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Everything you need to know ahead of the Masters

A quick look at the story lines and a bunch of other interesting facts to come out of Augusta National.

Tiger Woods hits out of the bunker on

Tiger Woods hits out of the bunker on the second hole during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Wednesday, April 10, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. Photo Credit: AP/Charlie Riedel

Story lines

Can Tiger Woods win a major for the first time in 11 years?

Rory McIlroy going for the career Grand Slam, which would make him the sixth member of golf’s most elite club.

Can world No. 1 Justin Rose, trying for his second career major, win his first a Masters?

Ditto for Dustin Johnson, World No. 2

Jordan Spieth hoping his Augusta magic (a win, two ties for second, a third-place finish) can rub off on his game, which has gone south.

And keep an eye on…

Bryson DeChambeau. A four-time winner in the past 12 months

Tommy Fleetwood. Ryder Cup star, nearly won at Shinnecock

Brooks Koepka. Did win at Shinnecock, and then at the PGA (but trying to gain strength after losing 20 pounds for a vanity fitness photo shoot)

Rickie Fowler. Runnerup last year, still trying to break through.

Justin Thomas. Good enough to win anytime, anywhere.

Unique stories

British Open champion Francesco Molinari could become the first to have both caddied in the Masters and won it. His debut at Augusta was in 2006, when he looped for his brother Edoardo (an amateur who played with Woods).

Corey Connors packed for a Monday qualifier at last week’s Valero Texas Open, made the field, won the tournament and earned his way to Augusta. “We actually went shopping [Monday] night so I could get a couple T-shirts and a pair of pants to go to dinner in,” he said.

Valentino Dixon is here for Golf Digest, freed from prison. Dixon’s paintings of Amen Corner caught the attention of the magazine’s editorial director, who took up Dixon’s cause and led to an investigation that found him innocent.

What will Matt Kuchar do next? This season, he’s had his first two wins in five years, an infamous dustup about shortchanging a caddie and a match-play snafu with Sergio Garcia.

Only at Augusta: In Par 3 Contest (at least in Bubba Watson’s group), the players carried the golf bags, caddies carried the little kids.

Trending not so hot

Patrick Reed, defending champion. Seems to be searching for anything to regain his form.

Jason Day. Health always is a struggle for the guy who has fallen to No. 14 in the world.

Sergio Garcia. Has anyone seen that mature, mellow Sergio who won here in 2017? Not in Saudi Arabia, where he was booted from a February tournament for damaging greens in a huff.

Danny Willett. Missed the cut in two Masters since he won it in 2016 and, until he won in Dubai late last year, was pretty much invisible on tour and in the Ryder Cup.

What’s new at Augusta this year

It’s the first Masters under golf’s new rules, which allow putting with the flagstick in. Chairman Fred Ridley said the tournament never considered adopting a local rule prohibiting flagstick-in putting.

Thanks to a land purchase, the tee on the par-4 fifth hole is back 40 yards, making it a 495-yard monster.

As part of that expansion, the par-3 fourth hole seems more open, without a backdrop of trees behind the green.

Because of yet another land deal, this one with a golf neighbor, the adjacent Augusta Country Club is more visible from Amen Corner.

Every shot by every player will be available for viewing on all Masters digital platforms, Ridley announced on Wednesday.

Anniversaries

50 years since the Masters was won by George Archer, who, according to a recent Golf Digest report, could not read or write. (As a senior tour player, Archer won the Northville Long Island Classic three years in a row).

70 years since Sam Snead was the first winner to be presented a green jacket.

20 years since Augusta introduced what it calls the “second cut” of grass (others call it “the rough”)

40 years since Fuzzy Zoeller won the Masters in his first appearance. No one has done it since.

By the numbers

100: Career rounds at the Masters for Phil Mickelson, provided he plays both Thursday and Friday

7: Holes that Haotong Li parred while putting with a sand wedge during the 2017 French Open, after he threw his putter into a lake. His mother waded in to retrieve it, only to find he had broken it before chucking it. Li will play with Woods.

6: Jon Rahm’s score on the par-5 14th hole in the second round of the 2017 U.S. Open, when he slammed, kicked and again slammed his wedge. Rahm will play with Li and Woods.

49: Feet, length of birdie putt made on the island green 17th at the Players this year by England’s Eddie Pepperell. He is playing in his first Masters after having won the Qatar Masters and British Masters last year.

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