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Masters Tournament 2016: Who will win this year at Augusta?

By Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
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Masters Tournament 2016: Who will win this year at Augusta?
Jordan Spieth speaks to the media during a press conference before the 2016 Masters Tournament at Augusta National in Augusta, Georgia on April 5, 2016. Photo by Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

The great Peter Thomson, who captured the Open Championship five times, never won the Masters. Neither did Greg Norman, despite coming agonizingly close on several occasions.

In fact, Australia didn't lay claim to its first Green Jacket until Adam Scott outlasted Angel Cabrera of Argentina, the 2009 champion, in a playoff at Augusta National Golf Club in 2013.

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The oddsmakers believe Jason Day will make it two Aussie champions in four years when the first major of the season is played this week.

"It's one tournament that I've always wanted to win," said Day, who reclaimed the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Rankings from Jordan Spieth, the defending Masters champion, by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC-Dell Match Play last month. "The motivation and the want is there.

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"I can't get comfortable with how I'm playing right now, and I can't get lazy because I've got to understand that what I'm doing is working. I've got to keep working on the things that caused me to win (two weeks in a row) and keep doing that, and then stay focused, and hopefully put on the Green Jacket. ...

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"It will be fun to walk through the gates as No. 1 in the world."

Until Day leapfrogged Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Spieth in the rankings when his two latest victories gave him six in his past 13 starts, Scott was the hot pick as Masters favorite.

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No. 6 in the rankings, Scott tied for second in the Northern Trust Open and then captured the Honda Classic and the WGC-Cadillac Championship to kick off the PGA Tour's Florida swing.

However, he wanted no part of the favorite's mantle heading toward the Masters, handing it off instead to Bubba Watson.

"Even if I won every tournament I play before the Masters, if Bubba keeps finishing second, I'd still think he's favored," Scott told reporters after winning over Watson at Doral.

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"It just sets up so good there for him. Obviously, his record there is amazing the last couple of years. He's got to be feeling great about his game."

Watson, ranked No. 4, put himself in the conversation this year by winning the Northern Trust at Riviera and finishing second to Scott at Doral.

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His two victories at Augusta ease the pressure.

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"I'll always be called a Masters champ, so it's nice," said Watson, who sandwiched victories at Augusta National around Scott's, winning in 2012 and 2014.

There are a number of other players who figure to be in the mix based on the results early this year.

Spieth has been a bit uneven after a brilliant 2015, but he captured the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, finished second in the Singapore Open and tied for fifth in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

It didn't faze the 22-year-old Texan that Day unseated him as world No. 1.

"I figured he probably already was going to No. 1, finishing ahead of me (in the WGC-Match Play)," said Spieth, who missed the cut in the Northern Trust but finished in the top 25 in his other seven PGA Tour events in what is being called a slump.

"To be honest, (losing the top spot) could be a good thing for me going into the Masters. More (attention) on other people, less on me."

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, the 2011 Masters champion, has three wins since November, while his countryman, Louis Oosthuizen, captured the ISPS Handa Perth International before going all the way to the final of the WGC-Match Play, where he fell to Day.

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Oosthuizen has his own major credentials, having won the 2010 Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

Rickie Fowler won in Abu Dhabi and finished in the top 10 in five of his past six PGA Tour stroke-play starts, including a playoff loss in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He could be on the verge of his first major title.

Even though McIlroy hasn't won since the DP World Tour Championship-Dubai in November, you can't overlook the guy who this week will make his second attempt to complete the career Grand Slam.

And then there is 45-year-old Phil Mickelson, who has been playing more like the three-time Masters champion that he is.

There are plenty of contenders, or pretenders, but until things start happening around Amen Corner on Thursday, all eyes are on Day.

"I'm just trying to complete the puzzle, and hopefully when I get done, it's a masterpiece," he said.

On Sunday, he hopes to spell that last word with a capital M.

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