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Masters story lines

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, hits a drive

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, hits a drive on the 15th hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in Augusta, Ga. Credit: AP / Matt Slocum

Top story lines

1) Dustin Johnson, if he can play, tries to be the first world No. 1 to win the Masters since Tiger Woods in 2002 (Vijay Singh was No. 1 at the tournament’s start in 2005, another Woods win).

2) Jordan Spieth tries to recapture the memory of winning here in 2015 and leading most of the way in 2016, while trying to forget the nightmare at No. 12 last April

3) Rory McIlroy can complete the career Grand Slam.

4) Jason Day, rejuvenated after his mother’s successful cancer surgery, can advance his stature as a major winner.

5) Is there another Danny Willett hiding in plain sight, ready to be remembered forever?

Phil Mickelson story lines

(He’s a category unto himself)

1) Can he repeat Jack Nicklaus’ feat of winning the Masters at 46? (Nicklaus thinks Phil’s chances are better than his own were 31 years ago)

2) Has a new protégé in Jon Rahm, a potential star, who followed Phil’s template. Rahm left Arizona State to turn pro, bringing his college coach along as his agent, as Phil did. Rahm’s college coach was Phil’s brother Tim.

3) Apparently is unfazed by reports last week that he paid $1.9 million in gambling debts to Las Vegas businessman Billy Walters.

4) At his news conference Tuesday, accused some fellow tour pros of cheating when marking and replacing balls on greens.

Under the radar

1) Bubba Watson. Does anyone remember he won twice here?

2) Henrik Stenson. Does anyone remember he won the British Open?

3) Patrick Reed. Often overlooked except at Ryder Cup. Last win was at Bethpage Black in The Barclays

4) Marc Leishman. lists him at 65 to 1, but he just won the Arnold Palmer Invitational. And given that this year’s Masters has been declared a celebration of Palmer…

Masters anniversaries

(other than the 20 years since Tiger Wood’s first major victory)

80 years since Byron Nelson’s first win

50 years since Ben Hogan’s last Masters (at age 54, he shot 66 Saturday and was two shots out of the lead, finishing tied for 10th)

25 years since Fred Couples’ gravity-defying shot on No. 12 stayed out of the water, helping him secure his only major title.

10 years since Zach Johnson became the most recent Masters champion to win with a score above par (1 over).

What a story it would be if . . .

1) Ernie Els finally won the Masters after he thought he was out of chances.

2) Sergio Garcia finally won a major.

3) Hideki Matsuyama became Japan’s first Masters winner.

4) A viewer called in to say that a golfer actually should be credited with a lower score than he signed for.

Worth noting

1) Daniel Summerhays, who qualified with a birdie on the final hole of the PGA Championship, giving him a third-place finish, will hit the first official shot today.

2) Hideto Tanihara, who lost 1-down to Dustin Johnson in the semifinal at the WGC Match Play two weeks ago, played in the Masters 10 years ago and has not been back since, until now.

3) Amateur Brad Dalke’s grandfather, Ken Pryor, made the basket with 10 seconds left that lifted Oklahoma over Texas in the 1947 Final Four. Dalke, the U.S. Amateur runner-up, is best known for verbally committing to Oklahoma when he was 12 — and for beating Rory McIlroy in an arm wrestling match two years ago.

Possible international contenders (Remember that Danny Willett was on this list last year)

1) Tommy Fleetwood (England)

2) Tyrrell Hatton (England)

3) Ross Fisher (England)

4) Adam Hadwin (Canada)

5) Thomas Pieters (Belgium)

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