Title: Masters Wide Open? Come on. Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy stand out above the rest
Description: AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Have you heard that the Masters is “wide open” this year? If you’ve tuned in for pre-event coverage on your prized flat screen, your trusted magazine or your pricey laptop, you’ve likely plowed into considerable analysis around the idea that this Masters could be won by almost anyone. Expect the unexpected! Anything is possible! Here’s the reality: even without Tiger Woods, this Masters still holds a few prime contenders (and let’s not forget, Woods hasn’t won here since ’05). You can make a solid case for Adam Scott or Jason Day or one of the Johnsons -- Dustin and Zach. Angel Cabrera seems to hang in here every year. Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker are due. So are the Brits, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald. There is unquestionably a cluster of clear favorites this week. But a formidable group can be further whittled down to two: Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. PHOTOS: Best shots of Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott from Tuesday's practice round at Augusta National McIlroy doesn’t necessarily view himself (or anyone) as the favorite. He sees a long list of potential champions. He sees “wide open.” “I would say 70,” said McIlroy, when asked how many players have a legitimate shot at a jacket. “You've got a lot of guys that can win, a lot of guys that have won PGA Tour events.” Mickelson, says the field of contenders narrows as the golf course becomes more difficult. “If the course plays firm and fast conditions, I think you're looking at less than a dozen,” he said when asked how many can win. “But if it doesn't, I think you're looking at almost half the field.” While both acknowledge a variety of possibilities, look a little closer and you’ll find that the road to a green jacket runs straight through those two names. Mickelson is a three-time winner and remains motivated for more. “I do know that Arnold and Tiger have four jackets and I have three,” he quipped. Mickelson’s ’14 season has been a struggle -- he currently has two more WDs than top 10 finishes, including a surprising walk-off two weeks ago in San Antonio after a pulled back muscle. He said that he’d like to enter this week with some better early-season results, but health is the main thing. “I'm nervous about this week because I always like coming into this week with a win. I like coming into this week being in contention a few times and having that confidence and experience to build on,” Mickelson said. “But I have to give myself a little bit of slack, because I have not been 100 percent. Last week I was 100 percent.” Mickelson credited medicine ball work for strengthening his back and said that he’s confident he can take full swings pain-free. Remember, in two of his three Masters-winning seasons, he didn’t win an event before landing in Augusta. And Augusta is his playground. He has 14 top 10s in his career here. Fourteen. He has eight top 3s. Eight. Add it up, and he’s a favorite this week.