By Joseph Yamulla || Assistant Sports Editor

     Every year, America anticipates Spring time.  After long and cold winters, we look forward to green fields of grass, blossoming flowers, and warm afternoons.  Spring not only provides warmer weather, but also a new start to life as the excitement for another Summer unfolds.  The Masters offers every one of these aspects that we look for as the ground thaws.  This week, thousands will flock to Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia to watch the biggest names in golf tee it up on Thursday, April 9.  Fans will watch in awe as golf legends such as Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, and Tiger Woods step foot on the historic grounds of Augusta.  They will also witness the brightest young stars in the game like Rory Mcilroy, Jordan Spieth, and Rickie Fowler attempt to win their first Green Jacket, while Bubba Watson sets out to defend it after winning in 2014.  Every player, young and old, seeks the same thing.  They seek the opportunity to write their names in golf history, and start the Summer season by capturing one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments.

     Every year since he became a professional in 1996, Tiger Woods has been the center of attention in the golf world.  Whether you for him to succeed, or anxiously await for him to fail, Tiger Woods is the most talked about topic when the Masters is near.  Last season, Tiger missed the Masters for the first time in his career due to back surgery.  This year, few expected him to play, as he took a temporary leave of absence from golf for the past two months to deal with injuries and personal issues.  Despite this, and his extremely poor play in 2015 (particularly in his short game), Tiger Woods will play in the Masters.  All eyes will be on the 39, 14-time major champion.  However, Tiger walks into Augusta in a much different situation than he was in two years ago.  Last time he played, he was the number one ranked player in the world, and certainly a favorite to win it.  This year, Tiger goes into Georgia as the 104th ranked player in the world after suffering a major fall from grace.  Despite this, Tiger Woods always makes it clear that if he shows up to a tournament, especially the Masters, he is there to compete.  Although his struggles have been obvious, and his game showing signs of decline, Tiger Woods has been the greatest golfer in the past two decades.  From the 1990s up to 2008, Tiger has wowed audiences with incredible shots, and magical performances that defy logic, such as victory in the 2008 US Open with a double stress fracture in his left tibia.  We wait and see if the 2015 Masters is the occasion that Tiger would find a bit of that magic of old, and demonstrate his greatness once more.

     Rediscovering greatness and leaving Augusta victorious will be a tall order for Tiger, since the field is filled with a plethora of fixtures of the game and up-and-coming stars.  25-year-old Rory Mcilroy currently holds Tiger’s previous number one ranking, and is one of the favorites to win.  He is coming off his best year yet in 2014 after he won two major tournaments, the Open Championship, and the PGA Championship.  He also had a strong performance in last year’s masters as he finished in a tie for 8th. 

      Rickie Fowler, another one of golf’s young stars, flaunted the most impressive 2014 season without earning a major victory.  The 26 year-old finished in the top 5 in every single major tournament, the Masters, US Open, The Open Championship, and the PGA Championship.  Fans should expect him to have a consistently strong showing in this weekend’s tournament.  Jordan Spieth (21) is also one of golf’s brightest young faces that is expected to make an impact in Augusta.  Of course, fans could never count out the old school studs like Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk.  Players who have transferred their games from the European Tour also are expected to make a splash, specifically Henrik Stenson and 2013 Masters Champion, Adam Scott.

     Finally, there is the defending Masters Champion, Bubba Watson.  The 36 year-old lefty from Bagdad, Florida is as dangerous as it gets when it comes to Augusta.  He is a two-time champion, winning in 2012 and 2014.  Every year, Bubba uses his strength in his driving ability to set himself up for as many birdie putts as possible and he executes them.  With all of the talk about players like Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy, Bubba seems to be a bit under the radar.  However, one would be foolish to doubt Bubba in his pursuit of a third Green Jacket.

     It’s truly hard to look at the field for the 2015 tournament and pick a specific player that one expects to win without bias.  The field is filled with talented players, young and veteran, from all over the world.  Each one pursues the opportunity for a new start to the major tournament season in 2015, and another opportunity to make history.  Everyone in golf has something to prove, that’s what makes it so intriguing to watch.  Those who have already experienced victory, seek to show the world that they are still a force to be reckoned with.  On the other hand, those who have yet to experience prosperity are attempting to prove that their names belong in the long list of past champions.  Every Masters Tournament is packed with drama and tension as the world’s greatest players battle it out for the prestigious Green Jacket.  However, looking beyond the stress that goes into competition, the Masters is an incredible weekend.  It’s a weekend filled with history, nostalgia, and optimism for the Summer that is yet to come.  By next week, each player will have handed in his scorecard, and the world will finally see who comes out victorious in the 2015 Masters Tournament in Augusta.

First-year Joe Yamulla is the Assistant Sports Editor. His email is