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Tiger Woods’ woe opens Masters field

Dubai: World No 2 Adam Scott’s odds of retaining the famous Green Jacket have shortened considerably following the injury-enforced absence of Tiger Woods at the US Masters Tournament at Augusta, which starts on Thursday.

The 33-year-old became the first Australian to win a Masters in the event’s 77-year history when he prevailed in a playoff with 2009 champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina last year.

If he can do it again, Scott will become only the fourth golfer to win back-to-back Green Jackets since Jack Nicklaus (1966, 67), Nick Faldo (1989, 90) and Tiger Woods (2001, 02).

It took Scott a while to establish himself with his 2004 Players’ Championship win aged 23, a notable false dawn. Early promise didn’t start to pay off in the Majors until 2006 when he finished third in the PGA Championship.

He went on to finish second in the 2011 Masters and 2012 Open Championship. But he now feels he has the experience to add more Majors to his name after having finally broken his duck at Augusta.

“It’s interesting because I felt that [winning the Players’ Championship] was a huge opportunity for me to take the next step. But I just don’t think I knew what it took to do that and the level of commitment and the work ethic required,” he said.

“I think back then that I just relied too much on talent and kind of threw the balls up in the air in the hope that I was going to have a good week at the Masters, the US Open, The Open and PGA [Championship]. It was kind of luck of the draw whether that showed up – and it never did.

“That was part of my learning curve and the difference now is that I understand that. I can control that a little bit more and make it show up for those weeks, or at least play consistently in them.

“The talent was there, but the right preparation and structure may not have been for me at that time to take that next step beyond the Players’ and go and be a consistent performer in the Majors at a young age.”

After the frustration of failing to move on from his Players’ Championship win, Scott admitted soul-searching enabled him to finally realise his potential in the Majors.

“It was a case of sitting down and rethinking everything about how I went about golf and life. I made a lot of changes, not all at once, but changed the way I prepared and scheduled and started doing things to suit me.”

Fellow Australian Jason Day has finished second and third in just three Masters appearances and, despite a recent thumb injury, he should be considered another of the favourites this weekend.

Scott said he hoped he had shown Australian golfers the way after last year’s success.

“Hopefully, every Aussie that’s there will appreciate not being asked whether one of them [can break the hoodoo] this year. Jason has obviously got to be thinking he’s going to be a Masters champion one day, having done extremely well in the few he’s played so far. And that’s probably quite likely if he keeps playing the way he is and on the path he is.”

Day, who has also twice finished second in the US Open in 2011 and 2013, has brushed off expectation and injury concerns this week and hopes to go one better in search of his elusive Major.

“I know the media and plenty of people are listing me as one of the favourites,” said Day. “But I just have to stay in the present and just go with it and have fun.

“I think the best thing that I have employed here [in the past] is to not overburden myself with expectation and ruin the experience of being able to play a place like this. In saying that, I want to win and I am ecstatic right now. I got the nervous butterflies in the stomach driving past Magnolia Lane. It brings back great memories and I can’t wait to get started.”

Like Day, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson is another player knocking on the door of Majors success.

The 37-year-old has finished second and third in the past two consecutive Major events in The Open Championship and PGA Championship, and although the Masters is the one Major he has previously struggled in, he feels he can now do well.

The only thing against the Swede is his recent inability to follow the consistency of last year, when he became the first man to win tour championships on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Race to Dubai in November 2013.

“Playing Augusta should help, even though it is a tough test. The course should suit me, but it is the Major where I have had the worst results. I wouldn’t rank myself as a favourite but it is a golf course where I really believe I can do well, if I go there with a good game and a good head.”

Stenson may be coming into this event off the back of poor form, but he says that’s not dissimilar to this time last year.

“I’m pretty much perfectly the same,” said Stenson. “I was playing very average, low on patience and not the happiest person. So everything is [going] according to plan. I have played very average the first couple of months of the season again this year. So up until now, I am bang on track. I need to turn it on at some point, like I did last year.”

Also looking to benefit from big-name omissions heading into this year’s event will be Rory McIlroy.

The Northern Irishman led for three rounds in 2011 before dropping eight shots to finish tied for 15th. He made up for it with victory in the US Open later that year and the US PGA Championship the season after. But while memories of his fourth-round implosion are still raw, the 24-year-old believes this could be the perfect place to assume his control over the sport.

“Golf’s in a funny place at the minute,” said McIlroy. “You are getting so many different winners and there are not as many guys dominating the sport like in the past with Tiger, Vijay [Singh] and Phil [Mickelson].

“I’d like to establish myself as that sort of player and someone’s got to step up so I’m trying to be that person and it would be a great place to start next week.”

PREVIOUS GREEN JACKET WINNERS

2013 Adam Scott AUS

2012 Bubba Watson USA

2011 Charl Schwartzel RSA

2010 Phil Mickelson USA

2009 Ángel Cabrera ARG

2008 Trevor Immelman RSA

2007 Zach Johnson USA

2006 Phil Mickelson USA

2005 Tiger Woods USA

2004 Phil Mickelson USA

2003 Mike Weir CAN

2002 Tiger Woods USA

2001 Tiger Woods USA

2000 Vijay Singh FIJ

1999 Jose Maria Olazabal ESP

1998 Mark O’Meara USA

1997 Tiger Woods USA

1996 Nick Faldo GBR

1995 Ben Crenshaw USA

1994 Jose Maria Olazabal ESP

1993 Bernhard Langer GER

1992 Fred Couples USA

1991 Ian Woosnam GBR

1990 Nick Faldo GBR

1989 Nick Faldo GBR

1988 Sandy Lyle GBR

1987 Larry Mize USA

1986 Jack Nicklaus USA

1985 Bernhard Langer GER

1984 Ben Crenshaw USA

1983 Seve Ballesteros ESP

1982 Craig Stadler USA

1981 Tom Watson USA

1980 Seve Ballesteros ESP

1979 Fuzzy Zoeller USA

1978 Gary Player RSA

1977 Tom Watson USA

1976 Raymond Floyd USA

1975 Jack Nicklaus USA

1974 Gary Player RSA

1973 Tommy Aaron USA

1972 Jack Nicklaus USA

1971 Charles Coody USA

1970 Billy Casper USA

1969 George Archer USA

1968 Bob Goalby USA

1967 Gay Brewer USA

1966 Jack Nicklaus USA

1965 Jack Nicklaus USA

1964 Arnold Palmer USA

1963 Jack Nicklaus USA

1962 Arnold Palmer USA

1961 Gary Player RSA

1960 Arnold Palmer USA

1959 Art Wall, Jr. USA

1958 Arnold Palmer USA

1957 Doug Ford USA

1956 Jack Burke, Jr. USA

1955 Cary Middlecoff USA

1954 Sam Snead USA

1953 Ben Hogan USA

1952 Sam Snead USA

1951 Ben Hogan USA

1950 Jimmy Demaret USA

1949 Sam Snead USA

1948 Claude Harmon USA

1947 Jimmy Demaret USA

1946 Herman Keiser USA

1943–45: Cancelled due to World War II

1942 Byron Nelson USA

1941 Craig Wood USA

1940 Jimmy Demaret USA

1939 Ralph Guldahl USA

1938 Henry Picard USA

1937 Byron Nelson USA

1936 Horton Smith USA

1935 Gene Sarazen USA

1934 Horton Smith USA