- The Augusta Chronicle - Saturday, April 12, 2014

AUGUSTA, GA. — The absence of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson from the final two rounds of the 2014 Masters was a disheartening sight for many golf fans Saturday, but few were ready to concede that the two stars’ glory days are behind them.

“I’m very disappointed,” Leslie Wallace, 51, of Gastonia, N.C., said of a Masters without Mickelson in contention for a green jacket. “It’s not as exciting.”

Since 1991, when Mickelson made his Masters debut and won the Sterling Silver Cup as the tournament’s low amateur, Wallace said she has attended almost every year.

She said she has also seen Mickelson grow from amateur golfer to loving husband and father of three children.

“He’s such a positive and inspiring role model, both in the game of golf and life,” Wallace said. “He’s just a prince of a guy.”

Lefty’s play, however, was far from princely in the 78th Masters.

His 5-over was one-shy of making the cut, only the second time that Mickelson, a three-time winner, has missed the weekend at Augusta.

Woods, a four-time champion and the world’s No. 1-ranked player, missed his first Masters this week because of back surgery.

Larry Davis, 65, is an attorney from South Florida and a Woods fan. He was sad he didn’t get to see Woods this year.

“The only good part is that they have taken a lot of the crowd with them,” he said. “The tickets aren’t any less expensive.”

With Woods and Mickelson absent, many patrons are now pulling for younger golfers such as Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, and Jordan Spieth and the past two Masters champions, Adam Scott and Bubba Watson.

Although Kuchar is Davis’ favorite to win, Stacy Galan, a real estate broker from Atlanta, liked McIlroy.

When asked whether the absence of Woods and Mickelson detracted from this year’s Masters, she said, “Absolutely not, especially when Rory is working out, drinking protein shakes and doing squats.

“It’s a great opportunity for other golfers, such as McIlroy, to shine and showcase their talent,” she said. “I’m all about the underdog.”

Though Galan and Davis questioned whether Woods could return as a dominant force on the PGA Tour, neither would say whether his absence at the Masters signaled a takeover by golf’s younger generation.

“It doesn’t seem like any of the younger golfers have the star power, at least not yet,” Davis said.

Not like his favorite, Mickelson, Wallace said.

“I hope to see him back in contention next year,” she said. “He makes the tournament better.”

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