McIlroy's stock rising after Texas

As the first major of the year commences this week, all eyes in the golfing world will be on Augusta, Ga.

So, can anyone take down a dominating Tiger Woods this week at the Masters? And does Rory McIlroy's solo second in Texas raise his chances of grabbing a third major championship? Our experts tackle those topics and more in a special Masters edition of Monday Four-Ball.

1. True or false: This is Tiger's Masters to lose.

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: True. No golfer is hotter coming into the first major of the year. But no one has more pressure to win, either.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: True. But there have only been a handful of years since 1997 that Tiger hasn't been the favorite to win at Augusta. He has finished outside the top 10 only six times in 18 Masters appearances.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: False. There are too many good players, too many variables, to put it on one guy, even Tiger, as well as he has been playing of late. He could play well and get beat, which is the nature of the game.

Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com senior national columnist: False. Being No. 1 in the world guarantees nothing at Augusta. He's playing fabulously, but strange things happen at majors.

2. How important to his Masters chances was Rory McIlroy's second-place finish at the Valero Texas Open?

Michael Collins: Extremely important. As a former caddie, I just want everyone to know that playing San Antonio was the suggestion of Rory's caddie, J.P. Fitzgerald. It will be the reason Rory finishes in the top 5 this week at Augusta.

Farrell Evans: It was his best finish of the season. He got most of what he wanted out of his game. So it's mission accomplished in terms of what he wanted to gain from playing in San Antonio heading into the Masters.

Bob Harig: It was very important for him. McIlroy has played poorly for most of this year and has been criticized for his lack of tournament rounds. He accomplished a bunch by playing, not only getting more repetitions but getting into contention. All of that is good for his confidence.

Gene Wojciechowski: McIlroy needed an injection of confidence, and he got it in San Antonio. He has to be feeling much better about his game and his chances. Still, there's a big difference between the Valero Texas Open and the Masters.

3. Which top-10 player in the world who doesn't own a major win looks primed to get that breakthrough victory this week?

Michael Collins: Of the six guys who qualify in that question, I'd have to say Adam Scott has the best chance, but only because he has had such success recently here and is the longest hitter of the group. So I'll go with him.

Farrell Evans: Justin Rose. Since a second at the Tour Championship in September, the 32-year-old Englishman has had seven top-10s worldwide, including three second-place finishes. In 2012, he had a T-8 in the Masters and a T-3 at the PGA.

Bob Harig: Justin Rose. He's about as quiet of a No. 3 in the world as there has been, but Rose has been in contention a bunch this season and has played well in the past at the Masters. He should be a strong candidate at all of the majors this year.

Gene Wojciechowski: Justin Rose. His putting, a weakness in the past, continues to get better and better. That's a must at this place. He has everything else needed to win at Augusta.

4. Give us your highest-finishing Masters rookie.

Michael Collins: Scott Piercy. He isn't intimidated by any golf course and has the game -- with a putter that can get hot -- to get a top 16 this week. The hardest thing for every rookie to adjust to is how the speed of the greens changes from Wednesday to Thursday.

Farrell Evans: Nicolas Colsaerts. The 30-year-old Belgian is a long hitter who can get hot with his putter. That's a lethal combination at Augusta National.

Bob Harig: Nicolas Colsaerts. The long hitter from Belgium would appear made for Augusta National with his length off the tee. He showed no fear this past fall at the Ryder Cup, although learning the greens is always an issue for first-timers.

Gene Wojciechowski: Nicolas Colsaerts. The guy can hit from here to Aiken, S.C. Plus, he has shown he can handle big-time pressure (see, 2012 Ryder Cup).