Editor's note: The majors are always the most highly anticipated tournaments of the year. But which one will be the best? We asked our writers to present the cases for the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship. First up, the Masters.
You could argue the stage is the star every year at Augusta National.
You throw in a good script at the Masters, and it’s practically a bonus.
The dramatic potential of the scripting this year makes the Masters the most anticipated major championship of the new year and once again the favorite to be the best. It’s the only major where the game’s top player can make history closing out a career Grand Slam. At 25, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy will be looking to join Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods as the only players to win all four professional majors. If McIlroy claims the only major he has yet to win, he will become the second-youngest to do so, with only Woods (24) younger.
The hype preceding McIlroy’s drive down Magnolia Lane will be almost Tigeresque. He’ll be going for his third consecutive major championship title after winning the British Open and PGA Championship last year.
Back in 2011, McIlroy made a serious bid to win at Augusta National, where he took a four-shot lead into the final round before making a mess of the 10th hole with a triple-bogey 7 that would lead to a closing 80.
“There’s no golf course I can think of that is made for him more,” Player said last month.
That being said, McIlroy’s best finish in six starts at Augusta National is his tie for eighth last year. Notably, he got outplayed in the third round by a non-competing marker, a 51-year-old Augusta National member.
This year’s Masters will also bring the highly anticipated return of Woods after he missed the event for the first time in his career last year while recovering from back surgery. Augusta National looms as the venue that most favors Woods ending his six-year winless run in majors. Even when he’s not on his best form, Woods contends there. Though he hasn’t won the Masters since ’05, he has finished T-6 or better at Augusta National in seven of his last eight starts. By April, we’ll know how his “new, old swing” is coming along, whether his chipping woes are worked out and if his putting stroke is back in dependable order.
As comeback storylines go, this Masters also gives us Phil Mickelson, looking to win his fourth green jacket after missing the cut in last year’s season of disappointments.
There also will be young Jordan Spieth (21) looking to break through and win his first major after a hard Sunday run at it a year ago.
And, of course, there’s defending champion Bubba Watson, looking to win his third Masters in four years to really solidify himself as the best American in the game.