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The Masters, 2013

Tournament Preview

Perhaps the most sacred and legendary event in all of American sport kicks off Thursday, with the first tee shots set for 8 a.m. at The Masters, held at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

The club is celebrating its 80th anniversary with most eyes fixed firmly on reigning No. 1 Tiger Woods, who is playing his best golf since his spectacular public swan dive in 2010 and who is seeking his first major championship since 2008. Woods is a four-time winner at Augusta, tied for the second-most all-time, and has the course record of 18-under, which he set in 1997 in his spectacular debut there.

But the living legend hasn't won at Augusta since 2005, and he's far from the only former champion in the field.

Also lurking is perennial fan favorite Phil Mickelson. "Lefty" has three Augusta wins of his own, most recently in 2010. Amazingly, 2013 will be Mickelson's 21st time at the Masters.

Last year's champion, Bubba Watson, the 34-year-old American, has struggled so far in 2013 with only one Top 10 finish, and has dipped to No. 39 in the rankings. Last year's victory, which he won in a playoff with a total 10-under for the tournament, was won of seven Top 10 finishes for Watson.

Augusta National is one of the most unique and treasured golf courses in the world, with each hole named for a flower, and lengths ranging from a paltry 155 yards to a monstrous 575.

In all, 19 former Masters champions are in the field,. Along with Woods and Mickelson are two-time winners Jose Maria Olazabal (1994, 1999); Ben Crenshaw (1984, 1995); Bernhard Langer (1985, 1993) and Tom Watson (1977, 1981).

The 63-year-old Watson holds the unqiue record of being the only person to have at least one round of 67 or less at any of the four majors in five different decades (1970s-2010s).

To put his longevity in perspective, when Watson won his first Masters in 1977, seven of the 10 players currently in the Top 10 had not been born yet.

The opening trio of Sandy Lyle, Nathan T. Smith and John Peterson are set to tee off at 8 a.m. Eastern on Thursday.

Notable start times include: Tom Watson, 8:44 a.m.; Lee Westwood, 9:06 a.m.; Justin Rose, 9:17 a.m.; Brandt Snedeker, 9:17 a.m.; Bubba Watson, 10:34 a.m.; Tiger Wood, 10:45 a.m.; Steve Stricker, 12:13 p.m.; Ernie Els, 12:13 p.m.; Vijay Singh, 12:46 p.m.; Sergio Garcia, 12:57 p.m.; Hunter Mahan, 1:19 p.m.; Rory McIlroy, 1:41 p.m.

Thursday ,11/04/2013

A familiar name and another that's decidedly unfamiliar topped the leaderboard on Day 1 of the Masters at Augusta National in Georgia.

Spain's Sergio Garcia, perhaps the best player on tour without a Major title, and Australia's Marc Leishman each shot a 6-under 66 to sit tied atop the leaderboard after the first 18 holes.

Garcia has never finished higher than fourth at Augusta, which he did in 2004. He was tied for 12th in 2012 after a miserable stretch between 2005 and 2011 that saw him miss the cut thrice, and never finish higher than 35th in the other four years.

Leishman is playing the Masters for just the second time in his career. The 2009 PGA Rookie of the Year missed the cut in his other appearance, that in 2010.

Leishman was still at par through the first seven holes before birdying No. 8 to slip a stroke under. He surged into the spotlight with four straight birdies on No. 13-16.

Garcia was just the opposite, hitting the turn 4-under and dropping to 5-under with a birdie on No. 10. He was 1-under for the next eight holes.

American Dustin Johnson is a stroke off the lead at 5-under, folloed by six players at 4-under, including Fred Couples.

Just about everyone's lock to win the tournament, Tiger Woods, shot a 2-under 70 to sit four strokes off the lead. He is joined there by Lee Westwood, Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose.

Using new equipment for the first time on tour, three-time champion Phil Mickelson shot a 1-under 71. Mickeslon bogeyed three of the first seven holes, but bounced back with four birdies in a five-hole stretch between No.s 12 and 16.

