The build-up to the 2010 US Masters has been dominated by the news that it will be the scene of Tiger Woods’ return to golf. But a host of others, including Camilo Villegas, are planning to upset his homecoming…
Tiger Woods (USA)
All eyes will be on the Tiger as he steps onto a golf course for the first time since winning the JB Were Masters in November last year. The 34-year-old will be looking to put a difficult – to say the least – few months behind him at Augusta. What better place to do it than the course where it all began so emphatically back in 1997? The 14-time Major winner knows the course well, having won the Masters four times. And, although he hasn’t won here since 2005, legend Seve Ballesteros has backed him to bounce straight back and win a fifth green jacket. Who are we to argue?
Camilo Villegas (COL)
The 28-year-old Colombian heads to Augusta bang in form after winning his first PGA Tour event for 18 months, the Honda Classic in Florida. Currently second in the FedExCup standings behind Steve Stricker, Camilo has already won more prize money in 2010 than he did in the whole of last year. In 2009, the man from Medellin survived his first Masters cut to finish tied for 13th, and he’ll be hoping to improve on that performance as he goes in search of his first Major.
Phil Mickelson (USA)
After a brilliant end to 2009, many thought that Mickelson would be the player to take advantage of Tiger’s self-imposed absence from golf. However, Lefty hasn’t really been able to capitalise, and those wins at the Tour Championship and the HSBC Champions in China remain his last. The current world number three enjoyed a memorable tussle with Tiger at last year’s event, and he has welcomed his rival’s return as he eyes his third Masters title.
Paul Casey (GBR)
Leading the European charge in Augusta will be the 32-year-old from Cheltenham, UK. After reaching a career-high number three in the world rankings in 2009, Casey’s form has continued this year with four top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour to date. The Englishman has finished in the top 20 in each of the last three Masters, while his sixth-place in 2004 remains his best showing in a Major. Casey won’t be the only European challenging, with Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter are all capable of mounting a challenge for the green jacket – and becoming the first European champion since Jose Maria Olazábal in 1999.
Angel Cabrera (ARG)
The defending champion hasn’t been in great form this year, and only has one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour to his name in 2010. However, he only managed two top-10 finishes outside of the Masters last year, so maybe the big Argentinian saves his best form for when it really matters. That was certainly the case last year when the cigar-smoking South American won an enthralling play-off with Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell. If you don’t fancy Cabrera’s chances of retaining his title, another golden oldie on the hunt is Ernie Els (ZAF). The Big Easy was in scintillating form during March, picking up two wins, including the World Golf Championships-CA Championship.