10 players to watch

April 08, 1999|By Don Markus

1. David Duval: He is the hottest player in the world, the first to win four PGA Tour events before the Masters since Johnny Miller did it in 1974. Duval will be looking for his third win in as many starts -- and 12th in his past 35 -- after finishing one shot behind last year.

2. Tiger Woods: Considering the changes made to the course, Woods might be the player to beat. Has one victory in six starts this year and four other top-five finishes. With the focus on Duval, it will be easier for Woods than coming in as defending champion last year.

3. Ernie Els: He has finished in the Top 10 once here in five tries -- a tie for eighth back in 1994 -- but is always considered one of the favorites because of his length off the tee and touch around the greens. Els is coming off a victory in South Africa.

4. Fred Couples: He missed the cut last week in Atlanta, but has had an otherwise solid year, with a tie for fourth two weeks ago at The Players Championship equaling his top finish. He blew a chance here last year with a costly bogey on the back nine, but finished tied with Duval.

5. Mark O'Meara: He is not quite an afterthought despite winning last year, but the victory was only his second Masters finish in the top five in 14 tries as a pro. He hasn't won yet this year, but finished tied for sixth at The Players Championship and tied for third at the Honda two weeks before.

6. Jim Furyk: One of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour the past two years, Furyk came in two shots behind O'Meara last year. Furyk has not played as well this year, but recently hired a new caddie. It wouldn't be such big news except that it's Mike "Fluff" Cowan, Woods' former caddie.

7. Vijay Singh: He missed the cut last year to break a streak of 53 straight tournaments in which he played on the weekend. Singh has never broken par for a tournament here, but he has the perfect game for the course. His breakthrough win at the PGA Championship should boost his confidence in the year's first major.

8. Davis Love III: The transplanted Georgian would be a popular winner, and he will get a lot of crowd support. After years of mediocrity, Love finished second to Ben Crenshaw in 1995 and tied for seventh the next two years. His best finish this year was a second at Pebble Beach.

9. Phil Mickelson: He has finally admitted that he's a bit stressed about not winning a major, but has played well enough in past years to be a factor. He finished third three years ago, and tied for seventh the year before. He would become the first lefty to win a major since Bob Charles.

10. Greg Norman: With Jack Nicklaus sitting out this year after hip replacement surgery, Norman could be the sentimental favorite should he get into contention over the weekend. He has missed the cut twice since blowing his six-shot lead in 1996, and has yet to regain full strength after shoulder surgery last year.

Pub Date: 4/08/99

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