While Woods' presence is unmistakable and will be missed, many other world-class golfers are eager to tee it up and chase after the iconic green jacket in Georgia.
The TV schedule is always a bit of an issue for the Masters, as it offers the least overall coverage of the four major championships. However, there is live stream action to catch in addition to extended telecasts of all four rounds.
A five-hour finale is slated for Sunday's final round, which promises to be thrilling. Anything can happen on the last nine holes, and the two most recent champions—Adam Scott and Bubba Watson—were crowned in playoffs.
We'll take a look at the basic information to kick off the major season along with a preview of what to expect from some of the event's standout groups over the first 36 holes and beyond.
Note: All statistics are courtesy of PGATour.com.
|Tee Time (ET)||Player 1||Player 2||Player 3|
|8:07 a.m.||Ben Crenshaw||Y.E. Yang||Jonas Blixt|
|8:18 a.m.||Mark O'Meara||Steven Bowditch||Jordan Niebrugge|
|8:40 a.m.||Craig Stadler||Scott Stallings||Martin Kaymer|
|8:51 a.m.||Tom Watson||Billy Horschel||Brendon de Jonge|
|9:02 a.m.||Mike Weir||Matt Every||Roberto Castro|
|9:13 a.m.||Angel Cabrera||Gary Woodland||Ian Poulter|
|9:24 a.m.||Fred Couples||Webb Simpson||Chang-woo Lee|
|9:57 a.m.||Zach Johnson||KJ Choi||Steve Stricker|
|10:30 a.m.||Charl Schwartzel||Jim Furyk||Thorbjorn Olesen|
|10:41 a.m.||Adam Scott||Jason Dufner||Matthew Fitzpatrick|
|10:52 a.m.||Jordan Spieth||Patrick Reed||Rory McIlroy|
|11:36 a.m.||Jose Maria Olazabal||Lucas Glover||Garrick Porteous|
|12:09 p.m.||Vijay Singh||Thomas Bjorn||Ryan Moore|
|1:15 p.m.||Bubba Watson||Luke Donald||Sergio Garcia|
|1:48 p.m.||Phil Mickelson||Ernie Els||Justin Rose|
When: Thursday, April 10 through Sunday, April 13
Where: Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
FedEx Cup Points: 600
|Date - Round||Time (ET)||Channel||Live Stream|
|Thursday, April 10—Round 1||3 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.||ESPN||CBSSports.com|
|Friday, April 11—Round 2||3 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.||ESPN||CBSSports.com|
|Saturday, April 12—Round 3||3 p.m. - 7 p.m.||CBS||CBSSports.com|
|Sunday, April 13—Round 4||2 p.m. - 7 p.m.||CBS||CBSSports.com|
Featured Groups Analysis
Adam Scott, Jason Dufner and Matthew Fitzpatrick
As is customary, the reigning champion (Scott) is paired with the U.S. Amateur winner (Fitzpatrick), and adding the most recent major victor (Dufner) to the mix makes this trio an excellent one to watch.
Scott is seeking to become just the fourth player in Masters history to go back-to-back. The sweet-swinging Aussie shared some of his thoughts about returning to Magnolia Lane with PGATour.com's Brian Wacker:
I think I'll be ready to get inside the ropes and compete. I'm trying to balance everything the best I can and enjoy it. Like I said, it's something I've been looking forward to this whole year, thinking about (Tuesday night), the Champions Dinner, and I just can't wait to be up in that room and see what that holds. I think once we pass (Tuesday) and it's down to Wednesday, the nerves and anticipation will build and I'll feel like it's just another major championship to go and play.
There's at least a decent chance Scott can repeat, but even a top-three finish will allow him to surpass Woods for the No. 1 ranking in the world, per Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard:
Early world ranking take: Scott can pass Tiger @ No 1 w/ T-3 or better @ Masters, Stenson w/ T-2 & Day w/ a victory.— Rex Hoggard (@RexHoggardGC) April 7, 2014
Dufner has been solid if not spectacular during the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, having made all seven of his cuts with three top 10s. The statistics aren't pretty for Dufner in the current campaign, but he's traditionally an excellent iron player and is tough to beat when he's on.
Birdies can be had at Augusta, which plays into Dufner's hands. In his PGA Championship victory last season, he showed just how explosive he can be when he posted a sensational second-round 63—matching the major scoring record for a single round:
In addition to seizing the U.S. Amateur in 2013, Fitzpatrick was the low amateur at the Open Championship at Muirfield thanks to a precocious short game and poise under pressure uncommon for a teenager.
