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World number one Tiger Woods will miss the Masters for the first time after back surgery to fix a pinched nerve. His absence has brought talk of the most wide-open Masters in nearly 20 years. Las Vegas has installed defending champion Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy as the betting favourites followed by Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Matt Kuchar. Mix in a record 24 first-time Masters starters and one of golf's grandest stages is set for a showdown to decide the green jacket like few seen in recent times. Here are five players with a legitimate shot at being measured for a green jacket come Sunday:



Even though he has been battling shoulder pain lately, it doesn't matter how the Argentinian is playing at the time, the trip down Magnolia Lane seems to do wonders. The 2009 winner has been in the final pairing in three of the last five years, losing to Adam Scott in a memorable playoff last year.
Associated Press


For years, his best performance at the Masters was as an amateur. That began changing two years ago with his tie for third, and last year when he was tied for the lead with three holes to play before making bogey on the 16th hole and finishing eighth. There’s no part of the former Georgia Tech grad's game that is distinctly better than anyone else, he just does it all very well. And having been through the heat of the final round, he’s more equipped than ever.
Associated Press


This is the one major he has not threatened to win, yet his talent is such that he can’t be ignored. He’s on the A-list of power players, his natural shot is a draw, his short game is vastly improved and he has four top-5 results in seven PGA Tour events this year. Second in distance on PGA tour this year, first in greens in regulation and 11th in strokes gained putting. He's also first in birdies and first in scoring average. Even so, his best finish at Augusta is a tie for 13th which came last year. He will be a contender one of these years.
AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution


As the defending champion he might be swinging the club as well and as consistently as anyone in the game. The only thing keeping the Australian from winning more is his putting, which he showed at Bay Hill when he couldn’t hold a seven-shot lead on the weekend. The world number two has a history of bouncing back from adversity and learning from his mistakes. His last three appearances at Augusta are a tie for second, tie for eighth and a win. Looking to become the first since Tiger Woods to successfully defend (Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo are the only other players to win back-to-back at Augusta). Don’t be surprised if he leaves with the same green jacket he brings with him.
Associated Press


Plenty of signs point to him returning to the top of the game. He’s had a chance going into the final round at three of his four stroke-play events this year. That includes the Honda Classic, where he lost a two-shot lead and then lost in a four-man playoff. He showed in 2011 his game is suited for the Masters, finishing tied for 15 after losing a four-shot lead with an 80 in the final round. Still, it's his best result in five trips to Augusta. His last two drives down Magnolia Lane he has failed to finish higher than 25th.

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