Even though the 2014 Masters won't feature Tiger Woods, one of the most star-studded fields in golf is still set to challenge Augusta National Golf Club in the first major of the season.
Woods announced he wouldn't be able to play due to a back injury, which ensures his major championship drought dating back to the 2008 U.S. Open will continue. That isn't enough to alter the Masters' place as a must-see event, though.
All it does is shift the intrigue to a deep, well-rounded field with a high number of golfers capable of rising to the occasion to capture the green jacket. So let's check out all of the television and live stream coverage information for the tournament, followed by a look at the top contenders.
2014 Masters Coverage Guide
|Round||Date||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Round 1||April 10||3 - 7:30 p.m.||ESPN||Masters Live|
|Round 2||April 11||3 - 7:30 p.m.||ESPN||Masters Live|
|Round 3||April 12||3 - 7 p.m.||CBS||Masters Live|
|Round 4||April 13||2 - 7 p.m.||CBS||Masters Live|
Masters Live is available through CBS Sports.
Adam Scott arrives to Augusta as the defending champion after edging Angel Cabrera in a playoff last year. It was a long-awaited breakthrough for the Aussie star, who had knocked on the door before several times in the four big tournaments, ultimately coming out on top.
He enters his title defense playing very good golf. He's finished outside the top 12 just once in five events, which shows he's putting himself in position to contend, even though he doesn't have a victory yet in 2014. Being in the mix heading into Sunday is all golfers can ask for at the Masters.
Then, there's the positive vibes that come with returning to the scene of his first major triumph. Going back to the same course every year rather than a rotation is part of what makes the Masters special.
Bob Harig of ESPN passed along comments from Scott about the emotions of his return:
Absolutely, very much. Walking down there the last couple days thinking about it ... huge emotion. It's had an incredible impact on me the last year. The response. Talking about it. Reliving it. It's been nice, even these last couple days as well.
Nobody has repeated at the Masters since Woods in 2001 and 2002. Scott should, at the very least, find himself in a position to match that accomplishment over the weekend given his strong play so far this year and success on the Augusta course.
There have been stretches throughout Rory McIlroy's career when it appeared he was about to establish himself as golf's next dominant player. It hasn't happened yet, which actually says more about legends like Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan than the Northern Irishman.
He may not be an overwhelming favorite in every tournament he enters like those big names in their prime, but he's always one of the top contenders. That's definitely the case heading into the Masters, despite mundane results in the event in his first five appearances.
Like Scott, McIlroy is playing well even though he doesn't have a win in 2014. That includes a 65 in the final round of the Shell Houston Open last week. Strong final rounds in his last tuneup event before a major usually bode well for his chances, as noted by Justin Ray of ESPN:
Rory McIlroy in last rounds before 2 major wins: 68 at '11 Memorial (finished 5th), 68 at '12 Bridgestone (T5th). Today: 65, T-7th.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) April 6, 2014
Although McIlroy has never finished better than 15th in the Masters, it's not like he's played terribly. He's made the cut four of five times, and one bad round doomed him in 2011. This could be the year he puts it all together to earn the green jacket.
Few players currently on the PGA Tour have come closer to winning their first major without actually getting over the hump than Jason Day. He sports six top-10 results, including four top-three finishes, over the past handful of years. Alas, the major count still reads zero.
Which of these stars will have the best Masters finish?
Between those close misses and the fact he's still on the upswing at age 26, there's a very good chance he will eventually capture a major championship, if not multiple titles. The question is when that marquee moment will happen.
Don't be surprised if it happens at Augusta this week. He's finished second and third in the only two Masters he's completed (one withdrawal) and won the Accenture Match Play Championship earlier in the year, which isn't a major but is one of the biggest tournaments outside of the big four.
Day has been dealing with a thumb ailment, but it doesn't sound like that will be a serious issue. The field is wide open so, as long as he can avoid any injury setbacks, he has a terrific opportunity to see one of those close calls finally fall in his favor Sunday.