The Masters: Six stories to follow

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Story highlights

CNN World Sport takes a look at six potential storylines ahead of the 2014 Masters

Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott dominate most of the buildup to Augusta tournament

Could the season's first golf major throw up the Masters' first Asian winner?

Masters runs from April 10-14 at world famous Augusta National Golf Club

CNN  — 

Spring has sprung and as far as golf fans are concerned, that means only one thing – it’s time for the Masters.

Golf’s first major of 2014 begins at the famed Augusta National on Thursday, this year marking the 78th installment of one of sport’s most enduring contests.

They are four captivating days in Georgia that never fail to throw up a myriad of storylines, sub plots and sensations.

With the field as wide open as ever, CNN World Sport looks at six Masters headlines waiting to be written.

Mickelson assumes Tiger’s mantle

The buildup to any major championship is always dominated by Tiger Woods – whether he is playing or not.

Even Phil Mickelson has said it will be “weird” not to have Woods prowling Augusta’s fairways.

With the world No. 1 missing his first Masters due to a back injury, most homegrown fervor will focus on “Lefty,” the man who already has three green jackets in his wardrobe.

The 43-year-old has had his own fitness worries, withdrawing from two tournaments this season, but returned his best finish of the year at the Shell Houston Open just a few days ago.

The only current player who can hold a candle to Mickelson in terms of Masters success is Woods, whose four Augusta titles match the feats of Arnold Palmer – two behind the record haul of another legend of the game, Jack Nicklaus.

Mickelson’s most recent triumph came in 2010 and featured a shot that has gone down as one of the finest in the tournament’s illustrious history.

It also showcased Mickelson’s game perfectly, as he launched a six-iron from pine needles behind a tree onto the 13th green, over the stream that protects the front of the green.

Should Lefty find his very best this week, a fourth Masters crown is a distinct possibility.

A wide open field

Trying to predict the next major champion is a futile exercise.

Since the start of the 2009 season, there have been 18 different winners of the 20 major titles on offer – and 15 of those were first-time victors.

Such is the talent being stockpiled at the top of the game, the winner could come from pretty much any continent and be stationed at either end of the age spectrum.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy was 22 when he won the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional – the youngest winner since 1923, when the legendary American Bobby Jones triumphed.

And Mickelson clocked in at 43 years young when he secured the fifth major of his career at the 2013 British Open at Muirfield in Scotland.

Talented teenagers and voracious veterans lurk at every corner of a major championship field, and of the 97 players competing, around 70 will think they have a realistic chance of winning. <