A pair of injured gladiators, a happy spaniard and a comeback kid. Those are the story lines of Masters Tournament 2014.

“He’s back!” That could have been the story. But not this year. Now the story is different. “His back.”

This Sunday Tiger Woods is rehabilitating his injured back instead of fighting for his fifth green jacket on the back nine. In his golden years retired Woods would have been the biggest inflator a major tournament could ever have. It’s still an issue, but it’s not ruining the whole tournament anymore. No matter who is going to celebrate on Sunday, he will be recognized as a true Masters champion. Not as an avid journeyman who just appeared to get some lucky bounces while king Woods was absent.

There’s also something else to be taken than the well-known jacket of Augusta National Golf Club: the number one spot in the world rankings. The man to be displaced is Tiger Woods.

The group of candidates is small but capable. Next week, the new leader of the pack can be either Henrik Stenson, a Swede who was crowned on both sides of the Atlantic last season, or Adam Scott, a top form Australian and the defending champion.

Sergio Garcia has played 61 major tournaments without a single win. But now he’s playing one of the best stretches of his career. Some fellow spaniards have told that Garcia is enjoying his life maybe more than ever. And like so often, the overall happiness in life is reflected in the game.

Unlike Garcia, Rory McIlroy has two major wins on his belt, but none in The Masters. Last season was a major collapse for 24-year-old Northern Irish, but since last December McIlroy has been a contender almost every time he has teed it up. Last week he wasn’t fighting for the win in Houston, but played a flawless round of 65 (-7) on Sunday, the best round of the day. That was the last confidence boost needed for McIlroy and one more sign that this curly-haired kid from Holywood is back.

And then there’s Phil Mickelson.

A crowd favorite has three wins and five third place finishes in his 21 appearances in Augusta. This season, the best of Mickelson is yet to be seen, but so it was four years ago, when the first major of the season was knocking on the door. 2010 was a year when Mickelson won his third green jacket – and nothing else. He cannot be evaluated through his record this year. Phil Mickelson is always a Masters favorite. This year, there’s just one big question mark with Mickelson: His back.

 

Who do you think will be wearing the Green Jacket at the end of the week?

 

– Mane

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