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The Masters: How to watch and things to know

<i>Mike Segar/Reuters via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Rahm was at his dominant best at Augusta National last year.
Mike Segar/Reuters via CNN Newsource
Rahm was at his dominant best at Augusta National last year.

By Jack Bantock, CNN

(CNN) — Tuck away your Masters-branded solar glasses, the eclipse has come and gone over Augusta National Golf Club. Only one fashion item matters now: the green jacket.

The 88th edition of one of sport’s most prestigious tournaments tees off in Georgia on Thursday, raising the curtain on the men’s major calendar for 2024.

Akshay Bhatia popped his shoulder back in to secure the final spot on a star-studded 89-player field headlined by reigning champion Jon Rahm, red-hot world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, grand slam chasing Rory McIlroy and – back in action once again – five-time winner Tiger Woods.

How can I watch?

Fans in the US can watch the first two rounds on ESPN between 3 and 7 p.m. ET. The weekend’s action will be broadcasted by CBS, with coverage Sunday’s deciding round starting an hour earlier at 2 p.m. ET.

Sky Sports Golf leads coverage for UK viewers. The opening two rounds will be shown from 2pm BST, while the weekend’s broadcasts begin from 3pm BST.

The Masters website and official app will also be broadcasting the tournament, with fans able to watch featured groups and the action from Amen Corner, the fabled three-hole stretch (11, 12, 13) on the back nine at Augusta National.

On Thursday, the tournament’s start was pushed back from 8 a.m. ET to 10:30 a.m. ET due to bad weather.

For more information on how to watch, check The Masters website here.

What happened last year?

Having begun with a nightmarish four-putt double bogey, Rahm was near-faultless for the rest of the week as he cantered home to his first green jacket at the 87th Masters.

The Spaniard was unflappable amid heavy wind and rain that delayed various parts of the event, easing to a five-shot victory ahead of Brooks Koepka and Phil Mickelson – both of whom are now the world No. 3’s fellow competitors in LIV Golf following his departure from the PGA Tour in December.

Though reconciliation talks between the circuits continue, tensions persist, including over the entry criteria to majors for players on the Saudi-backed tour, whose attempts to be recognized by golf’s world ranking body have fallen on deaf ears.

Several LIV Golf players automatically qualified due to their status as recent major champions, including Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, while Chile’s rising star Joaquin Niemann received a special invitation to compete, but Rahm still believes the system needs tweaking.

“There’s got to be a way for certain players in whatever tour to be able to earn their way in,” Rahm told reporters Tuesday.

“I don’t know what that looks like. But there’s got to be a fair way for everybody to compete … I understand there’s less players and you can’t give 10 or 15 people a start, but there’s got to be a way.”

Asked whether his exit from the PGA Tour, where he won 11 titles, would affect his legacy in the game, Rahm replied: “Yeah. It’s a bit of a detour on my path. But change can be better.”

Only Jack Nicklaus (1966), Nick Faldo (1990) and Woods (2002) have ever defended the iconic green jacket, and Rahm – as is tournament custom – must return his to the Augusta National clubhouse this week.

Become the fourth ever back-to-back winner though, and he’ll get to keep it for another year.

“I think if I were not to win this year, I’m probably I’m going to regret not wearing it more often and just taking it everywhere … just because you have it,” Rahm said, laughing.

“It is a weird feeling. Essentially, it’s the only trophy you can’t really keep at home.
You do get a trophy, but the one that we all care about is the jacket.”

Is Tiger Woods playing?

It’s the question that has come up incessantly since his remarkable comeback to the sport at Augusta National two years ago, but yes, Woods is playing – albeit through the pain.

The 48-year-old will tee up in search of a record-equaling sixth green jacket, and is insistent he can draw level with Nicklaus’ haul despite the injury woes stemming from a 2021 car crash.

Having withdrawn from last year’s tournament during the third round, the 15-time major champion has made just one competitive appearance this year.

“If everything comes together, I think I can get one more. Do I need to describe that any more than that, or are we good?” Woods, who won his last major at Augusta in 2019, told reporters Tuesday.

Admitting he hurts and aches “every day,” Woods added he would be playing with painkillers and is expecting “every shot that’s not on a tee box” to be a “challenge.”

If he makes it to the weekend for the 26th time in a row, the 82-time PGA Tour winner will set a new record for consecutive cuts made at Augusta National, moving clear of Fred Couples and Gary Player.

Woods is scheduled to tee off at 3:54 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Who’s the favorite?

It’s a glittering field, but there’s an outright choice for a lot of punters – and there’s no prizes for guessing who it is.

Hot on the heels of a sterling 2023 campaign that saw Scheffler retain the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year title, the American has – somehow – taken his game to another level this season.

An irrepressible final round charge saw him become the first player to ever defend The Players Championship last month, just one week after he had cruised to a dominant victory at The Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Having clinched his first and only major title at Augusta National in 2021, it seems only a matter of time before the world No. 1 adds to his haul on the biggest stage.

“I try not to look too far into the future,” Scheffler said Tuesday. “I’m excited about how I’ve been playing to begin this year. I had two nice wins, which was obviously a bunch of fun.”

Rahm, Scheffler’s former close rival for the world No. 1 spot, remains a considerable threat, while world No. 3 McIlroy will garner considerable attention as he once again sets off in search of an elusive grand slam.

As he prepares for his 16th appearance at Augusta National, the Northern Irishman is a green jacket away from joining the ranks of golf’s immortals that have won all four majors in the modern era; Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Player, Nicklaus and Woods.

It’s not been for the want of trying – a catastrophic late meltdown in 2011 still haunts many of his fans – but, paradoxically, the key for the 34-year-old may be to try a little less.

“I would say not trying to win it from the first tee shot – that’s something that I’ve tried to learn,” McIlroy said.

“It’s a 72-hole golf tournament. I’ve won from 10 strokes back going into the weekend. There’s loads of different ways to do it … This golf course gets you to chase things a little more than other golf courses. If you make a bogey or if you get yourself out of position, it always tempts you to do something you think you can do.

“I’m pretty confident in my golf game. I think I can do most things, but sometimes you just have to take the conservative route and be a little more disciplined and patient.”

One of those legendary names that McIlroy is looking to join has no doubts he will complete the feat.

“No question, he’ll do it at some point,” Woods said.

“Rory’s too talented, too good. He’s going to be playing this event for a very long time. He’ll get it done. It’s just a matter of when … and it could be this week. You never know.”

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