The time is now for the next generation of golf superstars to seize the moment at the 2014 Masters.
Tigers Woods or not—he'll miss the legendary tournament at Augusta due to injury—it's time for the sport to see a new name rise to the occasion. Rory McIlroy said as much days before the showdown, per the AP via ESPN:
"It's almost like golf is waiting for someone to stamp their authority on the game and be that dominant player," McIlroy said.
Prophetic words? We'll see. Here's a look at the full slate followed by a few players who can fulfill McIlroy's words.
|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.
It's about time Jason Day got over the hump.
At 26 years old, Day has been in contention perhaps the most out of everyone the past few years—but he has yet to actually wind up in first place at a major tournament. In fact, he finished in the top 10 in half of last year's majors and touts four top-three finishes overall.
The only red flag at this point is a minor thumb injury, but Day says it won't be an issue, per Rex Hoggard of the Golf Channel:
“I’m fine,” said Day, who is wearing a bandage on his thumb to keep it from going into hyperextension. “I just need to get some reps and go play.”
Day certainly fits the criteria laid out by McIlroy. He's young, on an upswing and clearly a contender. Oh, and he has two top-three finishes in his first three starts at the Masters.
This may very well be Day's year.
It's easy to count out Dustin Johnson at Augusta.
After all, he had to withdraw from the Shell Houston Open recently after posting a first-round 80.
But that's the thing—Johnson is firmly under the radar at a tournament with no real surefire bet. Hey, even Norm Macdonald is on board:
Dustin Johnson will win The Masters.— Norm Macdonald (@normmacdonald) April 2, 2014
Momentum is a debatable topic, so what's to say Johnson can't bounce back and shock the field?
Nothing. Johnson is coming off of his best-ever finish at Augusta last year, when he finished 13th. He's 29 years old and in a position to steal one. Keep a keen eye on him from the opening tee.
Perhaps McIlroy himself will step up.
He didn't outright say it, but one can presume he wouldn't mind being the guy to take over the sport in the absence of a star player.
Who has the best chance of winning the Masters?
The throne is for the taking, and the 24-year-old is already firmly in the spotlight as a favorite after a final-round 65 at the aforementioned Shell Houston Open. He's placed in the top 25 in every event he has participated in this year, so it's safe to say he'll at the very least be in the conversation at Augusta.
McIlroy's biggest adversary has been himself. He's mightily inconsistent, as he often times looks like the next big thing before falling off a cliff. He started rather average in Houston before picking up the slack.
One can presume this issue will go away with age and experience, and it may begin at Augusta.