The Masters begins on Thursday as the first golfing major of the year. Headlines are ready to be written as Tiger Woods returns, Bubba Watson defends his title and Martin Kaymer flies the German flag.
Tiger Woods will return for his 20th Masters this week, having won four times previously at the Augusta National Course in Georgia, USA. Golfing legend Jack Nicklaus (six wins) told Woods after his first triumph that he would win more titles than he did, but ten years on from his last win and in a defining stage of his emphatic career, can Tiger roar again?
"People would never understand how much work I put into it, to come back and do this again," Woods said Tuesday during a press conference at Augusta National. "But it was sun-up to sun-down, and whenever I had free time. If the kids were asleep, I'd still be doing it, and then when they were in school, I'd still be doing it. So it was a lot of work."
Last week Woods fell out of golf's top 100 ranked players and while plagued by injury, has had to redefine his playing style. The 39-year old can no longer beat those around him with pure power, he's older and has been suffering from back problems for a while now. And, there has been a rise of young players in his wake.
Watson to fight his own battle
Around Woods are more athletic and in-form players. For example, Bubba Watson. The defending Masters champion has won the famous green jacket in two of the last three years and can become the second player to win three titles in a four-year span this year. Having not missed a cut in his six visits to Augusta, the left-hander will be a favorite to repeat his successes in 2012 and 2014.
He's unlikely to receive help from his fellow professionals, though, after this week being listed first in an anonymous poll of PGA players asked which peer they would be least likely to help in a fist fight. Watson said the survey showed he needed to improve as a man. It may of course have something to do with his rumored knowledge of martial arts.
"I answered that question, I put my name on there, because I'm not going to call out anybody," he said at his press conference Tuesday. "There's nobody I dislike on tour."
Kaymer flying the flag
Germany's main contender to win the tournament is Martin Kaymer. The two-time major winner is within reach of a career grand slam of major wins, however, the 30-year old has always struggled with the Masters in his seven visits, with last year's tied-31st finish his best result.
"Halfway sounds close, but it's still far away," Kaymer joked after a practice round early in the week. Having won the US Open last year and the PGA Championship in 2010, the Masters and the Open are missing from his collection. "It's a career goal, but it's a long way away," he added.
As he did last year, Kaymer has been taking advice from fellow German Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters champion. Langer has a lifetime invitation to enter the event and the pair practiced together on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, current world number one Rory McIlroy is looking to complete his career grand slam at just 25. The Northern-Irishman won the PGA Championship and the Open Championship last year, but has struggled to compete at the famous course.
The first round of The Masters begins on Thursday morning local time.