AUGUSTA • Top-ranked Dustin Johnson is favoured to capture the 81st Masters, but plenty of golfers see Rory McIlroy as a Green-Jacket threat when the year's first Major championship begins today.
A showdown of global greats at the 7,435-yard Augusta National sees Johnson arrive on a three- tournament win streak and second-ranked McIlroy, a four- time Major champion, seeking a Masters crown to complete a career Grand Slam.
"I've done all the preparation I can. It's just about going out on the golf course and getting it done," said McIlroy, mindful of 2011 when a back-nine Sunday collapse saw him squander the Masters lead.
"Having a chance to win a few years ago and not giving myself a chance since... internally that's not good enough. I want to give a better account of myself at this tournament and on this golf course and I feel like I can."
Third-ranked Jason Day makes an emotional start two weeks after withdrawing from an event to be with his mother as she battles lung cancer, while Jordan Spieth tries to bounce back from a back-nine meltdown in last year's final round when he was on the verge of a second consecutive Masters title.
And five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson, two months shy of his 47th birthday, will try to replace Jack Nicklaus as the oldest champion in Masters history.
Pre-tournament rain is likely to soften the course and add to the drama .
"If it's soft, it will definitely help," Johnson said. "With the forecast, wind on Thursday and Friday, the course will play very difficult. It's going to be tough to hit the greens. You're going to really have to be careful where you hit it and just try to make pars."
That will make a strong start even more imperative than usual.
"You don't want to feel like you're playing catch up on this course, because you feel like the more you force the issue, the more things can go wrong," McIlroy said.
Johnson enters Augusta after wins at Riviera in February and last month at the World Golf Championships Mexico and Matchplay events.
"Obviously he's the form player right now," McIlroy said.
Day 1: Singtel TV Ch115 & StarHub Ch209, tomorrow, 3am