With Tiger Woods absent from the Masters for the first time in 20 years following back surgery, defending champion Adam Scott is the favorite to become the first repeat winner at Augusta National since Woods won back-to-back green jackets in 2001 and 2002.
Having earned three top-10 finishes already in 2014, the 33-year-old Aussie enters the season's first major tournament with momentum on his side.
But even with four-time champion Woods out of the mix, the field is strong and includes top-ranked stars Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy.
With first-round action underway on Thursday, let's take a look at the latest Day 1 leaderboard updates and the top players to watch this weekend at Augusta.
If you take a look at Phil Mickelson's Masters timeline, you'll notice Lefty is due for another green jacket.
Three of Mickelson's five major titles have come at Augusta and each has come over the past decade. What's more, the 43-year-old appears to play his best golf at the Masters in even years. Think about this: He won his titles in 2004, 2006 and 2010. In 2008 he finished tied for fifth and in 2012 he finished tied for third.
ESPN's John Buccigross breaks down Mickelson's routine brilliance at Augusta:
Although recovery from a strained oblique muscle has raised question marks about Lefty's chances, his past success here and 12 top-10 finishes over the past 15 years bode extremely well for 2014.
World No. 4 Jason Day has come painfully close to winning a green jacket in two of the past three years, finishing tied for second in 2011 and third a year ago.
The 26-year-old Aussie has clearly figured out Augusta National and should be in the mix from start to finish in 2014. If there are concerns about Day's chances coming in, it's because of a nagging thumb injury. However, Day is confident he can overcome the pain, according to CBS Sports' Kyle Porter:
"I've played 36 holes here over the last four days and the hand's coming up nicely," Day said. "I'm really looking forward to a nice, solid start."
Day, who has two top-10 finishes, including a win in 2014, was forced to withdraw from the 2012 Masters with an ankle injury. Fans should keep a close eye on the favorite this week to see how the thumb responds to the demands of Augusta National.
Unlike Day, two-time major winner Rory McIlroy hasn't even come close to winning a green jacket at Augusta. His best finish came in 2011 when he led in the final round but blew up on the back nine and tied for 15th.
Still, there's reason for improved expectations in 2014 as McIlroy is playing consistent golf following a dismal 2013 campaign. The 24-year-old was winless a year ago and recorded just five top-10 finishes. This year, McIlroy already has three top-10s, including a seventh-place finish at last week's Shell Houston Open in which he shot a seven-under 65 in the final round.
Ahead of this week's tournament, McIlroy voiced his frustration over his Masters woes, per The Guardian's Ewan Murray:
I'd be disappointed if I ended my career and wasn't able to go up and have breakfast in the champions' locker room. The way I play golf, the way my game is, Augusta does set up well for me. And for me not to have a top-10 coming into my sixth Masters...
Many experts and analysts would agree with McIlroy that Augusta plays to his strengths. But the question now becomes if and when the former world No. 1 will be able to put it all together over the course of 72 holes.
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