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Schwartzel with Bradley, Mickelson with Mahan at Augusta
Augusta, GA (Sports Network) - Defending champion Charl Schwartzel will have Keegan Bradley in his group when the 76th Masters gets underway Thursday at Augusta National Golf Club, while three-time winner Phil Mickelson will play alongside Hunter Mahan.
However, Dustin Johnson will not be taking place after withdrawing due to a back injury.
Last year, Schwartzel birdied his final four holes in the final round to win by two strokes over Adam Scott and Jason Day, and earned his first major victory. His trio, which includes reigning PGA Championship winner Bradley and U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft, will tee off at 10:24 a.m. (ET) on Thursday and 1:31 p.m. on Friday.
"I feel like if I've done it before, why can't I do it again? I think you've got to be careful so that your mind doesn't run away with you and really stay in the present," Schwartzel said. "But I think it still is a good thing to think that way. I don't think a lot of guys really believe they can win."
Immediately after Schwartzel's group will be a trio including Tiger Woods, a four-time Masters champion. He will begin his quest for a fifth title at 10:35 a.m. on Thursday with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Korean Sang-Moon Bae, a first-time participant. That trio will come back at 1:42 p.m. for round two.
Woods will enter the tournament as one of the heavy favorites, especially because he won two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That was his first official PGA Tour victory since the 2009 BMW Championship, and was seen as a signal that his career was back on track after years of dealing with his sex scandal and injury.
Despite his personal and golf struggles, Woods has performed well at Augusta, finishing in the top 10 in every year since his last triumph.
"It's understanding how to play this golf course, where to miss it," said Woods, who will be playing in his 18th Masters. "I've gotten just umpteen amount of advice from guys who have played here way more than I have. That's really helped."
Mickelson will be searching for his fourth Masters title, having won in 2004, 2006 and 2010. He will play alongside Mahan, who won the Houston Open this past weekend and became the highest-ranked American in the world, at No. 4. That group, which includes Swede Peter Hanson, has the final tee time Thursday at 1:53 p.m. The trio tees off at 10:46 a.m. on Friday.
Rory McIlroy will start his tournament a group ahead of Mickelson, at 1:42 p.m. He is playing with 2009 Masters winner Angel Cabrera and Bubba Watson, and they will be teeing off Friday at 10:35 a.m.
McIlroy, who briefly ascended to No. 1 in the world earlier this year and currently is ranked second, will be looking to rebound from his trying experience at last year's Masters.
The Northern Irishman held the third-round lead but fell apart on Sunday. He hit a horrendous tee shot at the 10th, which he triple-bogeyed, and finished with an 80 to tie for 15th.
"I think one of the things I learned was that as a person and as a golfer, I wasn't ready to win the Masters, wasn't ready to win a major," said McIlroy, who went on to win the U.S. Open last June.
The golfer who replaced McIlroy at the top of the rankings, Luke Donald, will tee off in the group following Woods', at 10:46 a.m. Thursday and 1:53 p.m. Friday. He will play alongside American Nick Watney and Italian Francesco Molinari.
Donald has a tumultuous track record at the Masters. He tied for third in 2005, missed the cut in 2008 and 2010, and finished tied for fourth last year. The Englishman won the Transitions Championship in mid-March, but is still in search of his first major title.
"If I play my best...I would hope that would certainly be good enough," Donald said. "But I feel like what I've learned, especially from the last year or two, (is) that I don't need to play quite my best. I just need to play good golf."
Donald is one of several high-profile players in search of his first major win, along with Mahan, Watson, Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker and Justin Rose.
Westwood, ranked third in the world, was the runner-up to Mickelson in 2010. He is paired with Hall of Famer and 2000 Masters champion Vijay Singh, and Jim Furyk. They will start the first round at 12:58 p.m. and be back out on course at 9:40 a.m. on Friday.
Rose is joined by young contender Rickie Fowler and '08 winner Trevor Immelman. That threesome starts at 9:29 a.m. Thursday and at 12:47 p.m. Friday.
Stricker's threesome is rounded out with three-time major winner Padraig Harrington and former British Open champion Stewart Cink. Their group begins at 8:56 a.m. Thursday and 12:14 p.m. Friday.
The tournament's first group is scheduled to be off at 7:50 a.m. on Thursday. It includes 1982 Masters winner Craig Stadler, 2006 runner-up Tim Clark and Brendon Steele.
04/03 14:49:03 ET
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