Things could get quite interesting at Augusta National this year.
For the first time in his career, four-time Masters winner Tiger Woods will be unable to participate in the tournament after undergoing surgery to repair a pinched nerve. This might be bad news for Woods supporters and perhaps TV ratings, but it certainly makes the field more wide open.
Another wrinkle that makes this year’s tournament intriguing has been the weather leading up to Thursday’s start. It has been quite rainy, which led to practice rounds being suspended Monday. Things are supposed to clear up later in the week, so course conditions look promising for the weekend.
With that in mind, here are 10 names to keep an eye on at the 2014 Masters with a couple Aussies leading the way.
Country: Australia Odds to win: 9/1 PGA Ranking: 2 PGA Tour wins: 10 2013 Masters finish: 1st
Last year’s incredible playoff against Angel Cabrera vaulted Scott to the next level of stardom. He looks to become the first back-to-back champ since Tiger did it in 2001 and 2002. Following his 2013 Masters win, Scott has picked up four tournament wins and seven more top-10 finishes. He’s coming off a third-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month and with three top-10 finishes in five tournaments in 2014 it’s no surprise he’s the favourite.
Country: Australia Odds to win: 14/1 PGA Ranking: 4 PGA Tour wins: 2 2013 Masters finish: 3rd
Day had a great showing in 2013, but couldn’t quite catch up with Scott and Cabrera in the final round. With a third-place finish last year and a tie for second place in 2011, Day typically performs well in the first major of the calendar year. The 26-year-old is dealing with a left thumb injury that has hampered his play this season. He has only competed in three PGA tournaments in 2014, but one of those was a second-place finish at the Farmers Insurance Open and one was a win at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in February.
Country: Canada Odds to win: 66/1 PGA Ranking: 30 PGA Tour wins: 0 2013 Masters finish: Did not participate
As the top Canadian in the field, DeLaet would love nothing more than to earn his first PGA Tour victory this weekend and join Mike Weir as the only Canadians to win the coveted green jacket. Although it’s his first Masters, DeLaet played Augusta last week and told the Canadian Press he felt very comfortable on the course. “I do feel the golf course suits my game pretty well,” DeLaet said.
The 32-year-old turned a corner late last year with solid performances at The Barclays, Deutsche Bank Championship and the President’s Cup, and hasn’t looked back since. The average age of Masters winners is 32.66 so this could bode well for Weyburn, Sask., native.
Country: United States Odds to win: 40/1 PGA Ranking: 13 PGA Tour wins: 1 2013 Masters finish: Did not participate
Since picking up his first Tour win at the John Deere Classic last July, Spieth has 14 top-20 finishes as he continues to round out his game. The 20-year-old is slowly becoming one of the brightest young stars in golf. Despite being one of 23 players competing in their first Masters, Spieth certainly doesn’t lack confidence. He doesn’t seem intimidated by anything, be it the hazardous greens or the spotlight he’s under. If there’s a dark horse to win this year, Spieth could be it.
Country: Northern Ireland Odds to win: 9/1 PGA Ranking: 9 PGA Tour wins: 6 2013 Masters finish: Tied for 25th
The 24-year-old is right alongside defending champ Adam Scott as the odds-on favourite to win — and for good reason. McIlroy has played some solid, consistent golf so far in 2014, finishing in the top-25 in each of the six tournaments he has competed in. McIlroy recently told The Guardian he feels Augusta sets up well for him and he’s disappointed he doesn’t even have a top-10 at the Masters. In fact, his average finishing place is 34th. A motivated McIlroy is a scary McIlroy.
Country: United States Odds to win: 12/1 PGA Ranking: 5 PGA Tour wins: 42 2013 Masters finish: Tied for 54th
Lefty is coming off his worst showing at the Masters since he missed the cut in 1997. The three-time winner would love nothing more than to win a fourth green jacket, which would tie him with his top rival, Tiger Woods. He hasn’t performed too well in final rounds so far this year and the fact is he isn’t playing his best golf. But you can throw all that out of the window because Mickelson is always a contender at Augusta.
Country: Sweden Odds to win: 25/1 PGA Ranking: 3 PGA Tour wins: 4 2013 Masters finish: Tied for 18th
The Swede had a terrific 2013 season and has a few top-20 finished so far this year, including a fifth-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Stenson has a history of underperforming at the Masters, though. If Stenson can win, he’ll become the first Swedish golfer to win the Masters and he would earn the No. 1 ranking on the PGA Tour. He has been dealing with a sore wrist, which could affect his game significantly.
Country: United States Odds to win: 222/1 PGA Ranking: 11 PGA Tour wins: 8 2013 Masters finish: Tied for 13th
It’s unfortunate that Paulina Gretzky (Johnson’s fiancée) and her appearance on the cover of Golf Digest is overshadowing Johnson heading into the weekend. Recently, he has been dealing with a stiff back, which forced him to withdraw from the Shell Houston Open, but Johnson has been on point this season — four top-six finishes in the five tournaments he completed.
Country: United States Odds to win: 25/1 PGA Ranking: 12 PGA Tour wins: 5 2013 Masters finish: Tied for 50th
Watson has already had more success this year than he did last year. The 2012 Masters champ’s putting game has been consistent of late, which is key for a course like Augusta. Watson played decent in the first three rounds last year, but fell apart and shot a 77 in the final round to finish plus-7 and tied for 50th. He’s one of the more entertaining players on the Tour and definitely a fan favourite.
Country: United States Odds to win: 60/1 PGA Ranking: 23 PGA Tour wins: 3 2013 Masters finish: Did not participate
Reed has garnered a lot of attention since claiming he is a top-five golfer, but the San Antonio native has backed it up with outstanding play in 2014. He has wins at the Humana Challenge and World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, but is coming off a poor finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last month. He will be playing alongside McIlroy and Spieth in what should be one of the most interesting groups to watch, as all three are among the best golfers in the world under the age of 25.