Contenders

April 11, 2002|By Don Markus

Top 10 picks for the 66th Masters, with odds:

Tiger Woods (5-1): Not the overwhelming favorite he has been in the past, Woods is still the player to beat. Coming off a poor putting performance at The Players Championship, Woods needs to get his flat stick working to become the first repeat champion since Nick Faldo in 1989 and '90.

Retief Goosen (10-1): He has missed the cut in two of his three previous appearances at Augusta, but that was before his victory in last year's U.S. Open. Goosen has backed it up with four wins since, including last week's BellSouth Classic.

Ernie Els (12-1): He has come back strong from a winless 2001 season with three wins this year, two on the European Tour and at Doral. Els finished second to Vijay Singh at Augusta two years ago, one of three top-10 finishes in eight appearances.

Jose Maria Olazabal (12-1): The two-time champion is having a tremendous season at age 36, with a victory at the Buick Invitational and a European Tour win in Hong Kong. Olazabal has finished in the top five in six of eight events this year, including a third two weeks ago at the Houston Open.

David Duval (15-1): He has the best record at Augusta over the past four years, with two seconds and a third. Duval hasn't played well this year - his best finish is a tie for 12th at the season-opening Mercedes Championships. Having won his first major at last year's British Open, Duval won't be under as much pressure as in the past.

Vijay Singh (15-1): His victory two weeks ago at the Houston Open was his first on the PGA Tour since the 2000 Masters. He's long and strong enough to use Augusta's new layout to his advantage, but putting is always a question mark on the fast and tricky greens.

Phil Mickelson (15-1): He should be the second choice behind Woods, given his 20 career victories and five top-10 finishes at Augusta, including third last year. But he has thrown away so many tournaments in the past couple of years that his go-for-the-jugular approach is strangling his potential.

Charles Howell III (20-1): Having grown up in Augusta, he will be a crowd favorite this week. Though he is playing in his first Masters, last year's PGA Rookie of the Year has played the course many times. Howell would become the first Masters rookie to win since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.

David Toms (25-1): He hasn't won yet this year after a breakout season a year ago in which his three victories included the PGA Championship. Toms still holds a share of the nine-hole tournament record (29) set during a final-round 64 in 1998, when he finished tied for sixth.

John Daly (50-1): He hits it longer than nearly everyone in the field, and has played better in the past year than he has in a decade. Daly will be the people's choice if he gets off to a hot start, and good story lines often play out at Augusta.

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