Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - PGA TOUR - The Masters, Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia - It is time once again for the first major championship of the season as the world's best head to Augusta National Golf Club for the always exhilarating Masters.
Bubba Watson returns to Augusta with his green jacket as the defending champion and the winner of two of the last three championships. With his second title in his sixth visit last year, Watson tied Jimmy Demaret and Arnold Palmer for the second-fewest appearances to win the Masters twice.
Last year, Watson trailed Jordan Spieth by two shots through seven holes. However, birdies for Watson on eight and nine, paired with Spieth bogeys on the same holes, swung momentum and all of a sudden gave Watson a two-shot lead.
Despite a bogey on the 10th, Watson later came through with a gain on 13 to improve his advantage to three. Watson parred the last five holes and finished a 3-under 69 to win by three at 8-under 280. Spieth and Jonas Blixt ended tied for second at minus-5.
There is no shortage of storylines for this year's Masters, starting with world No. 1 Rory McIlroy searching for his first career green jacket, which would complete the career grand slam for the Ulsterman.
McIlroy is the defending British Open champion and PGA Championship winner, but the five-time major titlist is still missing a Masters triumph. His best finish at Augusta was a tie for eighth last year.
There is no doubt Watson enters the week as one of the favorites with two titles under his belt. However, the 21-year-old Spieth is looking for revenge as he enters the week as one of the hottest players in the game, coming off two straight runner-up finishes and a victory at the Valspar Championship three weeks ago.
Perhaps the biggest storyline of them all is the return of four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods, who will be playing for the first time in two months after he took a leave from the PGA Tour to work on his game.
Woods is back after missing the Masters in 2014 due to back surgery. It was the first time he did not play the season's first major as a professional.
With the likes of McIlroy, Watson, Spieth and Woods, among many other big names in attendance, it is shaping up to be one enthralling week among the Georgia pines, magnolias and azaleas.
ESPN will have coverage of the first two rounds and will hand things off to CBS on the weekend.
Next week the PGA Tour returns to the RBC Heritage, where Matt Kuchar beat Luke Donald by a shot to win last year. The European Tour also heads to China for the inaugural Shenzhen International.