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Players to watch at the Masters

Charl Schwartzel's drama-packed victory in the 2011 Masters served as a reminder that major winners frequently emerge from outside the ranks of the usual suspects.

Schwartzel. Trevor Immelman. Mike Weir. Who saw those Masters winners coming?

While it's wise to approach the season's first major with an open mind, there's also no denying that Augusta National has a soft spot for those with a record of high performance either at the Masters or on pro golf's tours as a whole.

And that's why I'm inclined to round up the usual suspects when zeroing in on 10 players in the field most likely to capture the coveted green jacket:

>Rory McIlroy

World rank: No. 2

What to like: Best player at Augusta for 54 holes last year.

Yeah but : Greg Norman was the best player at Augusta for 54 holes and never won.???

Last year: T15 after disastrous closing 80.

Stat check: Tour leader in eagles and scoring average.

***

>Tiger Woods

World rank: No. 6

What to like: Four-time Masters winner coming off first PGA Tour win in more than two years.

Yeah but : Hasn't slipped on a green jacket since 2005.

Last year: T4. Closed with a 67.

Stat check: Third on tour in birdie percentage from fairway.

***

>Luke Donald

World rank: No. 1.

What to like: Top-six in last two starts, including win at Transitions.

Yeah but : Still without a major

title.

Last year: T4 with last three rounds in 60s.

Stat check: Leads Tour in strokes gained putting (a stat that makes QB rating look like elementary math).

***

>Justin Rose

World rank: No. 8.

What to like: Won World Golf Championship earlier this month and plays well at Augusta.

Yeah but : Another major-less Brit.

Last year: T11 with a closing 68.

Stat check: Eighth on tour in all-around ranking.

***

>Charl Schwartzel

World rank: No. 7

What to like: 16th or better in all four majors last year.

Yeah but : Has one career U.S. win to his name.

Last year: Record four birdies to close in come-from-behind victory.

Stat check: Hitting career-best 77.78 GIR on European Tour.

***

>Jason Day

World rank: No. 11

What to like: Solid performance in last year's first two majors.

Yeah but : No Aussie's ever won the Masters.

Last year: T2 with lowest round of tourney (second-day 64).

Stat check: Seventh on tour in making par or better from rough.

***

>K.J. Choi

World rank: No. 23

What to like: Solid Augusta track record.

Yeah but : One top-25 in seven starts this year.

Last year: T8 after T4 in 2010.

Stat check: 167th in driving distance. Won't be praying for rain.

***

>Phil Mickelson

World rank: No. 15

What to like: Three-time Masters winner -- 2004, 2006 and 2010.

Yeah but : Did not shoot round in 60s here in '11.

Last year: T27

Stat check: Third in strokes gained putting.

***

>Adam Scott

World rank: No. 10

What to like: An Aussie has to win sometime right?

Yeah but : No top 10s yet this year.

Last year: T2 with 67s on weekend.

Stat check: 13th in driving distance, 17th in GIR.

***

>Steve Stricker

World rank: No. 5

What to like: A win and 3 top 10s this year.

Yeah but : Best American never to win a major?

Last year: T11.

Stat check: Top 15 in 8 standard categories; first in GIR.

Five tough to leave out:

Angel Cabrera, Hunter Mahan, Graeme McDowell, Geoff Oglivy, Bo Van Pelt.