Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland plays his shot from the fourth tee during a practice round prior to the start of the 2017 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 4, 2017 in Augusta, Georgia. Rob Carr/Getty Images/AFP
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Top-ranked Dustin Johnson is favored to capture the 81st Masters but plenty of golfers see Rory McIlroy as a green-jacket threat when the year's first major championship begins Thursday.A showdown of global greats at the 7,435-yard Augusta National sees Johnson arrive on a three-tournament win streak and second-ranked McIlroy, a four-time major champion, seeking a Masters crown to complete a career grand slam.Johnson won his first major title at last year's U.S. Open while McIlroy followed his 2011 Masters heartache by winning the U.S. Open two months later.McIlroy played 27 holes at Augusta two weeks ago, 54 more last week and 18 more so far this week.McIlroy has made a believer out of 81-year-old South African legend Gary Player.Spieth, never worse than second in three career Masters starts, cited McIlroy as an intimidating leaderboard presence.
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