The Masters 2014: A New Generation’s Time to Shine, April 9th, 2014

For the past two decades golf has been dominated by Tiger Woods. But as age and injury begin to become a factor for the Nike player, is it time for the next generation to step up?

With Woods’ announcement last Tuesday that he would be unable to play at Augusta this week, the door for a new focus within the game has been well and truly opened.

As the first major of 2014 kicks off on Thursday we’re taking a look at the young guns worthy of some notice. Will Augusta minus Woods give one of them the opportunity to properly emerge? Here’s our list of the five to keep your eyes on this weekend.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy recently commented on the game’s need for a new standout.

“Golf in general is just very wide open at the moment, and I think a few guys need to sort of put their hands up and try to be the dominant player in this game because that’s what people like to see.”

While two years ago it was assumed McIlroy would be that standout, things didn’t go exactly to plan. But that doesn’t mean the Northern Irishman should be discounted just yet.

“I am playing nicely, comfortable with my game, being in contention a little bit without quite getting the win. I'm just waiting for that week where everything really clicks.”

Could Augusta deliver McIlroy the “click” he’s after?

Adam Scott

The defending champion, Adam Scott is looking to hit the Masters with all he’s got to ensure he once again goes home with the green jacket. A feat only achieved by three other golfers, Scott would join the ranks of Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo if he could secure back-to-back wins at Augusta.

“It’s been an incredible experience being the Masters champion, and it’s something I’ll be trying to do again, for sure,” said Scott. “Coming back to defend is going to be an incredible experience, like everything has been since last April.”

The first Australian to ever win the Masters, Scott has had a strong showing so far in 2014 with three top ten finishes. So could the number 2 in the world be up to defending his first major win?

Jordan Spieth

The 2013 Rookie of the Year, Jordan Spieth will be playing in the Masters for the first time in his career. The 20-year-old, who earned nine top 10 finishes last year and won the John Deere Classic in July will be fulfilling at least part of his golfing destiny by playing this weekend at Augusta.

At the age of 12, Spieth told his golf instructor his long-term goal was to win the Masters. Today, the young golfer believes he’s got a chance in his first appearance.

“I don’t think it’s out of the question to win,” Spieth told reporters. “If my game stacks up and I catch the right breaks, then sure. I don’t see why not. I’ve been playing against these guys for a year now, so I feel comfortable.”

We’re not 100% sold just yet but he’s definitely peaked our interest.

Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed took some heat for declaring himself one of the top five players in the world after his win at Doral in March. While the proclamation might have seemed presumptuous to some, the 23-year-old definitely has undeniable talent.

Self-confidence aside, Reed can boast admittance to an elite group of four players including Woods, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia, all who have won three PGA Tour events by the age of 23. While his win at Doral also made him the youngest player to ever capture a world golf championship title.

Having gone to school near Augusta, Reed is familiar with the course. But will playing it for the first time at the Masters prove too much for the self-assured Reed?

“I'm trying to treat it like just another event. You are playing the golf course. If you start treating it any different things start going south.”

Jason Day

The Australians are proving their worth this year on Tour, racking up four wins since February as Jason Day started the trend with his WGC-Accenture Match Play victory.

But a strong start to 2014 was quickly sidelined by an annoying thumb injury that has kept the 26-year-old off the course for the last six weeks.

Day will tee off at Augusta on Thursday after announcing the thumb is fine. A cortisone shot and some tape to ensure it stays that way and the TaylorMade player is hoping to finally conqueror the Masters.

Telling reporters, “I always wanted to be the first Australian to win it ... but I'm happy to be the second.”

With second and third place finishes already logged at Augusta will Day be able to make 2014 his green jacket year?