5 stories to watch at The Masters 2017

Jim Litke and Ed Malyon
How will Danny Willett follow up his shock 2016 win?: Getty

The weather outside is frightful but the prospect of the Masters is, as ever, delightful.

Golf's greatest major is upon us again and there are a glut of storylines for patrons to keep abreast of.

Even on the night before the competition starts, Dustin Johnson injured his back in an accident and is suddenly doubtful.

Can he recover? Will he be back up to full strength?

It is one of just a number of fascinating narratives set to unravel before our eyes, and this is just a start!

Rory's Grand Slam pursuit

Rory McIlroy is on the hunt for his missing major (Getty)

Only five players have won the career Grand Slam. For the third year in a row, Rory McIlroy has a chance to join the exclusive club. The Masters has been the only major missing from his resumé since his victory at the 2014 Open. Strangely enough, it looked like Augusta was going to provide his first major title six years ago. McIlroy went to the final round with a four-stroke lead, only to post a horrific 80 that included a shot behind a cabin along the 10th fairway.

Day's emotional journey

Jason Day has had a tough time recently (Getty)

Augusta National at times can favour emotion. Who can forget Ben Crenshaw winning just days after he was a pallbearer at swing coach Harvey Penick's funeral? That might bode well for Australian Jason Day, who wasn't entirely sure he was going to play a few weeks ago when his mother came to America to have surgery for lung cancer. The operation went well and her prognosis suddenly got a whole lot better. "I owe everything to her," Day said.

How Spieth bounces back

Spieth remains the favourite to win the Masters (Getty)

​No one was more eager than Jordan Spieth for another shot at the Masters.

The young Texan had a five-shot lead going to the back nine on Sunday last year, seemingly a lock for his second straight green jacket. It all fell apart at the par-3 12th, where he dumped two shots in the water and surrendered the lead with a quadruple-bogey 7. "We'll step out and try and get a chance to win on Sunday on the back nine again," Spieth said. "That's all we're asking for. That's it. Just that small little piece."

The defending champion

Willett stunned Augusta last year (2016 Getty Images)

Danny Willett hasn't been much of a factor since winning the green jacket a year ago with a bogey-free 67 in the final round. His best finish of 2017 is a tie for fifth at the Maybank Classic, an Asian-European Tour event with a weaker field than any tournament played on this side of the Atlantic this year. He's slipped to No. 17 in the world rankings. "You've got to either climb down or stay up there," he said, "and it's incredibly difficult to stay up there all the time."

Endangered Tiger

Tiger Woods will not play at the Masters as he continues to recover from his latest injury setback (Getty)

No need to look for Tiger Woods. The four-time Masters champion is sitting out the tournament for the second year in a row — and third time in the last four years — as he deals with another injury. Woods missed a chance to play on the 20th anniversary of his first major title, a 12-shot runaway at the 1997 Masters that signaled his emergence as the game's dominant player.

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