AUGUSTA, Ga. – There will be plenty of intrigue both the morning and afternoon sessions at the 78th Masters, while amateur Matthew Fitzpatrick will get an up-close look at the pressures of defending a major title.
Here are some key pairings for the first round of the Masters on Thursday:
• 10:41 a.m.: Adam Scott, Jason Dufner, Matthew Fitzpatrick
Wow, talk about trial by fire. Scott won the 2013 Masters and could take over as World No. 1 this week. Jason Dufner is as calm as they come and is the defending PGA Championship champ. And while Fitzpatrick is the reigning U.S. Amateur champ, this will be the biggest crowd he has played in front of in his young career.
• 10:52 a.m.: Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy
Talk about young guns, this group features three players under 25 that are all on the radar of oddsmakers this week. Spieth and Reed are making their first appearances at the Masters, while McIlroy is a 2011, back-nine blunder away from owning a green jacket.
• 1:04 p.m.: Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson
There is no need to stand any closer than 300 yards from driving holes on this one, as this is a group of absolute bombers. Stenson and Day are looking for the maiden major wins, while Johnson is one of the hottest players on the planet.
• 1:48 p.m.: Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Justin Rose
Mickelson is a fan favorite and the folks at Augusta National saved him for the second-to-last tee time of the opening day. Mickelson said he was "nervous" about his game after the Shell Houston Open last week, but the man simply seems to find a way here in Augusta. Els made a great run at the WGC-Accenture Match Play and Rose is coming off an injury-plagued beginning to his season, but can't be discounted after his gutty effort to win the U.S. Open, overtaking Mickelson on the final day.
WHEN/WHERE: Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club, Thursday-Sunday.
AT STAKE: First prize in 2013 was $1,440,000 (in addition to a silver trophy and a certain green jacket) from an $8.1 million total purse.
TOP-RANKED GOLFERS, OWGR: No. 2 Adam Scott, No. 3 Henrik Stenson, No. 4 Jason Day, No. 5 Phil Mickelson, No. 6 Sergio Garcia. GOLFWEEK/SAGARIN: No. 1 Scott, No. 2 Garcia, No. 4 Day, No. 5 Matt Kuchar, No. 6 Steve Stricker.
SHORT SHOTS: Day, Scott and Stenson are the three players in the field who could take over the World No. 1 ranking from Tiger Woods this week. . . . Scott and Rory McIlroy enter as the favorites in the eyes of oddsmakers, at 10/1 slightly ahead of Day, Kuchar and Mickelson. . . . Our senior writers also made McIlroy their favorite ahead of Kuchar, Scott, Stenson and Keegan Bradley. . . . Mark O'Meara says the 17th hole could play easier this year for longer hitters with the winter loss of the Eisenhower Tree that had guarded the inside corner of the dogleg left. . . . Monday's rainfall might be the last of the week, with the forecast Thursday-Sunday no worse than partly cloudy; high temps should be in the mid-70s the first two days and near 80 during the weekend.
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Complete tee times and groupings for Thursday's first round of the 2014 Masters at Augusta National (all times EDT):
7:40 a.m.: Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus (honorary starters)
7:45 a.m.: Stewart Cink, Tim Clark
7:56 a.m.: Ian Woosnam, John Huh, Kevin Stadler
8:07 a.m.: Ben Crenshaw, Y.E. Yang, Jonas Blixt
8:18 a.m.: Mark O'Meara, Steven Bowditch, Jordan Niebrugge
8:29 a.m.: John Senden, Boo Weekley, David Lynn
8:40 a.m.: Craig Stadler, Scott Stallings, Martin Kaymer
8:51 a.m.: Tom Watson, Billy Horschel, Brendon de Jonge
9:02 a.m.: Mike Weir, Matt Every, Roberto Castro
9:13 a.m.: Angel Cabrera, Gary Woodland, Ian Poulter
9:24 a.m.: Fred Couples, Webb Simpson, Chang-woo Lee
9:35 a.m.: Graeme McDowell, Rickie Fowler, Jimmy Walker
9:57 a.m.: Zach Johnson, K.J. Choi, Steve Stricker
10:08 a.m.: Miguel Angel Jimenez, Bill Haas, Matteo Manassero
10:19 a.m.: Hideki Matsuyama, Brandt Snedeker, Jamie Donaldson
10:30 a.m.: Charl Schwartzel, Jim Furyk, Thorbjorn Olesen
10:41 a.m.: Adam Scott, Jason Dufner, Matthew Fitzpatrick
10:52 a.m.: Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Rory McIlroy
11:03 a.m.: Kevin Streelman, D.A. Points
11:14 a.m.: Larry Mize, Branden Grace, Michael McCoy
11:25 a.m.: Sandy Lyle, Matt Jones, Ken Duke
11:36 a.m.: Jose Maria Olazabal, Lucas Glover, Garrick Porteous
11:47 a.m.: Nick Watney, Stephen Gallacher, Darren Clarke
12:09 p.m.: Vijay Singh, Thomas Bjorn, Ryan Moore
12:20 p.m.: Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Thongchai Jaidee
12:31 p.m.: Trevor Immelman, Graham DeLaet, Oliver Goss
12:42 p.m.: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Derek Ernst, Sang-moon Bae
12:53 p.m.: Bernhard Langer, Francesco Molinari, Chris Kirk
1:04 p.m.: Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson
1:15 p.m.: Bubba Watson, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia
1:26 p.m.: Joost Luiten, Marc Leishman, Hunter Mahan
1:37 p.m.: Keegan Bradley, Victor Dubuisson, Peter Hanson
1:48 p.m.: Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Justin Rose
1:59 p.m.: Harris English, Lee Westwood, Russell Henley
– Associated Press contributed