Masters excitement gains momentum

Big field of contenders add to golf tournament’s anticipation.

Afp April 09, 2014
A record 24 first-time Masters starters, plus the connoisseurs of the game, practice for the enthralling Augusta National which starts on Sunday. PHOTO: AFP

AUGUSTA: Augusta National’s trademark back-nine drama in the final round of the Masters could reach epic heights on Sunday with a field that offers no clear favorite and several rising young stars.

Rory McIlroy and defending champion Adam Scott squandered late leads last month to lose, while reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson and Australian star Jason Day are coming off injuries.

World number one Tiger Woods will miss the Masters for the first time after back surgery to fix a pinched nerve.

Mix in a record 24 first-time Masters starters, including recent three-time winners Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed, and one of golf’s grandest stages is set for a showdown to decide the green jacket like few seen in recent times.

“To feel that energy and to hear the roars and be a part of what’s happening in those final nine holes, it’s the greatest experience for a professional golfer,” said three-time Masters winner Mickelson.

While the absence of 14-time major champion Woods could dim the mystique for some, it’s unlikely to steal the spotlight come Sunday afternoon.

“Having Tiger in a tournament definitely creates more buzz, more of an atmosphere,” said McIlroy.

There have been 15 first-time major winners in the past 19 majors and 19 different winners in the past 21 majors, only McIlroy and Mickelson winning twice in that span.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2014.

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