The Masters Tournament lives on without Tiger Woods, who will miss his first major at Augusta National since 1994 after undergoing back surgery. Regardless, the 78th Masters will begin Thursday with 97 players chasing the green jacket.
Defending champion Adam Scott will tee off at 10:41 a.m. and look to become just the fourth player to win back-to-back Masters. He would be the first player to do so since Woods accomplished the feat in 2001 and ’02. He has been consistent of late, as he is the only golfer to make the cut in each of the last eight majors with a cumulative score under par (-4).
Rory McIlroy, the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland, struggled in 2013 but remains a popular pick to win his first green jacket. McIlroy led after three rounds in the 2011 Masters and then shot an 80, the worst round in history by a golfer who led after three rounds. He has finished in the top 10 in three of his five events in 2014, including a tie for second at the Honda Classic in early March.
Even though he will turn 44 on June 16, Phil Mickelson continues to experience success at Augusta. He has been successful in the Masters throughout his career and looks to become the fourth golfer to win four Masters titles. Lefty has finished in the top five on nine occasions since 2001, but he shot a nine over par in a disappointing 2013 outing. He has dealt with injuries this year, including back issues and a muscle pull, but the reigning British Open winner figures to put together a solid performance at the Masters.
New Yorkers will want to keep an eye on St. John’s grad Keegan Bradley. Although not favored to win this weekend, he has made the cut in 10 of his 11 events this season. He finished second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in mid-March and can be considered a dark-horse candidate to win the green jacket.