Masters 2013: Tiger Woods aims to win fifth Green Jacket
By Rob HodgettsBBC Sport at Augusta
Venue: Augusta National, Georgia
Dates: 11-14 April
Live coverage: BBC Two, HD & online from 18:30 BST on Saturday and 19:30 BST on Sunday; BBC Radio 5 live from 21:00 BST daily; Amen Corner online on Saturday and Sunday; Daily text commentary
Tiger Woods is favourite to collect a fifth Green Jacket and win his
first major title since 2008
when the 77th Masters begins at Augusta on Thursday.
Woods, the 14-time major champion,
is back at world number one
after scandal, injury and swing changes derailed his career, and is showing the sort of form that could reignite his quest to pass Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, who Woods usurped at the top of the rankings, seems to have put an early-season blip behind him following an equipment switch and is looking to add a first Masters to his two previous majors.
The Masters, the year's first major and youngest of the big four tournaments in golf, has become one of the most iconic events in sport since its inception in 1934.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Nicklaus's first of a record six Masters wins, while
Chinese 14-year-old Tianlang Guan
will become the youngest ever competitor after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
Woods in 2013
- HSBC Golf Championship, Abu Dhabi:
24 January -
Farmers Insurance Open, Torrey Pines:
- Accenture World Matchplay, Dove Mountain -
- Honda Classic, Palm Beach Gardens:
7 March -
Cadillac Championship, Doral:
21 March -
Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bay Hill:
He has been the talk of Augusta after playing practice rounds with Woods and two-time champion Ben Crenshaw, who he will again partner on Thursday and Friday.
"I think all of us are asking ourselves, 'What were we doing at 14?'," said Crenshaw, 61, who won the Masters in 1984 and 1995. "You can tell he breathes golf. It was fascinating to see him play."
Woods, 37, has dominated the game since winning his first Masters title in 1997 at the age of 21, but his game deteriorated after scandal in 2009. Four knee operations and other injuries have also affected his career and he dropped to 58th in the world in November 2011 while undergoing swing changes with new coach Sean Foley.
"It took Jack a while to get to 18, all the way until he was 46 years old," said Woods. "So there's plenty of opportunities for me."
Masters 2013: Luke Donald and other contenders look ahead to Augusta
The match-up that many golf fans would like to see is Woods going head-to-head with McIlroy on Sunday afternoon. The 23-year-old, who idolised Woods as a child, struggled earlier this season
after a signing a £78m deal
to switch club manufacturers. He then added to his woes by walking off the course during the Honda Classic in March, citing toothache as an excuse before later apologising.
McIlroy, however, was second behind Scot Martin Laird in Texas last week and says he is now "100% comfortable" with his game. He also insists he has banished the demons after his infamous collapse during the final round in 2011, when he squandered a four-shot lead going into the last day.
"Would anything less than a win be a disappointment this week?" he said. "Yes, it would be. The ultimate goal is getting one of those Green Jackets."
The Masters in numbers
- Green Jackets won by Jack Nicklaus
- Tiger Woods's margin of victory when he won in 1997 aged 21
- Career top-10s by Phil Mickelson in 20 appearances, including three victories
- Countries that have had players compete in the Masters
- Players who have won the Masters
- Consecutive years Arnold Palmer competed
- Magnolia trees on the drive that leads to the Augusta National clubhouse
- Lowest 18-hole score, by Nick Price and Greg Norman
- Career rounds at Augusta National by Jack Nicklaus
- Lowest 72-hole score, by Tiger Woods in 1997
Away from the Woods-McIlroy axis, American left-hander Phil Mickelson is a course specialist and is chasing a fourth Green Jacket after wins in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
A host of other Americans, such as Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley, Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson, are considered contenders to follow in the footsteps of countryman Bubba Watson, who conjured a stunning shot out of the trees to beat South African Louis Oosthuizen in a play-off last year for his first major title.
the 2010 Open champion,
and fellow South African Charl Schwartzel,
the 2011 Masters winner,
are also on many people's shortlists along with Australian Adam Scott, who blew a four-shot lead with four holes to play at the Open at Royal Lytham last year.
"I'd say there are about 20 players with a very serious chance of winning," said BBC golf commentator Peter Alliss.
"Then there are another 20 who could win if things just go their way and they have a bit of luck."
Scotland's Sandy Lyle, who became the first Briton to win the Masters in 1988, plays in the first group due out at 13:00 BST (08:00 local time) on Thursday.
Woods will play alongside world number four Donald and American Scott Piercy at 15:45, one group ahead of Watson, Poulter and US amateur Steven Fox.
McIlroy will tee off in the penultimate group at 18:41 with Bradley and Sweden's Frederik Jacobson.
Nicklaus, 73, four-time winner Arnold Palmer, 83, and three-time champion Gary Player, 77, will hit the ceremonial opening drives to get the 2013 Masters under way.
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