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Tiger Woods is the 3-to-1 favorite to pick up his fifth green jacket this week at Augusta National. Woods has already won three times in five PGA Tour starts this season. But he hasn't won the Masters since 2005 and hasn't won a major since the '08 U.S. Open. Here are three players who could steal the show.
Best finish: Won in 2004, '06,'10
Despite his recent dominance, Woods does not deserve to be the Masters favorite. Not as long as Phil Mickelson is still going strong. Over the last decade Lefty has supplanted Tiger as the king of Augusta, winning three green jackets to Woods's one. The waning of Woods's dominance coincides with Augusta National's "Tiger-proofing." On a longer, tighter, more penal test, Tiger's wild driving has become ever more costly, and even as he has piled up wins lately, he remains visibly uncomfortable playing a draw with his driver, which is a necessity on Augusta's 2nd, 5th, 9th, 10th and 13th. On those crucial holes Mickelson has the luxury of playing a more reliable, low-risk fade. (It's not an accident that lefties have won five of the last 10 Masters.) As Woods has entered his mid-30s, he has increasingly looked spooked on Augusta's greens. Mickelson, 42, putts them like a carefree kid. Because of his desire to spend time with his family and build a business empire, and perhaps because of the effects of his psoriatic arthritis, Mickelson will never again be a weekly force on Tour. But when he is inspired he can still be deadly. And no tournament inspires Mickelson like the Masters.
Best finish: Second in 2012
Why Oosty? Everybody gets tight down the stretch, and there's Oosthuizen, making a swing that doesn't ever seem to go bad, without a care in the world. (The swing, the way he keeps his arms and body connected, reminds me of Ian Woosnam, the 1991 winner.) He's under the radar (that's good at any major), he has been there before (Tiger will tell you how helpful that is)—and he just doesn't care, or at least not too much (that's the most helpful thing of all). Plus, guys who win the British Open at St. Andrews, as Oosthuizen did in 2010 when he romped by seven, tend to become legendary figures in the game. Oosty's not there yet, but give him time. He hits it long enough to easily reach three of the par-5s—numbers 2, 13 and 15—in two, so he's playing a par-69 course. Around the greens Oosty hits his chip shots low and long, which is the ideal way to handle those supertight Augusta National lies (RIP, Seve). He's a no-fuss putter who's not going to freeze over a tricky one. Oosthuizen is 30, is built like Hogan and has a swing from God. What's not to like?