The 2014 Masters Tournament gets underway Thursday morning at 7:45 a.m. ET with a twosome of Stewart Cink and Tim Clark. There is one other twosome—Kevin Streelman and D.A. Points at 11:03 a.m.—but the remainder of the pairings will be threesomes at Augusta National golf course.
The 8:18 pairing might bring the most interest early, as former champion Mark O’Meara joins Steven Bowditch, the Australian who hung on to win the Texas Valero Open two weeks ago to qualify for the Masters The third member of the group will be Jordan Niebrugge, who qualified as an amateur by winning the U.S. Public Links championship in 2013.
The first group expected to draw a big following has a starting time of 9:13 with Angel Cabrera of Argentina teeing off along with American Gary Woodland and Ian Poulter of England. Cabrera turns into a wizard in the majors, and Woodland hits the ball a mile. Poulter is one of the most colorful and outspoken players on the PGA Tour today. Fred Couples is always popular at Augusta, and he will be in the group right behind that threesome along with Webb Simpson and amateur Chang-woo Lee from Korea. Lee was the winner of the Asian-Pacific Amateur Championship last October.
At 9:35 a.m. Graeme McDowell will lead a group that includes Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker. McDowell is a former U.S. Open winner and Fowler is one of the up-and-coming stars on tour. Walker is 35 years old, but has just started playing like a champion. He leads the FedEx Cup point standings and has 3 wins in the past six months.
Defending champion Adam Scott will take to the first tee at 10:41 a.m. and will play with PGA Champion Jason Dufner and U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick from England. Those three champions are traditionally paired in the first two rounds of the Masters Tournament each year.
Scott’s group will be followed by an interesting pairing at 10:52. The favorite of odds makers to win the Masters this year, Rory McIlroy, will head onto the golf course with a pair of the great young players on tour; Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. Reed made headlines in early March when he won the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral and proclaimed himself to be one of the top five players in the world. He will be able to back up those claims with a good showing at the Masters Tournament this year.
The 1:04 p.m. group will be a fun one to watch as it features Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson, three players who all have a legitimate chance to win. Day, the fourth-ranked player in the world, has not played since winning the Accenture Match Play in February. He has been nursing a thumb injury. Johnson had to withdraw after one round of the Shell Houston Open last week, complaining of stiffness in his back. Stenson is the defending FedEx Cup champion.
There are big names in the next group too. Teeing off at 1:15 will be former Masters Champ Bubba Watson along with Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia. Garcia has been playing formidable golf, having not finished outside the top-20 in the last six months.
Finally, Phil Mickelson will begin his quest for a fourth green jacket in the penultimate group at 1:48 p.m. His playing partners will be Ernie Els and Justin Rose. Rose won the U.S. Open last June. Els has won four majors, but none of them have been at Augusta National. He finished second at the Masters in 2000 and 2004.
Television coverage of the 2014 Masters Tournament begins at 3:00 ET on Thursday and Friday on ESPN. CBS will take over for the weekend starting at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday. The Masters Tournament website Masters.com will also be streaming some of the pairings, as well as action from Amen Corner.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky