The 73rd Masters got underway today, with all eyes on Tiger Woods. The No. 1 player in the world, who won this tournament four times before, is scheduled to tee off this afternoon. This is his first major since his brilliant—and painful—U.S. Open win at Torrey Pines last summer, after which he announced he would undergo reconstructive knee surgery.
After an eight-month break, Woods thankfully returned to the sport in February, fully rehabilitated. He was victorious at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill two weeks ago.
Although Woods is the overwhelming favorite to win a fifth green jacket at Augusta National—one win away from Jack Nicklaus's record—he has a few obstacles in his way, including a trio of brilliant teenagers: 19-year-old Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, 18-year-old Danny Lee of New Zealand, and 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan.
These young'uns—teeing off in their first Masters today—were just learning how to spell when Tiger was signing $40 million endorsement deals with Nike. But their fight to become the next Tiger looks promising.
"Boy Wonder" McIlroy, who turned pro 17 months ago, shot 68 in the first round of the British Open and reached the final eight of the World Match Play Championships. Lee became the youngest winner of the Amateur Championship last summer, won the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth, Australia, two months ago, and tied for 20th at last year's Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. The "Japanese Sensation" Ishikawa—brought to Augusta National as an "international invitee"—turned pro last year and became the youngest player to make the top 100 in world rankings.
Of course, we can't forget crowd-pleaser Phil Mickelson, a two-time Masters winner. The man known on the tour as "Lefty" has two wins this year after defending his title at the Northern Trust Open and then winning his first World Golf Championships event at the CA Championship.
Like many golf fans around the world, I'm crossing my fingers for a Mickelson-Woods duel.