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Monday, April 2, 2012 - 12:52pm

Excitement As Masters Nears

Updated: 2 years ago.
The Master's Golf Tournament attracts devoted fans. The players will tee off this week at Augusta National Golf Club. (photo Noel Brown)

This year's Master's Golf Tournament gets underway this week at the Augusta National Golf Club.

Golf fans are especially excited about this year's Master's because a lot of players are good enough to win the top prize.

Tiger Woods goes into the tournament after engineering a comeback in the PGA Tour.

He recently ended a 30 month drought by winning in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Mark Harmon of G-P-B Sports says, this year's tournament has the potential to be one of the most competitive ever since it's not just one or two players getting the attention.

"You've got so many other guys," Harmon says. "[Charl] Schwartzel, the defending champ, is playing well. Rory McIlroy, who won the US Open last year, is playing well. All these big names are playing well at the right time as you head into the first major of the golf season."

Gary Player will join friends and competitors Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus as honorary starters to open the tournament Thursday.

"I think it's wide open from the standpoint that there's a lot of guys that can win this year," Harmon says. "You've got a lot of former Master's champions in the field. And I think they always say that the Master's doesn't begin until the back nine on Sunday and that should be the case again this year."

Off the field, the sticky issue of Augusta National's men-only membership policy again came up this year as major tournament sponsor IBM named a female CEO, prompting many to call for her membership.

The tournament also is a major tourism booster for Augusta.