The first round of the 2013 Masters Tournament will get under way on Thursday when the world's best golfers begin their chase for the coveted green jacket at Augusta National.
The Masters kicks off the major season for professional golf, and it is always interesting to see how the elite players start and which unknowns unexpectedly rise to the top of the leaderboard after the first 18 holes.
Plenty of volatility atop the leaderboard is possible, especially with the forecast provided by AccuWeather.com. As of Tuesday afternoon, the site projects a better than 50/50 chance of precipitation. That rainfall could include severe thunderstorms, with gusts reportedly exceeding 15 miles per hour.
Below is a breakdown of where to catch the action on TV, as well as tee times and the most exciting groups to watch for in Round 1.
When: Thursday, April 11, at 8 a.m. ET
Where: Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga.
TV: ESPN: Live coverage runs from 3 p.m ET to 7:30 p.m. ET
Masters.com: Live streaming coverage begins at 9 a.m. ET.
Note: TV information for the rest of the week can be found at the link as well.
CBS Sports' On the Range coverage begins at 11 a.m. ET and runs until 1 p.m. ET
Tee Times: For a complete list of tee times, visit Masters.com.
Top Groups to Watch
No. 15: Tiger Woods, Luke Donald and Scott Piercy (10:45 a.m. ET)
After two consecutive victories on the PGA Tour, it's not a surprise that Woods is the prohibitive favorite to win his fifth Masters. However, it will be interesting to see how potential interference from Mother Nature impacts the beginning of his prospective 72-hole journey.
Tiger has not won this tournament since 2005 and hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. But while Woods has not yet proven himself on the major stage since his resurgence, that could easily change if his tour-leading strokes gained-putting continues this week.
As documented during Tuesday's press conference by Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman, Woods feels as good about life as he has in a while both on and off the course.
Kelly Tilghman @KellyTilghmanGC
Tiger Woods in press room at #Masters: "I think like is all about having a balance... I feel very balanced right now."4/9/2013, 5:05:36 PM
When Woods endured his collapse, it was Donald who rose to the top of the world rankings for an extended period of time. However, the Englishman still doesn't have a major on his resume.
Donald matched his best finish in golf's four biggest tournaments with a tie for third at the 2005 Masters, which ironically occurred the last time Woods triumphed at Augusta.
Although he clearly plays third fiddle to this superstar duo, don't sleep on Piercy.
It may be his debut down Magnolia Lane, but the 34-year-old has won on tour in each of the past two seasons. The No. 38 player in the world hits it a long way and is a very underrated putter—two attributes that tend to yield rewards at this pristine venue.
No. 29: Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer (1:30 p.m. ET)
Mickelson played in the final group in 2012. Unfortunately, a triple-bogey early in the round proved costly, as did several putts just missed the hole down the stretch.
Oosthuizen, of course, made a ridiculous double eagle at the par-five second hole that year, seemingly setting himself up for a second major victory. However, the sweet-swinging South African went on to lose in a playoff to Bubba Watson.
Both Mickelson and Oosthuizen carry similar storylines of unfinished business from last year's effort, while Kaymer has to have a similar feeling about the past few years of his career.
Not long after winning the 2010 PGA Championship, the German had a brief reign as the top-ranked golfer on the planet. Struggles and swing changes followed shortly thereafter, but after holing the winning putt at the Ryder Cup, his game seems to be coming around.
After four straight weeks of competing in the United States, Kaymer has been out of action since missing the cut at the Tampa Bay Championship.
Nevertheless, all of these major champions have the talent to be No. 1, with Kaymer having gotten there already. It should be a wonderful showcase overall, even if many fans follow for Lefty alone.
No. 30: Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley and Freddie Jacobson (1:41 p.m. ET)
The McIlroy we've come to know and love came back strong with a runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open this past Sunday. If not for an unfathomable 63 by Martin Laird, the Northern Irish prodigy likely would have walked away with his seventh victory on the PGA Tour.
In spite of that, McIlroy seems to have adjusted to his new Nike equipment. He also has the feeling of being in contention and four more valuable competitive rounds under his belt entering Augusta.
As one of the marquee, young American stars, whether spectators like or dislike Bradley's antics, one thing is for sure: It's nearly impossible to stop watching him.
The intense gaze, fidgety footwork and sheer exuberance he projects make Bradley a lightning rod for fans who love the characters of the game. He tied for 27th here last year but now knows the course better and already boasts five top-10s on Tour in 2013.
This will be a fun showdown between McIlroy and Bradley on its own, since the Northern Irishman famously arrived late to his singles match at the Ryder Cup with Bradley, who was essentially the United States' hottest player at the time.
Without even hitting a practice shot, McIlroy triumphed 2 and 1.
Jacobson isn't a huge name in the States, but he is one of the best when it comes to the flatstick. On Augusta's tabletop surfaces, he is sure to post at least a decent score if his irons are on.
The potential weather conditions would help him be more aggressive and perhaps shine just as brightly as his more highly-touted playing competitors.
Note: Odds are courtesy of Bovada. Statistics are courtesy of PGAtour.com.
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