AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson's popularity among golf fans didn't mushroom when he won the Masters two years ago. Even before that, he was viewed the way Arnold Palmer was a generation ago - the people's choice as much for his failures and foibles as for success in everything but major championships.
It took his one-shot victory over Chris DiMarco, punctuated by a 20-foot birdie on the final hole and his much-replayed mini-leap, for Mickelson to end an 0-for-45 drought in majors. It took a subsequent one-shot win in last year's PGA Championship for him to show what happened here wasn't a fluke.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in the sports section yesterday misidentified the runner-up in the Masters golf tournament in 2004. Ernie Els finished second to Phil Mickelson. A chart with the article misstated the year Mickelson won the tournament. The Sun regrets the error.
The Masters Today-Sunday Today's TV: USA, 4-7 p.m.
5 Players To Watch
Tiger Woods -- With a forecast for warm and sunny weather, a dry and dramatically tougher course should play right into the hands of the world's best player.
Phil Mickelson -- Last week's runaway win at the BellSouth Classic could be a good sign, but no player has won the week before and the Masters since 1988.
Chris DiMarco -- A win for DiMarco, a runner-up to Mickelson last year and a final-round contender three times in his five appearances, would be a feel-good story.
Retief Goosen -- A two-time U.S. Open champion, Goosen has a history of putting well on fast greens, most recently at Shinnecock two years ago.
Jose Maria Olazabal --Two-time Masters champion is starting to play well again, with a distant tie for second behind Mickelson last week.
[ Don Markus]