Former No. 1 Rory McIlroy was at even par through 18, tied for 33rd. McIlroy's game continues to be wildly inconsistent from hole to hole. From No. 9 through No. 17, he shot birdie, bogey, par, bogey, birdie, bogey, birdie, par, bogey, par.

Perhaps the most impressive round of all was fired by China's Tianlang Guan, who at 14, is the youngest player ever to compete at Augusta. Guan hit a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to finish 1-over at 73, tied for 46th witht he likes of Steve Stricker, Larry Mize and Sandy Lyle.

The performance earned Guan a standing ovation from the gallery, including American Ben Crenshaw, who at 61 is the oldest player in the field. All 19 of Crenwshaw's PGA Tour victories came before Guan's birth in 1998.

Tee times to watch on Friday: 9:06 a.m. - Guan, Crenshaw and Matteo Manaserro; 9:39 a.m. - Garcia, Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera; 9:50 a.m. - Johnson, Couples and Branden Grace; 1:41 p.m. - Woods, Luke Donald and Scott Piercy

Friday ,12/04/2013

It was an amazing second day of action at August National and the Masters on Friday, as 70 players - the most in tournament history - made the cut to play through the weekend.

At the top of the leaderboard is Australian Jason Day, who fired a 4-under 68 to get to 6-under for the tournament, giving him a one-stroke lead over countryman Marc Leishman and American Fred Couples, the 53-year-old who entered the tournament ranked a meager 239th in the world.

In all, 11 players are within three strokes of the lead, including American Tiger Woods, who was 1-under on the day to sit at 3-under for the tournament. Woods was tied for the lead midway through his round on Friday, but bogeyed 15 and 18 to fall back.

Woods is in a pack of seven players at 3-under that includes Lee Westwood and Justin Rose. Angel Cabrera, Jim Furyk and world No. 2 Brandt Snedeker are all two back at 4-under.

After a wild first round, former No. 1 Rory McIlroy hit a 2-under 70 despite bogeying two of the first three holes.

The story of the tournament continues to be 14-year-old Chinese rookie Tianlang Guan, who shot +3 to finish the first two days at +4, allowing him to avoid being cut.

Guan was shaky early, with bogeys on No. 4 and No. 7 before righting himself with a  string of nine straight pars.

Saturday ,13/04/2013

A red-hot American and a former champion surged to the top of the leaderboard at the Masters on Saturday, but it was neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson.

World No. 2 Brandt Snedeker ran his bogey-less streak to 27 straight holes, firing a 3-under 69 to jump into a tie with 2009 champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina.

Cabrera overcame three bogeys, including back to back on No. 12 and 13, by hitting five birdies. The pair share a one-stroke lead over Australia's Adam Scott, who was 3-under for the second time in three days. Scott was one of three Australians in contention. Day One leader Marc Leishman and countryman Jason Day are both two strokes back at 5-under, followed by American Matt Kuchar alone in sixth at 4-under.

South Africa's Tim Clark and American Tiger Woods are tied for seventh at 3-under.

Woods was the subject of much controversy entering Saturday. Woods was given a two-stroke penalty after play concluded for dropping a ball away from its original divot.

There was some conjecture that Woods should have been disqualified for turning in a scorecard that was incorrect, but the tournament director said that since the rules committee also did not realize that a penalty had been committed, Woods was cleared to play.

Former No. 1 Rory McIlroy's chances at the title took a swan dive. McIlroy entered the day 2-under and had a birdie on No. 3, then had three bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey to finish the day 7-over.

Fourteen-year-old Chinese sensation Tialang Guan also had a tough day, shooting 5-over to fall to 9-over for the tournament, falling to 59th place out of 61 remaining players.

Woods will tee off at 2:10 p.m. on Sunday, while co-leaders Snedeker and Cabrera fire it up at 2:40 p.m.

Sunday ,14/04/2013

Great Scott!

