Can Phil reign or will it rain?

Apr 5, 2005 9:10 AM

The Masters. No further introduction is necessary.

Last year was all about Phil Mickelson finally getting that monkey off his back and winning his first major. This year, the tournament may well come down to how rain soaked Augusta National becomes.

Bad weather had infected the PGA Tour, following the boys in Hawaii, California, Florida and now Georgia. Hopefully the beauty of Rae’s Creek and Hogan’s Alley will be spared with four playable golf days.

This Masters on the surface is all about the Big Four, all seemingly at their best heading to Augusta. Tiger Woods is the favorite at MGM at 3-1, followed by Mickelson (9-2), Vijay Singh and Ernie Els (each 6-1).

Beneath the radar, men’s golf has never been more balanced. Europeans have won the Masters eight times since Sandy Lyle’s victory in 1988. Other than Tiger’s two victories in 2001-02, there has not been back to back winners since Jack Nicklaus in 1965-66.

Another note: The victor of Wednesday’s annual Par 3 competition has never won the Green Jacket in the same year.

Here’s our Masters list of five who can, a few more that are capable. Check the Masters odds sheet (Page 6) for our individual matchup selections.

Tiger Woods: The length is back and that spells trouble for the field. Definitely the man to beat.

Ernie Els: Is really pointing his game toward this tourney, having never won in Augusta. The Big Easy’s 68 in brutal conditions at the TPC could loom large.

Luke Donald: Came so close at the TPC. On his way to being Europe’s best player.

Retief Goosen: No. 5 in the world and closing. Wonderful ball striker, great clutch putter and steel nerves. Another Ernie.

Scott Verplank: Has the game to win a major if he can just put four good rounds together. Played very well at TPC, which will give him confidence here.

Also: two-time Masters champ Jose Maria Olazabal, underachieving Charlie Howell III and a revived Lee Westwood.