows? Phil rolls into every situation like he’s the most suave cat in the entire area code, even when he’s shooting 77s. He might be gone by the weekend, but if we’re lucky, we’ll hear how he lacerated Reed or Danny Willett at the Champions Dinner.

Patrick Reed: The defending champion is as tough as a three-dollar steak, but his game’s not quite as sharp as it was this time last year. He wasn’t exactly a popular champion, but they don’t give out green jackets just because you’re a nice guy.

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Patrick Reed wins the Masters
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Patrick Reed wins the Masters
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates during the green jacket ceremony after winning the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates after making par 18th green during the final round to win the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates with caddie Kessler Karain after making par 18th green during the final round to win the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates with caddie Kessler Karain after making par on the 18th green during the final round to win the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States is presented with the green jacket by Sergio Garcia of Spain during the green jacket ceremony after winning the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States is presented with the green jacket by Sergio Garcia of Spain during the green jacket ceremony after winning the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates with his wife Justine after making par 18th green during the final round to win the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates with his wife Justine after making par 18th green during the final round to win the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates with the trophy during the green jacket ceremony after winning the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates with his wife Justine after making par 18th green during the final round to win the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrons cheer as Patrick Reed of the United States and his wife Justine walk off the 18th green after his 15-under-par 71 during the final round to win the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates after making par on the 18th green during the final round to win the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed (R) of the United States waves after being presented with the green jacket by Sergio Garcia (L) of Spain after winning the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States acknowledges the crowd after making par 18th green during the final round to win the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States acknowledges the crowd after making par 18th green during the final round to win the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
AUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 08: Patrick Reed of the United States celebrates with the trophy during the green jacket ceremony after winning the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 8, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
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Justin Rose: The world no. 1 really ought to have more than one major by now. Had a chance to snag one two years ago, but Sergio Garcia snatched it away in sudden death. Rose’s game is ideal for Augusta, and he ought to be in one of the final Sunday pairings. (Spoiler: Rose is gonna win.)

Brooks Koepka: He’s got three majors already, which is kind of stunning, and he’s won two of the last three. Augusta doesn’t exactly suit his wrestle-the-course-to-the-ground style, but as he showed in facing down Woods last year at the PGA, Koepka has the mental stamina to handle what this course will throw at him.

Justin Thomas: When he’s on, he’s the best on the planet. But he’s never finished any higher than T17 at Augusta. He’s got time, and he’ll get a green jacket before he’s done.

Bubba Watson: Two-time green jacket winner, Waffle House aficionado. Always a threat at Augusta — placed T5 in The Masters last year and missed the cut in the other three majors.

Kevin Kisner: The recent Match Play champion is one of the best putters on Tour, a skill that’s in high demand at Augusta. Plus, he’s local, and there’s something that fits about a golfer who sounds like a NASCAR driver winning at Augusta.

Matt Kuchar: Has finished in the top 8 in four of the last seven Masters. After a dispute with a caddy over payment and a match-play kerfuffle with Garcia, he’s in desperate need of some good publicity ... the kind a green jacket would bring.

Tony Finau: Top-10 Tony dislocated his ankle last year and still managed, yes, a Top-10 finish. What’s he going to do on two healthy ankles?

There you have it, a baker’s dozen of potential picks. Make your choices, and we’ll see if any of these comes anywhere close to winning Sunday afternoon.

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