Masters chances: Can Graeme McDowell contend at Augusta?

This week before the Masters tees off, we'll be sizing up the green-jacket chances of many of golf's top players. We continue with Graeme McDowell, a guy who certainly seems primed to tackle Augusta after his brilliant 2010 season.

Graeme McDowell

Current world ranking: 5

So far this year: McDowell got off to a hot start posting a pair of third-place finishes at Abu Dhabi and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. But he's cooled recently with a 42nd-place finish at Doral and a missed cut at Bay Hill, which happen to be his two worst finishes of the season.

Record at Augusta: With two previous Masters appearances, Graeme McDowell doesn't have a lot of history at the tournament. He missed the cut last year and posted a tie for 17th, his best finish, in 2009.

Why he could win: Look at the way he's performed under pressure in the past year. McDowell won the U.S. Open, made the key putt at the Ryder Cup, and managed to come from behind to defeat Tiger Woods at the Target World Challenge. The guy is fearless, and you need to play that way at Augusta. He's got the delicate touch around the greens to save par, and more than enough length off the tee. When you add all those attributes up, you get a guy who should be in contention this week.

Why he could fall short: McDowell won the U.S. Open last year after missing the cut in two of his three previous events, so you can't put a lot of stock into the way he plays leading up to a major championship. But it's still hard to overlook the fact that he fired an opening-round 80 and missed the cut at Bay Hill in his final tuneup before the Masters. You have to wonder if McDowell has his best stuff to contend.

Our take: McDowell is the kind of player you can see playing well at Augusta. He seems to thrive in high-pressure environments like the Masters, so don't be surprised if you see his name near the top of the leader board on Sunday. But with so many other guys playing well at the moment, he'll most likely fall a little short and settle for his first top-15 finish.

Your turn, friends. Your take on McDowell's chances at Augusta this year?

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