Among them: Padraig Harrington going for his third straight major title; Greg Norman returning to the scene of so much heartache; Gary Player competing at Augusta for the 52nd ' and final ' time; three brilliant teens taking a crack at the green jacket; and, of course, Tiger Woods.
The worlds No. 1 player had an afternoon tee time in his first major since hobbling to a U.S. Open win last summer, his 14th title in golfs four biggest events. Woods underwent knee surgery after his playoff win at Torrey Pines, missing the British Open and the PGA Championship.
He returned at the end of February after an eight-month layoff, and showed hes fully recovered with a dramatic win at Bay Hill two weeks ago. Hes the overwhelming favorite to win a fifth green jacket at Augusta National, which would leave him one away from Jack Nicklaus record.
Woods has plenty of competition, starting with Harrington and Phil Mickelson. The Irishman won both majors while Woods was away, including a second straight British Open title. Mickelson is a two-time Masters winner who looks as strong as ever, having already won twice this year.
The 79-year-old Palmer got things started on a cool, sunny morning, whacking the ball down the right side of the fairway with his one swing. The temperature was expected to warm into the 70s under clear blue skies, a striking change from foul weather thats plagued the event the last two years.