One of the few things that makes me more impatient than playing golf is watching it.
But there is something about the Masters—the azaleas, the rolling green fairways, the coveted green jackets (which, let’s face it, kind of make you wonder what Augusta humidity does on fashion judgment)—that brings out one’s inner golf geek. Here are just a few of the players to watch the next four days:
Tiger Woods: Back in better form than ever after his…well, you know, “break” from golf and wife Elin Nordegren, Tiger has roared…no, clawed…no, let’s just say played like a mutha&#$@% to enter this year’s field as World #1 and the predicted winner. It would be his fifth Masters overall; he won his first in 1997 as the youngest player ever (21). And this year he has new girlfriend, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn at his side.
Bubba Watson: The good ole boy with the shaggy hair and penchant for pranks seeks his second consecutive jacket in the same year he and wife Angie adopted baby boy Caleb. The couple met at the University of Georgia, where he played golf and she played basketball. He’s one of the few lefties on the PGA tour and a favorite of fans and media.
Rory McIlroy: To look at McIlroy, you might mistake him for an Augusta Club shoeshine boy. The 23-year-old Irishman, however is a former World #1 with several majors to his credit. Back across the pond, McIlroy has faced confusion and criticism over his nationality—Northern Ireland vs. British vs. Irish. But for now, he’s a Floridian, enjoying a $10 million estate in Palm Beach Gardens, near legend Jack Nicklaus’ The Bear Club Golf Course. McIlroy dates Danish tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki.
Guan Tianlang: This 14-year-old Chinese amateur may be 2013’s biggest storyline. He qualified by winning the Asia-Pacific amateur Championship and is the youngest player ever to qualify for the Masters. Tiger Woods first qualified at age 19, followed by Italy’s Matteo Manassero (16) in 2010. Even Woods admits the prospect of playing this new prodigy gives him pause. “It’s frightening to think that he was born after I won my first Masters,” Woods said in an interview for Britain’s The Telegraph.
And speaking of kids, for the first time ever, Augusta National on Sunday announced it is inviting male and female junior golfers between ages 7 and 15 for the Drive, Chip and Putt Contest to be held April 6, 2014. The tournament, which is a free of charge to qualifiers from around the country, is designed to encourage boys and girls to take up the game. Register here.