Bright and early Thursday morning in Augusta, Georgia, a field of 93 golfers will begin to tee off in the 77th edition of the Masters golf tournament. And, as usual, there will be multiple story lines to follow all the way to Sunday afternoon.
One interesting subplot is that of Tianlang Guan, a 14-year-old 8th grader from China. He is the youngest qualifier in Masters history, having won the Asia Pacific Amateur championship last November. The previous youngest qualifier was Matteo Manassero in 2010, who won the British Amateur to qualify at age 16.
Four-time champion Tiger Woods comes to Augusta National having won three times so far this season and is listed as a favorite to win a fifth green jacket this year. Woods is paired with Englishman Luke Donald and fellow American Scott Piercy in the tournament's first two rounds, teeing off at 10:45 a.m. Thursday.
Phil Mickelson will attempt to draw even with Tiger Woods by winning his fourth Masters this weekend. Equipped with a new hybrid wood, the 'Phrankenwood,' the three-time former champion hopes to get around the 7,435-yard Augusta National layout in fewer strokes than any of the other competitors. The combined driver/3-wood attempts to give him more distance and directional control.
"It's almost like a small driver but its put the 3-wood technology of our X Hot into a driver. What it's done is taken a lot of spin off of it. And if you watch, you'll see a lot of the shots off the tee that I hit have a lot more scoot on them," Mickelson told Golf.com Tuesday.
Mickelson is paired with South African Louis Oosthuizen, the former British Open champ who hit the second-best shot in last year's Masters - knocking in his second shot on the par-5 second hole for a 'double eagle' - and finished in second place. Former PGA champion Martin Kaymer of Germany rounds out the threesome that will tee off at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
Defending champion Bubba Watson comes into the Masters having made the cut in five of six PGA Tour events so far in 2013. He's probably made more of a 'splash' this year by showing off his new amphibious golf cart, 'Bubba's Hover.' Watson will be teeing off at 10:34 a.m. Thursday, paired with Ian Poulter of England and last year's US Amateur champ Steven Fox.