From the looks of this young man's swing and his mature demeanor, there aren't many doubts he has the ability to be a star in the years to come.
Fitzpatrick left Northwestern after just one semester to focus on amateur golf full time, so he's had the chance to prepare for Augusta without academic obligations.
He should be the favorite to win the low amateur at this major too, and he could be a surprise contender after one round. Having a strong short game is key at the Masters, where the greens are lightning-fast and touch on chips is critical. As long as he isn't intimidated by the presence of Scott and Dufner at his side, the course should play into the strengths of Fitzpatrick's game.
Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy
It doesn't get much better than this group in terms of premier young talent in modern golf. McIlroy is the clear leader of this 20-something bunch with his two major victories, but Spieth and Reed have made their own distinct marks on the game in a short span.
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel pointed out that this threesome's combined age barely eclipses that of the legendary Tom Watson:
Grouping of Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth is combined only three years older than Tom Watson, the oldest player in the field.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) April 8, 2014
Reed has drawn controversy by saying he's a top-five player in the world. His three tour victories help to back him up, but he is making his major debut this week. McIlroy poked fun at that while speaking to the media, as no one in this group is ranked in the top five in the world, per Wei Under Par's Stephanie Wei:
Rory on his pairing w/Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth: "Yeah, there's not going to be a top five player in that group!" Oh, snaps!— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) April 8, 2014
Considering McIlroy has almost as many eight-stroke wins in major tournaments (two) as Reed has wins overall on tour, it's safe to say he has room to talk. However, the Northern Irish superstar used to be No. 1 in the world and is now No. 9.
A final-round 65 got him into a tie for seventh at last week's Shell Houston Open, so perhaps McIlroy is coming around at the perfect time. He has demons to shake off after blowing a four-stroke lead through three rounds at Augusta in 2011, though.
As for Spieth, he is the youngest of the group at age 20, so he shouldn't have all that much pressure on him. The brashness of Augusta State alum Reed and the scrutiny on McIlroy may cause Spieth to be seen as the third wheel of this group, surprising as that is.
For a first-timer like Reed or Spieth to win, they would have to buck some serious historical precedent, per Kieran Clark of eDraft:
It's feasible that Spieth pressed last week in his native Texas, causing him to miss the cut. With McIlroy coming off a great round and Reed winning the WGC-Cadillac Championship recently, the expectations on Spieth won't be as high, which could help him in his first Masters appearance.
Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Justin Rose
The two most recent British Open winners—Mickelson and Els—along with last year's U.S. Open champion—Rose—make this an exceptional group to monitor.
Mickelson had a stellar tie for 12th in Humble this past week—an encouraging sign that he's rounding into form before he pursues a fourth green jacket. Experience can be a big asset at Augusta, and Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel reported a key quote from Lefty:
"I don't have to play perfect to play well here." - 3x Masters champion Phil Mickelson on Augusta National— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) April 8, 2014
For someone like Els, experience can be a somewhat negative factor. Depending on how he views his Masters legacy, the Big Easy may have a hard time digging deep enough to make a run. Els had two runner-up finishes and nothing worse than a tie for sixth from 2000 through 2004, but he hasn't managed better than last year's tie for 13th since.
Which notable group is most likely to produce the Masters champion?
With all those close calls in the past, perhaps Els is due to win the third leg of the Grand Slam. Mickelson finally got his first major at the 2004 Masters, beating Els by one stroke with a birdie on the final hole.
Speaking of getting off the major skids, that's exactly what Rose did at the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, denying Mickelson yet again at the most elusive major for him. Rose tied for eighth at the Masters two years ago but hasn't had consistent success at this prestigious tournament. There is proof he can close the deal in the clutch, and the heightened intensity of a major may be what he needs to get back on track after missing the cut at Bay Hill in his last start.
So, with the burst of young guns the game of golf is seeing and a slew of established veterans still playing at a high level, the 2014 Masters should live up to the hype, even without Woods. These three groups could very well produce the winner and should generate excellent storylines.
There have been seven different champions in the past seven Masters, with Mickelson being the only repeat winner in that span. That suggests another breakthrough is due, and it may even come from one of the 24 golfers making their debuts. Reed and Spieth are marquee candidates.
With the unpredictability golf tends to generate, there's a chance none of these groups will quite live up to their billing. Regardless of who is in contention on Sunday, the Masters is going to be a big draw, as usual.