What to watch for at the Masters

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The 73rd Masters starts Thursday at Augusta National. Heres a look at what may await:
 

  • Tiger Woods wont start quickly
    OK, scratch that, he just might, but he doesnt need to do so to win. Woods has never broken 70 in the first round of the Masters. He opened with a 74 in the last of his four Masters titles. No Masters winner has opened with a higher score in 27 years, since Craig Stadler went on to win after starting with a 75 in 1982. Of course, the 54-hole score is what sets up Woods. He has led going into the final round of every one of his 14 major championship victories.
     

  • Mickelson will try to keep Woods in his rear-view mirror
    A common denominator in Mickelsons two Masters victories is that he jumped in front of Woods in the first round of both of them and never trailed him at the end of any round. So that means Mickelson jumping ahead of Woods in the first round matters, right? Not necessarily. Woods has four Masters titles, and in his last three victories he trailed Mickelson after the first round.
     

  • Woods vs. Mickelson takes shape
    Golf fans tuning in to see whether a Woods vs. Mickelson Sunday showdown looks possible arent asking for too much given the duos record at the Masters. While its true Woods hasnt won at Augusta National since 2005, its also true he hasnt finished worse than a tie for third in the last four Masters. Phil Mickelson has finished fifth or better in six of the last eight Masters.
     

  • Padraig Harrington finally seizes the Masters spotlight
    Its hard to believe a guy whos trying to win his third consecutive major championship and fourth in the last seven is getting such Off Broadway billing, but Harrington changes that with a fast start today. Harrington isnt a bad fit at Augusta National. He tied for fifth last year and tied for seventh the year before and had another tie for fifth in 02.
     

  • Justin Rose will lead after the first round
    Why not? Rose has led, or shared the lead, after the first round in three of the last five Masters. Of course, his finishes havent been pretty. After opening with a 68 last year, he shot 78. After starting with a 69 the year before that, he posted a pair of 75s. After leading both the first and second rounds in 04, he shot an 81.
     

  • Something old, something new comes into view
    Dont be surprised if an aging past champion emerges as a storyline before the cut is made, or if some new character introduces himself to Augusta Nationals patrons in a big way. Tommy Aaron, Gay Brewer and Charles Coody briefly revisited their youth with surprising starts in the last decade. With the course playing so long and tough, past champs teeing it up will have a harder time now, but it wouldnt be shocking to see a Champions Tour pro like Bernhard Langer or Greg Norman post a good score early. As for the new characters, Brandt Snedeker was the guy last year, hanging tough all the way until his final round disappointment. Brett Wetterich, Arron Oberholser, Mark Hensby and Alex Cjeka made first-round introductions in recent years. Whos it going to be this year? How about Briny Baird? Or Ryuji Imada? Or Ken Duke?
     

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