The US Masters, golf’s quirky showpiece event begins on April 10th at the Augusta National Golf Club, its home since 1934.
It is the 80th year the course has been the home of The Masters, but this is the 78th edition as World War II caused a halt on play from 1943-45.
But this year something will be different, as Tiger Woods will miss the first Masters tournament in his career, dealing another blow in his quest to catch Jack Nicklaus for the most majors in a career.
But even without Tiger Woods, this 78th edition could be a vintage affair with the field that still includes a who’s who of past champions, current top players and impressive amateurs.
The amateurs receive their places as top two of the US Amateur Championship and winners of the British Amateur, US Mid-Amateur, Asia Pacific Amateur and US Amateur Public links.
The big gun
No doubt those qualifying in this way for the Masters will be happy just to get around the famed course without any huge embarrassments, but for the top golfers that will never be enough.
Without Tiger in the mix, the current US Masters 2014 favourites, according to Coral, are Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy.
Both players are priced at 8/1 and for a simple reason; they are two of the finest golfers in the world and they will have high expectations for themselves at Augusta.
Woods is currently agonisingly stuck on 14 major golf tournament wins, four behind the legendary Jack Nicklaus who holds the record of 18 major wins.
The 38-year-old last won a major in 2008 and since his personal issues arose in 2009 he has not looked quite like the player he was.
If he was healthy, the Californian couldn’t be discounted and he was an 8-1 pick to win the tournament before the injury. He is one of the finest golfers of all-time, and undoubtedly the best of his generation.
McIlroy is a little more complex than Woods, as the Northern Irishman has gone through a rough patch of form in the past few months.
Some of this could be attributed to a change in clubs while his high-profile relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki seems to have had an adverse reaction on his profession.
The 24-year old has already won two majors at the US Open and the PGA Championship, but McIlroy will be itching to get many more majors given his superb skillset.
Defending champion Adam Scott seems to be in the mix in every major tournament, and with Woods out he has a real opportunity here to win back-to-back green jackets.
The dark horse contenders
Behind McIlroy in the betting are Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day.
At bigger prices these players will still need to be taken seriously. James Day played his part last year with Adam Scott in an epic last day battle for the green jacket just 12 months ago.
Even though Tiger Woods isn’t the same player, losing him opens things up considerably for other golfers. Some of the star power is gone from this year’s Masters, but we still may have a tournament to remember.