Tiger has played at Augusta National ever year since 1994 and he's been in contention practically every April. Only twice in the last 10 years has Tiger finished outside the top six -- T-22 in 2004 and T-40 in 2012. Television ratings dipped noticeably during those tournaments, and with him not playing at all this year, it's hard to believe the same won't happen again.
Which Major-less Man Is Next To Win?
Last year Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Jason Dufner took their names off the major-less list. The likes of Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker and Brandt Snedeker are among those looking to make that step, but only Day and Johnson are showing any form at the moment. Day's series of small recent injuries are a concern, but with a history of playing well at Augusta and a habit of getting hot at the game's biggest events, he's worth watching.
Will early season form prove anything?
Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Harris English, Matt Every and Dustin Johnson have all impressed early this year on the PGA Tour. But it's one thing to play well at a weaker-field event, and another during one of golf's showcase tournaments. His "top 5" comment in March may have caused a stir, but Reed's combination of power off the tee and solid putting could spell for good things at Augusta National -- even if the Masters will be his first major championship.
Will Jordan Spieth step up?
For a 19-year-old rookie, Jordan Spieth's 2013 season was truly remarkable. His performance in the three majors he played -- two missed cuts and a T-44 -- is understandable given his age, but if he wants to become one of the world's best, this is his platform to prove it. We're obviously not projecting him to win, but a top-25 finish isn't an unreasonable expectation and would be another positive step forward for Spieth.
Can Adam Scott win again?
Only three players -- Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus -- have won consecutive Masters. Chances to add a new name to that list have been sparing in recent years, but if his putting holds up, Scott feels like the kind of player capable of winning back-to-back green jackets.
Will slow play be an issue?
Tianlang Guan's penalty for slow play at last year's tournament was big news, while focus on Kevin Na and Jim Furyk have continued making slow play a key issue in 2014. Na isn't in the field at the Masters, and while we don't expect another penalty to be issued, it would be surprising if slow play didn't rear its ugly head in some form at all.
Which amateur will impress?
There's no better place for an amateur to make himself known than at the Masters, especially following a year where a 14-year-old made the cut. Matt Fitzpatrick, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, may lack the distance but has the short game to do well. After dropping out of Northwestern one semester into his college career to focus solely on his golf, a good showing would also go a long way in vindicating that decision.
Is Europe heading into another rut?
The last 13 majors have boasted just three different European winners -- Rory McIlroy (twice), Justin Rose and Darren Clarke -- and none from Continental Europe. We expect Rory to win more majors and suspect Rose will, too, but they can't be the only two players left to represent the continent. For someone like Stenson, who has all the necessary tools, there's no better time than the present to add to that trophy cabinet.
Will the Ryder Cup picture come into clearer focus this week?
The U.S. Ryder Cup standings heavily weigh recent form; the majors are the only events counted from 2013. The ascendancy of Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker, combined with the slow start of others, means that right now Captain Tom Watson would have to pick three from a group that includes Jordan Spieth, Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker and Tiger Woods. He might not win, but in Watson's eyes, a good showing from Kuchar could sneak him into an automatic spot, which would help make his job a whole lot easier.
Who will avenge their Masters heartbreak?
Rory McIlroy could have won the Masters in 2011. Louis Oosthuizen in 2012. Jason Day in 2013. Augusta National has a habit of snatching away people's green jackets at the last moments. Some recover from it (see: Mickelson, Phil), others don't (see: Norman, Greg). If there is going to be another heart-warming redemption story in 2014, let's make it an Australian-themed one, with Jason Day receiving the jacket from Adam Scott.
Will Angel Cabrera magically reappear again?
Who won the Masters in 2009? The same guy who lost in a playoff in 2013. Cabrera has a habit of coming out of nowhere to play well at the Masters. So far in 2014, he's missed six cuts in his last seven starts. That's only marginally worse than his performance before the 2009 Masters (missed three of six cuts with no top 10s) and his 2013 Masters (missed two of seven cuts, with no top 25s), which means the 44-year-old will probably play really well again this year.