The Masters 2013: Tiger Woods under threat as chasing pack bare their teeth

Stellar list of in-form players will vie for a slice of Masters glory at Augusta next week

You can almost smell those Georgia pines, leaking sweet perfume all over Augusta. The first major of the season, the Masters, is only a week away and the big dogs are starting to bite. Tiger Woods heads the list of most right-thinking golf fanciers trying to pick a winner. Three victories in four stroke-play events on the PGA Tour this year is all the evidence required to make the case for the re-instated world No 1. But, compelling as Woods is, he has yet to win at Augusta after coming into the event on the back of a hat-trick of tour titles, which is all the more reason to embrace the powerful arguments being made elsewhere.

Charl Schwartzel struggled to adjust to life in a green jacket after his dramatic Masters triumph in 2011. The rest of the year past in whirl of celebration and ceremony and it was almost a relief to step down as champion to rediscover his game. A rib injury last summer held him back. He started to find some form at the eight-man Turkish Airlines jolly in Turkey last October, and from there has not looked back. Six top-five finishes in his past eight stroke play events, including victory at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa are proof of that.

The last of Phil Mickelson's three Masters titles came three years ago, wrenching the crown from the grasp of Lee Westwood with arguably the finest escape seen at Augusta, the 6-iron between trees and off pine needles to four feet at the 13th. Mickelson boasts one victory this year, in Phoenix, where he opened with a 60, and he flickered ominously at Houston after reverting to his traditional putting grip. His four-birdie opening stanza on Sunday revealed once again that when he gets the ball rolling there are few as dangerous, especially this close to Augusta.

Where has Dustin Johnson been hiding since his victory at the season opener in Hawaii? Perhaps the question is irrelevant after his Sunday low score of the day 65 in Houston, which propelled him into fourth. With Johnson's length off the tee Augusta's wide open spaces are an obvious attraction but it was his improved iron play in Texas that made the difference and sets the heart racing at what might be in Georgia. Johnson has been searching for rhythm on the greens and, aided by the reliability of his approach play, found it on surfaces remarkably similar in pace and topography to the Masters.

Nestling inside the top 10 at Houston was Louis Oosthuizen, pipped in the play-off at last year's Masters by Bubba Watson's unfeasible wedge at the 10th. Oosthuizen vies with fellow South African Schwartzel for the award of most aesthetically pleasing swing. Unflappable under pressure, Oosthuizen needs only to unlock the putter to threaten. He closed out his final four tournaments of 2012 no lower than sixth and was a winner at the Volvo Champions in January. His form slipped thereafter but we saw enough signs in Houston, where he shot a bogey-free 65 on Saturday, to suggest he will not be far adrift at Augusta.

Justin Rose has spent the past week preparing at home in Florida. He chased Woods home last time out in Bay Hill and his rise to a career-high world No 3 suggests he is as close as any to a major breakthrough this year. Rose has the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour this season, tops the sand saves stats and is better than any from 125 yards in. That adds up to a heap of opportunity once that bell goes.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
News
Ernesto Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, right, met at Havana Golf Club in 1962 to mock the game
newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Sport
Robin van Persie is blocked by Hugo Lloris
footballTottenham vs Manchester United match report
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?