With the news that Tiger Woods had back surgery and will be missing his first Masters since 1994, fans started to freak out that this opening major just wouldn't be the same. While it will take a hit without the biggest attraction in the game competing for a 15th major, it will still be an incredible Masters and here are 10 reasons why.
It's the most wide open Masters ever -- Yep, ever. Did you know that only two of the top-10 current players in the world have won a PGA Tour event this season? Did you know that Phil Mickelson hasn't had a single top-10 in 2014 and Rory McIlroy, the favorite, hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 2012? This season has been dominated by the no-names of the PGA Tour, and while some might hate that, I see it as a good thing because it means for the first time in a long time this is really anybody's Masters.
The early weather report looks very, very promising -- Of all the traditions at Augusta National, bad weather seems like the one that is the most consistent. We've had so many rain delays, tee times pushed back and rounds forced to be made up the next day that it takes a little away from the tournament. It's very early to check the forecast, but there is a zero percent chance of rain on both Thursday and Friday, and if that's the case it will be hard, fast and will allow us to get those opening rounds in on time which is very important to the flow of the tournament.
We haven't had a boring final round at Augusta National in five straight years -- If this was roulette I might think this stat could point to a bore on Sunday, but this is Augusta and couple the fact that it has been exciting for five straight seasons with our initial reason this will be an awesome event and I think fireworks should be expected on Sunday. Also, we've had two playoffs in a row and three over the last five seasons, meaning extra Augusta golf could be in the equation.
Rory McIlroy looks to finally be in the form to win a green jacket -- He's the odds-on favorite next week at Augusta and he should be, because the kid is finally swinging like the champion he is. Rory had a tough 2013 but golfers have ups and downs, and it seems this season, despite a fairly disappointing week at Bay Hill, he will be ready for Augusta and is hitting his driver so high and so far that he will have a serious advantage over a lot of the field when the Masters tees off.
No Tiger, but we still get Jack, Arnie and Gary -- It is the coolest part of the entire year in my opinion, with three of the greatest golfers to ever tee it up getting to hit the ceremonial first tee shots and kick off the major championship season. If you are headed to Augusta on Thursday and don't get there early enough to see this they should tear up your ticket at the gate.
The Par-3 Tournament will still be the same -- See, Tiger doesn't even play in this anyway!
The past two Masters champions will be a factor again -- At this point, Adam Scott has become a poor man's Tiger, a guy that doesn't have the putting stroke that Woods had in his prime but is hitting the ball as good, if not better, than Woods was back when he was collecting majors.
As for the 2012 champ, in three straight tournaments before Bay Hill, Bubba Watson won, finished T-9 and T-2, so as long as the azaleas don't fire up his allergies he should be another guy to circle as a favorite heading into Thursday.
One of these first-time winners could really rock up the major championship scene -- Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Steve Stricker, Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker, Patrick Reed ... the list just extends of huge names without a major and without Tiger around it opens the door for these players to continue the recent trend on tour of first time major winners emerging and adding something huge to their resume.
The Stadlers will be playing a first and last Masters -- The U.S. Open might be the major that ends on Father's Day, but this Masters will be very, very special to one father-son combination. Kevin Stadler qualified for Augusta National for the first time thanks to his Waste Management Open win, meaning he will be joining his father, Craig Stadler, in their first Masters together. When Kevin won his dad immediately announced that this would be his final Masters at the age of 60, and he was simply waiting until Kevin got the invite before the 1982 Masters champion would call it a career at Augusta.
It's still the Masters -- It's the best week of the year in golf and the best tournament of the entire calendar, so no matter if the top name is there or not it's will survive just fine and be four days of incredible competition on the most famous golf course on the planet.
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