The Masters is one of those special events that attracts the attention of golf fans everywhere, no matter how serious they are about the game. As the first round rolled on Thursday afternoon, fans as diverse as Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander and comedian Larry the Cable Guy chimed in on the proceedings via Twitter.
Here is some of their commentary:
Watching the masters and this pin placement on hole 17 is ridiculous.
— Mo Williams (@mowilliams) April 10, 2014
My buddy Boo is sittin40th right now at the masters. Watch him make a big move up Friday. I'm that confident!
— Larry The Cable Guy (@GitRDoneLarry) April 10, 2014
— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) April 10, 2014
The first major of the season is upon us. The dogwoods, the azaleas, the magnolias, the towering pines and oak trees -- Augusta National Golf Club in all its glory for what is sure to be yet another fantastic Masters.
If you like drama (who doesn't?), it doesn't get any better than the back nine on Sunday where Amen Corner can ruin, or boost, the hopes of slipping into a coveted green jacket.
Many have suggested this particular Masters may just be the most wide open in years.
That may be true, but I really like the chances of any one of the five men listed below. Keep an eye on them this week.
5. Justin Rose
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Fifth in the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: Rose enters the Masters coming off a missed cut in his last start -- the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That should be cause for concern, right? Sure. But that's also the reason I like the reigning U.S. Open champ to make some noise this week... he's flying under the radar. He's not getting the attention you'd expect a full-on favorite to have. When he's on, few possess the all-around game Rose does. If that comes together this week, I have a feeling England will have its first Masters champ since Nick Faldo in 1996.
4. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2013-14 season: T12 at the Shell Houston Open
Reason to watch: It seems almost impossible, but some how, Mickelson has yet to record a top-10 finish this season. There is reason to be optimistic, however. Last week's T12 in Houston is his best this year. Oh yeah, and over the course of his illustrious career, Mickelson has racked up a whopping 14 top-10 finishes in the Masters, including three victories. Augusta National brings out the best in Phil. When he arrives for Masters week, it truly is like an excited kid on Christmas morning.
3. Jason Day
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship
Reason to watch: This week will mark Day's first start since winning the Match Play Championship in February. He hasn't played since due to a thumb injury. Day says the thumb feels great now and that's a terrific sign for the Aussie this week, as he's finished in a tie for second and alone in third in two of his last three Masters trips. Based on that, along with the fact that Day finished in the top 10 at three of the four majors in 2013, it seems as though a major championship win is in Day's very near future. Why not this week?
2. Adam Scott
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
Reason to watch: For starters, he's the defending champion. He's also got a chance to become the world's No. 1-ranked player and the first player since Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002 to successfully defend his Masters title. Scott just seems to have his eyes set on winning majors now that he's finally gotten over the hump. Major win No. 2 could very well result in his second Masters.
1. Rory McIlroy
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Playoff runner up at Honda Classic
Reason to watch: What a difference a year makes. After a tumultuous 2013 season, McIlroy is right back on top of his game and clearly a favorite to win this week at Augusta National. Golf is so much more fun to watch when the best players are on top of their respective games and that seems to be where McIlroy is at in 2014. A win at Augusta National would put the 24-year-old three-quarters of the way to a career grand slam.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
One of the great Masters traditions lives on today with the playing of the annual Par 3 Contest.
The idea for the Par 3 Contest came from Augusta National co-founder and former chairman, Clifford Roberts. It debuted in 1960 and was won that year by Sam Snead. The winner receives a crystal bowl.
Believe it or not, winning the Par 3 Contest is somewhat of a curse if you look at history. No player who has won the Par 3 has ever gone on to win the tournament proper that same week.
There are several great aspects about the Par 3 Contest. Here are five of them, in no particular order:
1. The kids. The "cuteness" scale is off the charts during the Par 3 Contest, as many players enlist their children -- toddlers and up -- to play caddie for the day. There's nothing cuter than seeing a 2-year-old dressed in the white Masters coveralls and green Masters hat. Another great part of the Par 3 is that the players will actually let their kids hit some of their putts (of course, those who do forfeit the chance to win, but who cares?).
2. The chance to see a hole in one. The holes range in distance from 70 to 140 yards. And, the pin positions are such that great shots will be rewarded handsomely, making the Par 3 Contest all the more fun and exciting for the patrons. In all, there have been 77 holes-in-one made through the years, including a record five in 2002. Ben Crenshaw and Nick Watney each made aces in 2013.
3. It's not just Masters competitors. That's right -- you might actually see players in the Par 3 Contest that aren't in the Masters field that week and not just former Masters Champions. The field for the Par 3 Contest includes tournament participants, noncompeting past champions and Honorary Invitees (former U.S. Amateur champions, for instance).
4. The legends. For our money, this has got to be the best part of the Par 3 Contest -- the chance to see Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player all in the same threesome. It doesn't get any better than that.
5. The course itself. With the DeSoto Springs Pond and Ike's Pond, this little 9-hole course is a work of art. It's a painting brought to life and probably the most perfectly, most beautifully conditioned short course you'll ever see.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.