Apr 5, 2017; Augusta, GA, USA; Rory McIlroy plays a shot from the 11th fairway during a practice round at Augusta National GC. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: The 2017 Masters Tournament

The first round of the 2017 Masters Tournament begins Thursday morning at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. It is the 81st edition of the Tournament and the first major championship of the year.

Weather is Going To Factor

Expect the weather to play an important part to the Masters this year. On Wednesday, the Par 3 contest had to be suspended and eventually cancelled due to inclement weather. The storms that have showered the course over the last couple of days will help make the greens slower, but if they dry out, players will have to make major adjustments to their putting. The forecast for the coming days call for cool weather with winds 20-30 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph. Fairways will be missed often, which will make chipping and putting that much more important.

Will Johnson Play?

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson was expected to be one of the favorites this weekend. However, Wednesday afternoon, he suffered an injury to his lower back after falling down a set of stairs at the home he rented for the week. “He landed very hard on his lower back and is now resting, although quite uncomfortably,” David Winkle, Johnson’s agent said in an email. “He has been advised to remain immobile and begin a regimen of anti-inflammatory medication and icing, with the hope of being able to play tomorrow.”

As of this morning, Johnson is still scheduled to compete. His tee time for Round 1 is 2:03 p.m. along with Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker.

Can the Champ Repeat?

Defending champion Danny Willett will be back at the Masters to try and earn his second green jacket in a row. Since shooting a bogey-free 67 on Sunday to win last year, Willett has not been as successful. His best tournament finish in 2017 was a tie for fifth in the Maybank Classic in the Asian-European Tour. This year, he is honored to be able to play to defend the title.

Can Other Fan Favorites Contend?

In 2015, Jordan Spieth became the second youngest to win a green jacket. The following year he was destined to win it again, but he gave up a five-shot lead on the back nine on Sunday after he hit a quadruple-bogey on the 12th hole. Spieth will not have the same pressure he did last year, but he hopes to capitalize on the experiences he has had at Augusta.

Rory McIlroy will have his third opportunity this year to complete the career Grand Slam. The last major tournament he won was the 2014 PGA Championship. The best finish McIlroy has had at the Masters was 4th place in 2015. Back in 2011, he led the Tournament after the third day at -12, but shot a catastrophic 80 on Sunday only to finish T15. If he wins in Augusta, he will be the sixth player to ever complete the career Grand Slam.

Australian Jason Day was not even sure he would compete in the Masters this year. At the end of last season he had to withdraw from the Tour Championship, then he found out his mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Ever since then, she has moved in with Day and his family so that they could take care of her. Day’s father passed away from stomach cancer when he was 12 years old. The latest surgery on his mother was successful, which has given him a clearer mind to play. The Masters has always been the most important tournament to Day, so he is happy to be there competing.

Is Phil Back?

Phil Mickelson is another favorite to win this weekend. He has the experience on his side, having won the Masters three times, the last coming in 2010. After nearly winning the Open Championship last year, Mickelson underwent two sports hernia surgeries at the end of the season. Most people expected him to have a slow start to the 2017 season, but he has proven the skeptics wrong having contended in each of the tournaments he has competed in. Now at a familiar course, he believes he has brought his game back to top shape.

Where to Watch

The first round of the Masters Tournament begins Thursday and will air on ESPN from 3-7:30 p.m. The second round will also air on ESPN, while the third and fourth rounds can be seen on CBS.

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