Starting Lineups: With Tiger Woods Out Of The Masters, Who Should You Watch?


No sport is more synonymous with a single athlete then golf is with Tiger Woods. It's amazing what 14 majors can do for a man. So when Woods announced on Tuesday — April Fools Day no less — that he would miss the upcoming Masters for the first time in his professional career, a steady chorus of groans echoed through the airwaves. The consensus seemed to be, "It won't be the same without Tiger."

To a degree, that's correct. Tiger golf was, and maybe is, different from normal golf. It's majestic. Daring. Mind-boggling. How does a man hit an 8 iron from 190 yards to two feet? His competitors issue the same refrain: "He just does things that no one else can do."

We'll miss that next week at Augusta (in addition to the Eisenhower Tree. RIP). But we would have missed it anyway. Tiger is not healthy. He's also 38 years old. In two completed events in 2014, Tiger has finished T80 and T25. He withdrew from a third event, the Honda Classic, after three-plus rounds.

Still, Tiger's absence means fewer people will watch The Masters and fewer people will care about the result. But if you're watching golf's first major solely because Tiger Woods is involved, you're doing sports wrong. The Masters is about Augusta National. It's about the top players in the world, not just one, challenging the famed course that Bobby Jones himself designed.

With that in mind, I'll give you three players who deserve your attention as Masters week approaches.

Patrick Reed: He's chubby, affable, excessively confident, and he's won three times on the PGA Tour despite not yet turning 24. Reed declared himself a top five player in the world after he won The WGC- Cadillac Championship in March. A win at the Masters for the Augusta State alumnus might justify his claim.

Jordan Spieth: Spieth is quite simply the next great player in American golf. As a 19-year-old rookie, he posted nine top tens in 23 events, finished second three times and became the first teenager in decades to win on Tour. Big things are expected from Spieth this year, especially with the Ryder Cup looming in the distance.

Graham DeLaet: Hi, I'm a hockey player, but I'm playing golf today. DeLaet has inherited the "Best Canadian Golfer" title from 2003 Masters winner Mike Weir. As both his hockey and golf careers were set to take off, the Saskatchewan native was forced to choose between the two. Fate made that choice for him. DeLaet suffered a back injury after getting hit from behind in a hockey game. He continued playing golf and hasn't looked back. DeLaet is as trendy a pick as there is to break through for his first major victory.

Thursday Links …

NHL playoff stretch drive trade pickups that are paying off... or not- Home Ice

Haverford Hoops- Sports Illustrated

An Above The Rim Roundtable- Grantland (Check out Kenny Massenda's piece on the film's anniversary as well)

He's On Fire! A History of Secret Characters From NBA Jam- Complex

Alex Rodriguez’s Nephew Hit 8 Homers in 8 Straight At-Bats - Extra Mustard

Steven Bowditch Wins At Valero Texas Open- USGolfTV

Good God Almighty, it's Jim Ross!- SB Nation

Samsung hooks unsuspecting Obama as phone ad star -- The Grio

The Playboy Interview: Stan Lee on Superheroes, Marvel and Being Just Another Pretty Face- Playboy (safe for work)

The Campaign to “Cancel” Colbert- The New Yorker

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