Golf in 2017: An Asian No.1 and a Tiger Woods comeback?

    Story highlights

    • Hideki Matsuyama making run at No.1
    • Tiger Woods looks to roll back the years

    (CNN)New year, new plotlines. Golf looks set to offer plenty of twists and turns in 2017.

    Tiger Woods is back on a golf course bidding to recapture former glories, while there's the prospect of a first male Asian world No.1.
    Rory McIlroy could join golf's most elite club with victory at the Masters, the only major he's yet to win.
    Phil Mickelson could complete a career grand slam, too, at the US Open.
    It promises to be a compelling season, so let's find out more...

    Hideki Matsuyama

    Hideki Matsuyama won Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge in December to underline his growing status.
    Despite Asian dominance of the women's game, none of the continent's male players have ever climbed to the top of the world rankings.
    But Japan's Hideki Matsuyama is making a strong challenge to become the first.
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    The 24-year-old rose to sixth in the world with victory at October's WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.
    He capped an impressive year, which yielded three PGA Tour wins, with victory in Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge in December.
    He also won two tournaments in Japan to further boost his growing reputation.
    Matsuyama is also bidding to become the first Japanese major winner, and only second Asian male victor after South Korea's YE Yang pipped Woods to the 2009 US PGA.
    Matsuyama has finished in the top seven in the Masters for the past two years and came tied fourth for his best major finish at last year's US PGA.

    Tiger Woods

    Tiger Woods will play four tournaments in five weeks as he ramps up his comeback schedule.
    The former world No.1 showed enough to suggest some of the old magic is still in there during his December comeback, hinting at a final chapter to his illustrious tale.
    Woods, 41, will kick off his year at one of his favorite hunting grounds, Torrey Pines, for the Farmers Insurance Open from January 26-29. He has won a record seven PGA Tour events at the La Jolla course as well as the 2008 US Open, the last of his 14 major victories.
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    He has also committed to the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic from February 2-5, the Honda Classic in Florida from February 23-26, and the Genesis Open (February 16-19) in California.
    Following his 15-month lay-off after multiple back surgeries, Woods' ongoing fitness will be under intense scrutiny as he gears up for the Masters from April 6-9.
    An 80th PGA Tour victory would represent a remarkable achievement and take him to just three behind Sam Snead's all-time record of 83.
    A 15th major, nine years after his last, could be a stretch.
    But since his last Masters victory in 2005, Woods has registered six top fours in nine appearances at Augusta.

    Rory McIlroy

    Rory McIlroy is chasing a fifth major title and first since 2014.
    Another season, another chance for the Northern Irishman to clinch the career grand slam.
    Victory in the Masters in April would elevate McIlroy alongside greats Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Woods as the only players ever to have won all four majors at some stage in their career.
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    The 27-year-old has enjoyed three top 10s on his last three visits to Augusta, but the hype increases with every trip down Magnolia Lane.
    McIlroy's 2011 Masters meltdown, when he led by four going into the final day only to crumble on the back nine, adds additional scar tissue.
    The world No. 2 has gone two years without winning a major but he ended 2016 in formidable form, winning the season-ending Tour Championship to land the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup and pocket the $10m bonus.

    Jordan Spieth

    Jordan Spieth says he has banished his Augusta demons.
    The Texan has the world of golf on tenterhooks -- Woods-esque phenom, or one-season wonder?
    Spieth exploded onto the scene with a record-breaking victory in only his second Masters in 2015 and backed it up with victory in the US Open a couple of months later.
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    He looked set to add a third major title before the age of 23 in the 2016 Masters before drama struck.
    Leading by five entering the back nine, he went into free fall to lose to England's Danny Willett, the first of 2016's four first-time major winners.
    But Spieth returned to Augusta in December and faced up to the treacherous par-3 12th -- site of his now-infamous quadruple-bogey.
    "Demons gone," he told reporters in Hawaii, after almost acing the hole in one of two practice rounds.
    Spieth won two PGA Tour events in 2016 and added the Australian Open at the end of the year to set himself up well for 2017.

    Jason Day

    Jason Day's run of seven wins in 17 starts in 2015/2016 was reminsicent of Tiger Woods.
    Australia's world No. 1 took the end of 2016 off to recuperate from back surgery, but made waves on his return by suggesting he has no plans to speed up his infamously slow game.
    Day told reporters at the year-opening PGA Tour stop in Hawaii that, in a profession where big prizes are at stake, it is important to be ready for each shot.
    Slow play is one of golf's biggest issues so Day's comments are sure to ruffle feathers.
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    The 29-year-old, however, is keen to recapture his spectacular form from early last season, when he won seven times in 17 tournaments -- a stretch reminiscent of Tiger Woods in his heyday.
    Day could not convert his three PGA Tour wins in 2016 into major titles, although he was second at the USPGA a year after winning his sole major.
    Day struck up a close friendship with Woods during the former world No.1's absence from the game -- but the career advice could stop if Woods becomes competitive again.

    Dustin Johnson

    Dustin Johnson landed his maiden major title with victory in the 2016 US Open at Oakmont.
    When Dustin Johnson is on form, the rest of the field are in serious trouble.
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    The big-hitter finally fulfilled his promise to win his maiden major with US Open victory at Oakmont in June following a succession of near misses in golf's big four events.
    He added two more PGA Tour wins last term to climb to third in the world.
    Johnson was the second-longer driver on the PGA Tour last year behind only JB Holmes with an average length of 313.6 yards.
    His power game is tailor-made for Augusta -- in his last two Masters appearances, Johnson has finished tied sixth and tied fourth.

    Phil Mickelson

    Phil Mickelson battled with Henrik Stenson on a thrilling final day of the British Open in July.
    "Lefty" continues to defy his advancing years and his final-day duel with Henrik Stenson at the British Open in July will go down in history as one of golf's great contests.
    The 46-year-old proved he is still capable of mixing it with the young guns, and a sixth major would put Mickelson alongside Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo in terms of victories.
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    More significantly, a win at this year's US Open at Erin Hills would also give Mickelson a career grand slam -- but with a record six runner-up spots, his home Open has become his nemesis.
    Mickelson was tied second in the Masters in 2015, his ninth top-three finish at Augusta including three wins.
    Provided he can recover from a recent sports hernia operation, he should feature in the mix for a fourth Green Jacket to match Woods.