Tiger Woods reemergence as the No. 1 player in the world and his quest for his 15th major arent the only storylines at Augusta National next week. Here are five other questions about the Masters, which begins Thursday:
Can Bubba Watson repeat?
Its a shot that will always be remembered at Augusta: Watsons snap hook on the second playoff hole that helped him win the 2012 Masters over Louis Oosthuizen. Watson will never recapture the magic of that time after winning his first major championship, he left to be with his newly adopted baby boy Caleb. Watson has the kind of power and shot-making ability to always be a factor at the Masters, although he has just two top 10s this season (Maui and Accenture World match play).
Whats been wrong with Rory McIlroy, and can he be a factor at Augusta?
McIlroys season has gotten off to a choppy start, and hes trying to rediscover his game this weekend at the Texas Open. A two-time major champion who won last years PGA Championship while rising to the world No. 1 ranking, McIlroy was bounced in the first round of the Accenture World match play this year and withdrew from the Honda Classic. Speculation on McIlroys problems range from his new Nike equipment to maybe spending a little too much time with girlfriend and tennis star Caroline Wozniacki. Hes dropped to second in the world behind Woods.
Is it time for Phil Mickelson to win another Masters?
Mickelson chose not to play at Texas this week, but his game seems ready for a run at a fourth green jacket (he last won in 2010). He already has one victory this season at Phoenix and was tied for third at the World Golf Championships in March. Theres also some intrigue involved with Mickelson: After carrying two 3-woods in his bag at Houston (where he finished tied for 16th), he might use a new driver at Augusta.
Who are other players who might break through this week?
Steve Stricker, who is playing a scaled-back schedule, is one. Oosthuizen, who lost in that playoff last year to Watson, seems ready. Charl Schwartzel has a game built for Augusta, and has won before (2011). And there will always be those others on the list of best players who have yet to win a major, probably headed by Justin Rose and Luke Donald. A month ago, Brandt Snedeker might have been considered a favorite, but after had early season success at Pebble Beach and two second-place finishes, hes missed the cut in his past two tournaments.
Will Augusta Nationals first two female members be part of the story this week?
If Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore are at the Masters, and theyre sure to be, they wont have a high profile. Rice, the former secretary of state, and Moore, a South Carolina financier whose father was a captain of Clemsons football team, were admitted as the clubs first female members in August 2012. But its not Augusta Nationals style to parade them in front of the media and public.
Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14