The roar coming from the Southern Hemisphere might have registered as a minor earthquake on the Richter Scale Sunday as Adam Scott became the first Australian to win the Masters, defeating Argentina's Angel Cabrera on the second hole of a playoff.

It looked like Scott had won the tournament in regulation with a dazzling 20-foot birdie putt on No. 18, but Cabrera's dagger of a seven iron set up a three-foot birdie putt of his own to force the playoff.

After each man parred the first hole of the playoff, Cabrera sent a birdie putt about three inches past the hole on No. 10.

Scott buried a 12-foot birdie putt as the crowd roared behind him to put his meltdown as the US Open in the summer of 2012 in the rear-view mirror.

Both Scott and Cabrera, who was seeking his third Major and second Masters, shot 9-under 279s for the tournament.

Scott shot a 69, his third in four rounds, to catch Cabrera, who had been tied for the lead with American Brandt Snedeker entering the final day of competition.

Scott started the day 6-under, but bogied the first hole. He got the shot back at No. 3, then recorded nine straight pars. He birdied Nos. 13, 15 and 18 to battle his way into the playoff.

Cabrera overcame bogeys on 10 and 13 by birdying 16 and 18. The 43-year-old was seeking to become the second-oldest man to ever win the Masters.

Snedeker fell all the way to a tie for sixth by shooting a 3-over 75. He bogeyed six holes on Sunday after accumulating just four of them in the first three rounds of play.

No. 1 Tiger Woods was never really in the hunt, starting the day at 3-under and faltering in the front nine with two bogeys. He rallied late to finish tied for fourth at 5-under.

Tournament Recap

It was a remarkable weekend for the land down under, as Australia place three men in the top five spots of the Masters, including champion Adam Scott, who defeated Angel Cabrera in a two-hole playoff to finish 10-under, win $1.44 million and become the first Aussie to ever win the tournament.

He was joined in elite company by Jason Day, who fired a 7-under 281 to finish third, and Marc Leishman, who shot a 5-under 283 to tie Tiger Woods for fourth.

The only other country to place three men in the Top 10 was the United States with Woods, Brandt Snedeker (T-6th) and Matt Kuchar (T-8th).

Day threatened to make it a three-man playoff until the final three holes. The 25-year-old started the day with a birdie and an eagle, and was 10-under through 15 with three straight birdies before slipping up with bogeys on 16 and 17 to fall behind the co-leaders.

Leishman led after Day One by firing a tournament low 66. He was at even par on Sunday with two birdies and two bogeys.

In addition to receiving a congratulatory phone call from Australian prime minister Julia Gilalrd, Scott was able to ease the pain of the ghost of Greg Norman at Augusta.

Norman, perhaps Australia's most famous athlete period, let alone its most well-known golfer, Despite frequently being ranked No. 1 in the world during the 1980s and 1990s, Norman is well-known for his inability to win at Augusta, particularly in 1996 when he held a six-stroke lead heading into the final day and shot a 6-over 78 to lose the tournament by five strokes to Nick Faldo.

Lost in the drama of the Scott-Cabrera playoff and the overall dominance of the Australian men was the tale of Woods, who went through major controversy for his rule-breaking on Friday and the subsequent decision to let him remain in the tournament despite having signed an incorrect score card.

Had Woods not broken the rules, he would have been at 7-under after birdying No. 15 on Sunday, one stroke off the lead at the time. But the two-stroke penalty, couple with bogeys on No. 5 and 7 early on in the final round dug him a hole too deep to climb out of.

China's 14-year-old prodigy Tianlang Guan fired a 3-over 75 on Sunday to finish at 12-over for the tournament, good for 58th place (61 men made the cut on Friday).

After a rocky start that include three bogeys on his first six holes on Sunday, Guan appeared to loosen up and recorded birdies on 13 and 16.

The young phenom nipped at the heels of three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson (9-over 297, 54th place) and 2012 champion Bubba Watson (7-over 295, 50th place).

Watson was at even par at the turn on Sunday, but a disastrous seven-over 10 on No. 12 ruined any chances he had of a nice weekend.

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