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Masters: Most anticipated since 2007

By Kyle Porter | Golf Writer

Will we see Tiger fist-pumping in red next Sunday? (Getty Images)
Will we see Tiger Woods fist-pumping in red next Sunday? (Getty Images)
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I defy you to name a storyline we won't have next week at Augusta.

Tiger Woods is back atop the golf world, Phil Mickelson has done like 200 Phil Mickelson things already this year, there's a 14-year-old amateur in the field, plus a 53-year-old former champ who has contended recently.

There's the English contingent, the feisty South Africans (two wins in five years), Rory McIlroy's game is rounding into form, and the young Americans (Rickie Fowler, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson) are all playing well.

Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose, and Luke Donald are all vying for major No. 1, and the Georgia weather is supposed to be perfect.

Really, this tournament has a chance to be magnificent.

Short of Jack Nicklaus emerging from the Augusta National clubhouse and shooting a first-round 66 to take the lead, it's hard to fathom a more robustly anticipated Masters since ... well ... probably since 2007.

The golf world obviously spins on the axis of Tiger Woods' greatness, and it has for more than 15 years now, so when he isn't displaying dominance, interest wanes.

This is the reality we've built for ourselves, like it or not. Golf purists will complain that the Masters is the Masters, but TV ratings (and basically all the people I talk to) tell me differently.

There's an extra something when Tiger comes scorching to Augusta. A twinge of, "Are we going to see the greatest golfer ever win the greatest tournament in the world this week?"

Golf is better when the champ sits on the throne rather than mingling with mere minions in the fairways and on the range.

It was back in 2007 that he came in scorching.

Woods had won the British Open and PGA Championship in 2006, he won two of his first three stroke-play tournaments on the PGA Tour in 2007 heading to Augusta, and there were whispers of another Tiger Slam.

After a brief major slump in 2003-04 (best major finish was T4 at the British Open) he was rolling again. Since the beginning of 2005 he'd won four of the eight majors.

The 2007 was his first Masters since Earl Woods died.

And on top of all that, Phil Mickelson was returning as the defending champion.

Since then, we haven't seen a totally on-top-of-his-game Woods at Augusta.

Until now.

Boy wonder (McIlroy) has ceded his lordship back to Woods, and once again everyone is coming for him, chasing greatness, as it were.

The disparity between the old guard (Woods, Mickelson, Ernie Els, etc.) and the new (Simpson, Bradley, Fowler, Johnson) has never been more stark than it is now.

This is great for golf, but also great for Woods.

So when they tee it up on Thursday, you better believe I'm rooting for a Sunday finish with Woods in the mix.

Who isn't?

Who isn't clamoring for a Woods/Mickelson back nine at Augusta on Sunday with the young guns and seasoned veterans throwing darts and taking shots?

That's why we sit through wind delays in January, snow in February, and monsoons in March. So that for one weekend in April, golf can deliver everything we want it to and more.

Tiger is going for major No. 15 and the field is trying to keep him from it.

Can we tee it up tomorrow?

For more golf news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnGolf and @KylePorterCBS on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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