The Favorite

You’re already rolling your eyes, but I’ve got to go with Tiger Woods here. Is it an obvious pick that will be driven into the ground in the national media, but it’s obvious for a reason.

Woods is the four-time Masters champion, recently returned to No. 1 in the world and he’s won three times already this year. Even when his game and personal struggles seemed to be at his worst, Tiger seemed to find his best golf the first full week of April, even leading on Sunday in 2010.

He may never return to his “Tiger vs. the field” glory days, but he’s still a force at courses he loves, and Augusta is definitely in that group.

The Dark Horse

If you’re looking for a guy to pick this year, shy away from the top names from last year’s leaderboard. Since Woods’ back-to-back wins in 2001 and 2002, only Phil Mickelson has found a way to finish in the top 10 one year and win the next.

The rest have come from outside the top 20, which leads me to Rickie Fowler. The 24-year-old “Golf Boy” finished in a tie for 27th last year at 2-over but carded a fourth-round 70 to get there. He also shot a second-round 69 to go into the weekend in seventh place in 2011.

Fowler pulled a bit of a “Tin Cup” against Tiger at Bay Hill, going for the comeback win but I think he’ll be ready to go for Augusta.

The First-Time Winner

Yes, I am going to keep calling out Lee Westwood’s name until the former world No. 1 wins the Masters.

The Englishman is simply too talented and too poised to never win a major, and he looks too comfortable at Augusta not to win there at some point. Throw in his top-15 finishes in four of the last five Masters, and Westwood seems ready to don the green jacket.

Unless Tiger does, or perhaps Rickie.

Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.