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Masters Preview: A Quest for a Green Jacket

Preview – 78th Masters Tournament– Augusta National Golf Club – Augusta, Georgia –

With the 78th playing of The Masters upon the world of golf, the game’s best players assembled at Augusta National for what is certain to be a memorable event.

The first major of the season for men’s professional golf features the sport’s best prize – a green jacket and an historic place in golf immortality.

Despite the absence of World No. 1 Tiger Woods – a four-time green jacket winner, the game’s best are here including betting co-favorites Rory McIlroy and World No. 2 and defending champion Adam Scott. Both are 10-to-1 picks at Ladbrokes.com.

Traditionally, a right-to-left ball flight along with accurate approach shots are keys to winning at Augusta. High-ball hitters are also typically rewarded. But to tame the Alister Mackenzie/Bobby Jones design, players better have their putting sharp this week.

Phil Mickelson is trying to tie Woods and Arnold Palmer with four green jackets. But, he has yet to record a Top 10 on the PGA Tour this season.

Expect the second nine Sunday to be drama filled, especially with the top-ranking in the world on the line. Scott can surpass Tiger with a two-way tie for third place or better, while Henrik Stenson (two-way tie for second or better) and Jason Day (must win the title) have a shot at the Official World Golf Ranking No. 1.

ESPN has television coverage Thursday and Friday, while CBS Sports handles the weekend. “Live From” the Masters is featured all week on Golf Channel.

2013 Outcome:

  • Scott breakthrough for his first major championship with a playoff victory over Angel Cabrera. Both finished 9-under through 72 holes. Scott carded three 69s for the week. Day was third at 7-under and had the lead during the final round. Marc Leishman and Woods were T-4 at 5-under. Top 10s were logged by Garcia, Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar and Lee Westwood.

FANTASY: Mickelson is usually a lock at Augusta with double digit Top 10s at The Masters. Take a look at Kuchar, who enters as one of the hottest players in the world. He could’ve won the last two events on tour and finished T-3 here in 2012. Everyone loves Day with this Top 3s in two of the last three Masters, but take Cabrera – the 2009 champion. The Big Game Hunter has a run of three Top 10s in his last five starts here.

BETTORS: Mickelson has 10 Top 5s at this event – third behind Woods (11) and Jack Nicklaus (15). He is a 12-1 betting selection at Ladbrokes.com. For experience, take Westwood who has four straight Top 11s at Augusta. For a first-timer, consider Harris English (66-1). Take Bubba, the 2012 champ at 25-1. Take another lefty and former champion Bubba Watson (25-1), who already has a victory this year at Riviera and a runner-up finish at WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Other Masters News:

  • Dustin Johnson, with a 76 in round two, and Fred Couples were both in the mix last year at Augusta with one round derailing their chances. Couples tumbled with a Saturday 77.
  • Watson, Luke Donald and Garcia are off No. 1 at 1:15 p.m. local time Thursday in the opening round. Another high-profile group features Phil, Ernie Else and Justin Rose at 1:48 p.m.
  • This year’s tournament has a record 24 first-time competitors with the addition of last week’s Shell Houston Open champion Matt Jones.
  • The last player to win The Masters in his first appearance at Augusta was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979. Several first-timers are trying to breakthrough this year including Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.
  • The tournament includes players from 21 different countries.