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MAHONE: Tiger-less Masters will be OK

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With Tiger Woods in pursuit of history, all eyes and media coverage is mainly focused on him when it comes time for one of golf’s major tournaments.

But this week’s Master coverage will have to make do with some other story-lines, as Woods must sit out the storied tournament after undergoing back surgery.

The world’s No. 1 ranked golfer has been in a six-year major title drought since winning the 2008 U.S. Open. However, he is always the main topic of discussion when it comes to major tournaments as he tries to catch Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 major titles.

Woods sits at 14, and has to wait until later this year at the U.S. Open to grab another major title. He will not be playing atAugusta National for the first time since appearing in 1995 when he was a 19-year-old amateur.

Woods has won one of golf’s major titles in 18 events, which leaves some to question if he will ever catch Nicklaus.

Now 38-year-old, Woods, who won five times in 2013 but failed to play his best in the majors, remains hopeful he will be back competing at his world number one level by mid-2014.

“It’s tough right now, but I’m absolutely optimistic about the future,” Woods told the Associated Press.

With no Woods in the field this week, there is no need for the folks at Augusta National to panic. Although Tiger Woods in the running for a title on the final day means a ratings boost, the Masters will be OK this week.

Yes, it is exciting to see Woods inch closer to history at one of golf’s most storied events, but there still should be plenty of excitement, regardless.

It always bring chills to see the golfers on the final day grasping for that coveted Green Jacket.

This year’s field seems wide open.

And no matter the winner, it will always make for a neat story-line that will play out over the media coverage.

Will it be one of the established veterans on the Tour, or and up-and-coming rookie? What about an amateur in the running?

Some experts have hinted that Rory McIlroy is the favorite. The 24-year-old is ranked No. 7 in the world. After the 2012 season, he was ranked as the top golfer in the world.

“Golf in general is very wide open at the moment,” McIlroy told Reuters Media Service. “It’s almost like golf is waiting for someone to stamp their authority on the game and be that dominant player.”

Is it time for a rookie to emerge?

Former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell thinks it possible.

“Some of the rookies today have a great chance,” McDowell wrote in a column.

If that were to happen, it would be the first time a rookie has won since first-timer Fuzzy Zoeller famously won the 1979 tournament.

No Woods doesn’t necessarily mean no excitement.

The rain will have moved through the area to give way to mid-80s degree weather at a perfect backdrop for an exciting tournament.

Yes, the drama and excitement that Woods brings to a major will be missed, but, again, the Masters will be more than OK.

Afterall, the tournament didn’t build its solid reputation on just one golfer.

Derrick Mahone is the sports editor for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily.com. On Twitter? @Derrick Mahone_