2018 Masters predictions: 15 best bets to win the Green Jacket

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Masters week is like Christmas for golf fans.

The anticipation of the tournament's start each year rivals anything in golf. 

Players can't wait for it either.

It's their first chance of the season for major glory.

For Rory McIlroy, the 2018 Masters will present the opportunity to complete the career grand slam.

So who will slip into a coveted green jacket as darkness closes in on Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday evening?

There's a good chance it will be one of the 15 players below.

15. Adam Scott

Adam Scott

Masters starts: 16
Best Masters performance: Won in 2013
Notes: Scott became the first Australian-born Masters champion when he defeated Angel Cabrera in a playoff in 2013. Since then, Scott's best finish in the Masters was a T9 one year ago. He has five, top-10 Masters finishes in his career and the course is one that matches his game beautifully. As is usually the case, it's going to come down to putting for Scott. Can he figure out those greens like he did in 2013?

14. Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler

Masters starts: 7
Best Masters performance: T5 in 2013
Notes: Fowler's name is now among those mentioned when the "best player never to win a major" argument arises these days. He may only have four career PGA Tour wins, but Fowler's proven himself to be a player in the majors with eight career top 10s in grand slam events. Fowler's lone top-10 finish at the Masters was a T5 in 2014 -- a season in which he was the only player to record top-5 finishes in all four majors. There have been several first-time major winners in recent years. It wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see Fowler as the next.

13. Henrik Stenson

Henrik Stenson

Masters starts: 12
Best Masters performance: T14 in 2014
Notes: Surprisingly, the Iceman doesn't have a great record at Augusta National. It's hard to believe, but in his 12 Masters starts, Stenson hasn't once finished inside the top 10. What gives? He missed the cut a year ago, but has been showing some good form of late. For the player he is, Stenson's record at the Masters should be better than what it is.

12. Paul Casey

Paul Casey

Masters starts: 11
Best Masters performance: T4 in 2016
Notes: Coming off his second career PGA Tour win a few weeks back at the Valspar Championship (Casey is also a 13-time winner on the European Tour), it's strange to think of Casey as a dark horse at Augusta National. But, we'd suspect he isn't at the top of everyone's list to knock out his first major win at the Masters. If you're in a Masters pool, pick him. He should be at or near the top of your list. Casey has enjoyed a resurgence these last few years and has not finished outside the top 6 in his last three Masters starts. Call him a sleeper if you want, but in our eyes he's a favorite.

11. Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson

Masters starts: 25
Best Masters performance: Won in 2004, 2006, 2010
Notes: Let's make this clear right from the start -- Mickelson absolutely deserves to be on this list. He's a three-time winner at Augusta National and even picked up his first PGA Tour win since 2013 this season -- in a playoff over Justin Thomas -- at the WGC-Mexico Championship. He's played great golf. But another win at Augusta this year? That would be a monumental and historic feat. Mickelson is 47 years old. He turns 48 in June. As you may have heard, Jack Nicklaus -- a six-time Masters champion -- is the oldest winner in tournament history. The Golden Bear won his last Masters in 1986 at age 46. Can Mickelson supplant Jack as the oldest Masters champ in history? It sure will be fun to watch him try.

10. Charl Schwartzel

Charl Schwartzel

Masters starts: 8
Best Masters performance: Won in 2011
Notes: Schwartzel has sort of a weird history at Augusta National. It truly is feast or famine. The win in 2011 is the obvious highlight and his third-place showing a year ago is a close second. But then there are the other six trips in which he finished no better than T25 and missed the cut twice. So which Schwartzel will show up this time?

9. Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson

Masters starts: 7
Best Masters performance: T4 in 2016
Notes: Every top player itches for the Masters. There may be no player in the game more excited to scratch that itch in 2018 than world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Johnson was red-hot this time a year ago until his Masters chances were derailed on the eve of the tournament when he slipped down some stairs at his rental house in Augusta injuring his back and forcing him to withdraw just minutes before his Round 1 tee time. In his two previous Masters starts, Johnson has finished inside the top 6. He's zoned in on this Masters.

8. Tommy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood

Masters starts: 1
Best Masters performance: MC in 2017
Notes: If American golf fans aren't familiar with England's Tommy Fleetwood yet, they'd better start getting familiar with him. He's becoming a staple on page 1 of leaderboards virtually everywhere he plays. Fleetwood missed the cut in his lone Masters start a year ago, but I chalk that up to it being his first time there. He's a superstar on the European Tour and it's only a matter of time before he snags a victory in the U.S. -- and that victory could very well be a major.

7. Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia

Masters starts: 19
Best Masters performance: Won in 2017
Notes: How good is life for Garcia these days? He finally grabbed his first major a year ago at the Masters, got married shortly after and he and wife, Angela, recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl to the world fittingly named, "Azalea." Garcia certainly has what it takes to win a major, which he proved a year ago at this very tournament. But history isn't on his side. Only three players in Masters history -- Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods -- have won in consecutive starts. Can Garcia add his name to that list?

6. Justin Thomas

Justin Thomas

Masters starts: 2
Best Masters performance: T22 in 2017
Notes: Thomas is now firmly in that rarefied air where he's a favorite every time he tees it up. And deservedly so. No one has been better since the start of 2017 than the current world No. 2 and reigning PGA Champion. Thomas already has two win this season and had a chance at a third before losing a playoff to Phil Mickelson at the WGC-Mexico Championship. The only thing working against Thomas at Augusta National is a lack of experience. He's only got two starts there. It's not common for players with few opportunities to excel in the Masters, but it has happened (see: Jordan Spieth). If anyone can buck that trend, it's certainly Thomas. It's hard to imagine a player playing with more confidence than he is these days.

5. Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

Masters starts: 20 
Best Masters performance: Won in 1997, 2001, 2002, 2005
Notes: Just as you may not believe you're reading this, we almost can't believe we're writing this. Seriously. Who would have thought just three short months ago that we'd be talking about an injury-plagued, 42-year-old Tiger Woods as a Masters favorite? And yet, here we are. Tiger hasn't played in the Masters since a T15 in 2015. In his last five Masters starts, Woods has finished T4 on three occasions. But let's skip back ahead to the here and now. This Tiger comeback looks and feels so different from the ones before it. He looks like he's loving life on and off the course. His health looks better than it has in years. With all of that seemingly in balance, his golf so far has looked spectacular, especially with a T2 at the Valspar Championship and a T5 at Bay Hill -- his final tune-ups for Augusta before he goes hunting for a fifth green jacket. There are two questions we have: 1. Can Woods win major No. 15 -- his first since the 2008 U.S. Open -- at the Masters?; 2. If he does, is the chase to top Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major wins emphatically back on? We have goosebumps just thinking of the possibilities. 

4. Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy

Masters starts: 9
Best Masters performance: Fourth in 2015
Notes: This is going to be fun. Just when everyone started to worry about the state of McIlroy's game, he went out an laid the hammer down on an impressive list of stars down the stretch to run away with the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. McIlroy's best chance to win a green jacket came in 2011. He went into the back nine on Sunday with a lead -- you know, the nine where the Masters begins. Beginning with a lousy tee shot on No. 10, it quickly went downhill for Rors. He limped away with a T15 finish. In the very next major -- the U.S. Open at Congressional -- McIlroy dominated to take his first grand slam win. Since then, he's won three more. And he enters this Masters -- playing the best he has in a long time -- with a chance to become the sixth player in history to complete a career grand slam in the Masters era. You think that's som motivation?

3. Justin Rose

Justin Rose

Masters starts: 12
Best Masters performance: 2nd in 2017 (lost playoff to Sergio Garcia)
Notes: Runner up a year ago, Rose just looks so comfortable with himself and with his game these days. He has five career, top-10 finishes in the Masters. He was also a runner up in 2015. Simply put, the 2013 U.S. Open Champion has done pretty much everything but win the Masters. A lot of people -- including us -- believe this is the year the Englishman slips into a green jacket.  

2. Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson

Masters starts: 9
Best Masters performance: Wins in 2012, 2014
Notes: After the rough season Watson had in 2017, it didn't look like he'd factor into the Masters conversation for 2018. But the man is on fire right now and it's not good for the other Masters contenders. Watson has notched two wins already in 2018 -- at Riviera and in the WGC-Match Play -- and since he's arguably the most creative player in the game today, he could have a field day at Augusta National like he did in 2012 and 2014 when he won the Masters. What a difference a year makes. Look out for Bubba.

1. Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth

Masters starts: 4
Best Masters performance: Won in 2015
Notes: With a season-best T3 at the Houston Open, three-time major winner Jordan Spieth might have found something in his game at just the right time. His putting in 2018 hasn't been what we've come to expect. But believe you, me. That could change very quickly at Augusta National... especially if something clicked in Houston. Just like there's nothing that compares to your own bed, there's no golf course that compares to Augusta National for Spieth. He's played in the Masters four times. His record is OK: T2-Win-T2-T11. Is that bad? No. No it isn't. Like many of the greats before him, there is just something about Augusta National that brings out the best in Spieth. Maybe some good vibes between those Georgia pines is just what he needs to find his stroke.