2014 Masters Tournament

Masters Field 2014: Golfers to Watch on Day 1

Mike DudurichContributor IApril 10, 2014

Masters Field 2014: Golfers to Watch on Day 1

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    Who will take care of Augusta National Golf Club's spectacularly conditioned layout in Round 1?
    Who will take care of Augusta National Golf Club's spectacularly conditioned layout in Round 1?Rob Carr/Getty Images

    It's often been said a golf tournament can't be won on the first day, but it certainly can be lost in those opening 18 holes.

    That's why it's always interesting to watch how things transpire in the first round, especially in major championships.

    That's especially true of the Masters, the first major of the year and perhaps the most coveted of the four major titles.

    Here's a list of 10 players who, for a variety of reasons, deserve a look in Thursday's first round of the Masters.

     

     

     

Phil Mickelson

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    Early in the week, it was all smiles for Phil Mickelson.
    Early in the week, it was all smiles for Phil Mickelson.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson said he was nervous coming into Masters week, and that feeling is certainly warranted.

    He's not been in contention this year, but doing so has always served him well leading to the Masters.

    A good start would go a long way toward calming those nerves.

    The key for Mickelson will be his ability to keep the ball on the golf course. He has the ability to create some wonderful recovery shots, but that's not the way to win a major.

Rory McIlroy

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    Rory McIlroy's putting will be a key factor this week.
    Rory McIlroy's putting will be a key factor this week.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Rory McIlroy had a brief stint as the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking in 2012.

    Changes in his equipment, his swing and his personal life made that reign atop the world of golf an uncomfortable and short one.

    Now ranked ninth in the OWGR, he comes into the Masters as one of the favorites but also with the baggage of his final-round collapse in 2011.

    A good start would go a long way toward getting McIlroy back into contention by the weekend.

     

Adam Scott

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    Adam Scott is very confident heading into the start of the Masters.
    Adam Scott is very confident heading into the start of the Masters.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The defending Masters champion comes into this year's Masters playing as well as anyone in the field, and he has all of last year's great memories to build on.

    He's portrayed a great deal of confidence and calmness in the days leading up to the Masters, and it will be interesting to see how he handles being the defender once the competition begins.

    A key for Scott will be how well he and his long putter perform on Augusta National's diabolical greens.

Jason Day

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    Jason Day hopes his injured thumb holds up this week.
    Jason Day hopes his injured thumb holds up this week.Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Here's a young man with perhaps more pressure on him this week than most other players.

    In two of the last three years, Jason Day has finished third and T2 in the Masters.

    After he won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, his status as a Masters favorite skyrocketed.

    But he hasn't played since then, as a nagging thumb injury has kept him sidelined.

    Plenty of eyes will be on Day in the first round to see how he's able to swing.

     

Jordan Spieth

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    Jordan Spieth looks forward to contending at the Masters.
    Jordan Spieth looks forward to contending at the Masters.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Since Jordan Spieth performed like a seasoned veteran last year in his rookie season on the PGA Tour, there has been much anticipation about how he would handle the pressure of the Masters.

    Spieth has had to learn to deal with his emotions, which sometimes run high on the course.

    He'll need all the patience he can muster once he gets to the first tee Thursday. As one of 24 first-timers at Augusta National, Spieth will be tested on a golf course like never before.

    Spieth has the game to play well there, but his mental approach will be key.

Jimmy Walker

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    Jimmy Walker gets a major test this week after having success earlier in the season.
    Jimmy Walker gets a major test this week after having success earlier in the season.Eric Risberg

    Jimmy Walker, a 35-year-old journeyman on the PGA Tour, had an unbelievable start to the 2013-14 PGA Tour season.

    From October through early February, Walker won three events, his first three tour wins. He hasn't won since the AT&T National Pro-Am, but he has five top-25 finishes since then.

    This will be his first appearance in the Masters and his first tournament with such a high-quality field.

    Keep an eye on how he starts and how he handles the rookie nerves.

Patrick Reed

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    Patrick Reed gets a chance to back up his boasts this week.
    Patrick Reed gets a chance to back up his boasts this week.Darron Cummings

    Patrick Reed has played Augusta National Golf Club several times, as he played college golf at Augusta State College.

    This week, he gets to play it as a professional—a young professional but one who has had a terrific season. Reed has won three times this year and gained international attention by winning the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship and declaring himself a top-five player in the world.

    He'll need all that self-confidence as he begins his first round of Masters competition.

     

     

Brandt Snedeker

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    Brandt Snedeker has had his heart broken by Augusta.
    Brandt Snedeker has had his heart broken by Augusta.Chris O'Meara

    Brandt Snedeker has had a couple of near misses at the Masters. He finished T3 in 2008 and T6 last year.

    In 2008, he had a chance to catch eventual champion Trevor Immelman but stumbled to a 77, evoking a very emotional reaction from Snedeker. It was obvious how much getting a green jacket meant to him.

    Last year, Snedeker was in the hunt again and got off to a quick start with a bogey on the first hole. His quest was derailed by a pair of back-to-back bogeys, and he finished with a 75.

    What will bear watching is how well he putts this week. Snedeker has not putted like we're used to seeing this year and is 77th in strokes gained putting.

Sergio Garcia

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    Sergio Garcia had some fun on the practice range.
    Sergio Garcia had some fun on the practice range.Matt Slocum

    Has Sergio Garcia rid himself of the demons that have tortured him throughout his career at Augusta National Golf Club?

    Remember when he criticized the course and said, in a "woe is me" kind of way, that maybe he wasn't good enough to play in the Masters?

    He comes to Augusta with an 0-for-61 record in majors, but something of an improved level of play over the last couple of years has him ranked sixth in the Official World Golf Ranking.

    How will he handle the adversity that will no doubt be part of his opening round?

Bubba Watson

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    Bubba Watson unleashes one during a practice round.
    Bubba Watson unleashes one during a practice round.Charlie Riedel

    Bubba Watson's miraculous wedge shot from the Georgia pines in 2012 made him a Masters champion.

    It took him nearly two years to record his next win, which came in the Northern Trust Open in February.

    He's played twice since then, posting top 10s.

    He withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational because of allergies.

    It'll be interesting to see which Bubba shows up.

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