Champion Adam Scott paired with Jason Dufner at Masters

Defending champion Adam Scott, left, and PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner were paired together at the Masters.

Story highlights

  • Reigning champion Adam Scott paired with Jason Dufner at Masters
  • Playing alongside Scott and Dufner is U.S. Amateur champ Matthew Fitzpatrick
  • Rory McIlroy plays with Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed in opening two rounds
  • Major winners Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Justin Rose are paired together

Adam Scott, bidding to become just the second man in more than two decades to win the Masters in back-to-back years, kicks off his title defense in the company of Jason Dufner and Matthew Fitzpatrick.

Scott, who downed Angel Cabrera in a second playoff hole in 2013, and Dufner share at least one thing in common: They won their opening majors last year. In Scott's case, it ended years of near misses at golf's biggest events.

The famously laid-back Dufner -- "Dufnering" is a phenomenon -- captured the PGA Championship about four months after Scott became the first Australian to wear the famous green jacket and 19-year-old Fitzpatrick has earned a reputation, too.

Last August he became the first Englishman to claim the U.S. Amateur Championship in more than 100 years.

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They begin round 1 at Augusta at 10:41 a.m. local time Thursday.

Scott, the highest-ranked golfer in the field because of Tiger Woods' absence, has already been on the course this year, playing a round with his father last week.

"No doubt he had a great time," Scott was quoted as saying by the Golf Channel. "And so did I."

Scott, according to British bookmaker William Hill, is the joint favorite with former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who starts alongside Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed 11 minutes after Scott.

Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Justin Rose -- who own a combined 10 majors -- are the second-last trio to get underway, at 1:48 p.m. on Thursday.

Three-time Masters champion Mickelson enters the tournament under an injury cloud, pulling out of the Texas Open with a side injury late last month.

Woods misses out after undergoing back surgery.