Masters Preview: Storylines, storylines, storylines

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Schultz: Spieth Looks Like Masters Champ


By JIM O'SHEA
College Contributor Network

The only week, arguably, of the year where golf takes precedence in the sports world is upon us. The Masters at Augusta National. It is indeed "a tradition unlike any other". The lead-up to it every year may be great, but the actual tournament has rarely failed to live up to the expectations.

Top-flight players at the top of the leaderboard on the back nine on Sunday, drama like no other (there has been a playoff three out of the last six years), and the roars through the trees when a player like Tiger Woods chips in for birdie on 16 en route to the Green Jacket.

Who knows what will happen this year, but here are some of the top storylines (and there are a bunch of them) to look out for this weekend:

Rory McIlroy looking to again make history: The number-one player in the world had his coming out party last year, winning the year's final two majors and becoming the number-one player in the world. McIlroy can now become only the sixth player all-time to complete the career grand slam. Right after his PGA Championship victory, even he was already looking forward to this week, stating the exact number of days until Augusta.

The Northern Irishman is the favorite, but he has not looked like he feels any pressure at his press conferences this week, even saying that to him Bubba Watson is the favorite. We shall see if he can keep this relaxed nature on a course that he has shot more rounds over 75 than in the 60s.

Guess who's back, back again: Tiger returns to the place he's come out on top four times, but hasn't in a full decade. He is also coming back after a two-month hiatus because of a back injury, which according to him he has spent "working [his] ass off".

Remember in 2010 when he teed it up for the first time since his infamous scandal the past November? Woods finished tied for fourth and even briefly held the lead on the back nine on Sunday. So never count out the 14-time major champion. Also so far this week, he has looked good on and off the course, joking and showing off the 'Tiger smile'.

Bubba could join a very exclusive list: Watson hosted the Masters Champions' Dinner for the second time in three years. The 36 year-old claimed the green jacket last year and back in 2012. With a win this week, he would be only the second player in the history of the tournament to win three in four years. The only player to do it you may have heard of before: Jack Nicklaus.

And do not be surprised at all if he accomplishes the feat. Watson already has four top-ten finishes this season, including a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions which only allows the best in the world to compete, just like the Masters.

Jordan Spieth on fire coming to Augusta: The 21 year-old Texan is having a masterful year already (pun intended). Spieth has finished in the top ten in eight of his last ten tournaments. And even more recently, he's been even better. In each of his last three appearances, he has been in the final group in the final round.

Also, Spieth knows what it is like to lead on the weekend here. He was the 54-hole leader last year and led until the ninth hole when Watson took it and ran with it. If he takes it a little further and leads after 72 holes, Spieth will become the second-youngest to put on a green jacket behind only Tiger.

A trio of major-less guys who are hot at the right time: Jason Day not only has two top-three finishes at Augusta to his name, but he also is a 2015 tournament winner at a U.S. Open course. Day came out on top in February at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, when most players were falling back in the final round due to the tough conditions.

Patrick Reed has not missed a cut this year, has seven top-10s in 10 tournaments, and won the Tournament of Champions. Also, just in March he had a second and seventh place finish.

Jimmy Walker, like last year at this time, is atop the FedEx Cup standings. He also has two wins already this season, which he also did leading up to the Masters in 2014. And the 36 year-old had three top-10s at majors last year, including a T8 at Augusta.

Get ready for four days of more golf and fewer commercials, more bird chirps than a Saturday morning, and grass that is not greener on any side. Whatever the headline is on Sunday evening, one man will join an exclusive class of gentlemen who can only wear the most precious suit jacket in the game, maybe even the world.

Jim O'Shea is a junior at Syracuse University studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism. Born and raised in Houston, TX. He's an avid Texans and Texas Rangers fan. Also golf is his favorite sport. Follow him on Twitter: @JimOShea4
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