The 2014 Masters Tournament is underway at Augusta National Golf Club. Adam Scott returns to defend his championship from last year against a star-studded field that also includes Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Bubba Watson, among others.
One player missing from the field is Tiger Woods. A back injury forced the 14-time major champion to remove himself from the season's first major. While his presence at the event will be missed by many, it's certainly not enough to eliminate the allure of the storied tournament.
The last seven Masters have produced seven different winners. Now it's time to find out if that streak will continue. Let's check out the latest leaderboard information, followed by some of the storylines to track throughout the opening round of play.
2014 Masters Leaderboard
Top Day 1 Storylines
Simply staying within striking distance is a successful opening round for most of the top players. While they would obviously love to leave Augusta on Thursday in possession of the lead, fans won't see the likes of McIlroy, Scott or Mickelson taking many big risks on Day 1.
Which of these players will have the best Masters finish?
Over the past two years, the winning scores were Scott at nine-under and Watson at 10-under. Those scores forced playoffs, which they won. So assuming this year's tournament plays out in similar fashion, players only have to drop a couple shots per day to contend.
In other words, it doesn't make much sense to go overboard trying to drop one extra shot and risk watching tournament hopes fade away immediately. Expect a lot of conservative play from the big names, and if they are in the neighborhood of two-under at the end of Round 1, they are in good shape.
One of the most interesting things at every major is the early success of players who entered the tournament off the radar. They come flying out of the gate with an early string of birdies, and the conversation quickly shifts to whether they can keep it up.
Of course, the question is which player or players will surprise this time around. There's certainly no shortage of contenders given the deep Masters field. One golfer Will Haskett of SiriusXM's PGA Tour Radio will be watching is Matt Every:
Sleeper rookie pick for #Masters - Matt Every. 22nd in GIR, 11th in proximity (hits it where he needs it) & 4th in strokes gained putting— Will Haskett (@willhaskett) April 7, 2014
Other golfers to watch include Jonas Blixt, Tim Clark and Matteo Manassero. Whether it's one of those players or somebody else, it's very likely some unexpected players will emerge as championship threats, as least for one day.
Atmosphere Without Tiger Woods
Woods first appeared in the Masters back in 1995, and this will be the first time since that point in which he didn't compete at Augusta. Even though he hasn't captured a green jacket in nearly a decade, he was a constant presence on the weekend that helped attract a wide audience.
The tournament moves on without him, of course, but there's a different feel without him in attendance trying to chase down the record for most majors. Bob Harig of ESPN passed along comments from Mickelson about not having Woods around:
It's a weird feeling not having him here, isn't it? He's been such a mainstay in professional golf and the majors. It's awkward to not have him here. I hope he gets back soon. I mean, I hope he's back for the other majors, and as much as I want to win and I know how great he is and tough to beat it ... it also makes it special when he's in the field and you're able to win.
Despite Woods' major drought, he almost always entered the tournament as the favorite. Without him, it gives off an even bigger sense that the green jacket is there for the taking for anybody from the big names to the unheralded contenders. It's a different atmosphere.