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Top Contenders at the 72nd Masters

Asscoiated Press
Web Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2008; 2:11 p.m.
FIVE WHO CAN WIN
TIGER WOODS
Age: 32.
Country: United States.
Ranking: 1.
Worldwide victories: 75.
Majors: Masters (4), U.S. Open (2), British Open (3), PGA Championship (4).
Why he can win: He has not finished out of the top five since the British Open, winning eight times in his last 10 official starts, with 38 of his last 40 rounds at par or better. Always has an eye on history, and a victory would make him the first to win four Masters in one decade. He said a calendar Grand Slam is "easily within reason." It starts here.
Why he can't: Golf.

VIJAY SINGH
Age: 45.
Country: Fiji.
Ranking: 9.
Worldwide victories: 53.
Majors: Masters, PGA Championship (2).
Why he can win: Even though he has gone more than a year without winning and is not getting younger, Singh figures to have one more major in him, and this could be the one. He is close to full confidence in a retooled swing, and he knows how to get around Augusta National with limited mistakes. Three top 3s this year means he's close.
Why he can't: Putting has never been his hallmark. He had a great week in 2000.

PHIL MICKELSON
Age: 37.
Country: United States.
Ranking: 2.
Worldwide victories: 34.
Majors: Masters (2), PGA Championship (1).
Why he can win: He has won two of the last four times at the Masters, and last year ended a streak of eight top 10s when a faulty swing led him to switch to Butch Harmon. Now that his wrist has healed, has won three of his last 11 events. He sees himself as the biggest threat to Woods' goal of a Grand Slam. And he's right.
Why he can't: Woods says Mickelson is the best putter in golf from 20 feet. The problem is inside 5 feet.

GEOFF OGILVY
Age: 30.
Country: Australia.
Ranking: 11.
Worldwide victories: 4.
Majors: U.S. Open.
Why he can win: The Masters is largely about management, and Ogilvy loves to play what he calls "proper golf." Three of his four wins have been a major and two World Golf Championships. He thrives on tough conditions and tough fields. He has settled into fatherhood and his game is ready to hit another level.
Why he can't: Bad memories of making an 8 on Nos. 2 and 15 last year.

ERNIE ELS
Age: 38.
Country: South African.
Ranking: 3.
Worldwide victories: 60.
Majors: U.S. Open (2), British Open (1).
Why he can win: Winning the Honda Classic took his mind off finally winning in America again. He has the power and the iron play to win a green jacket, and determination from two runner-up finishes. Had planned to play five of six weeks going to the Masters, but will end up playing only three times. That will help.
Why he can't: Too much baggage at Augusta National that has not yet been piled for removal.

FIVE WHO MIGHT WIN
K.J. CHOI
Age: 37.
Country: South Korea.
Ranking: 7.
Worldwide victories: 13.
Majors: None.
Why he can win: His stock tee shot is a controlled fade, which has given him consistency and victories on strong courses (Memorial, Congressional) against strong fields. He has become the best Asian to have never won a major. He has an excellent outlook, knowing the majors define careers without putting too much pressure on himself.
Why he can't: Clutch putting remains suspect. His best Masters finish included holing out for eagle on the 11th hole.

RORY SABBATINI
Age: 32.
Country: South Africa.
Ranking: 10.
Worldwide victories: 4.
Majors: None.
Why he can win: He does not lack for confidence or firepower. He had a taste of contention last year until a few simple mistakes on the back nine, but all that did was raise his comfort level and - if this is possible - raise his confidence. He is a streaky player, and can only hope that he arrives at Augusta on the upswing.
Why he can't: Shin splints.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON
Age: 36.
Country: Ireland.
Ranking: 12.
Worldwide victories: 19.
Majors: British Open.
Why he can win: With a claret jug at home, he knows his best golf can win majors. That wasn't always the case, even in years he contended. His skills are more than adequate, from length off the tee to holing critical putts. Mostly, he never panics when his name rises and falls on the leaderboard.
Why he can't: Wrong decade for European dominance.

JUSTIN ROSE
Age: 27.
Country: England.
Ranking: 6.
Worldwide victories: 6.
Majors: None.
Why he can win: Lots of positive vibes at Augusta. He had the 36-hole lead in 2004, only to shoot 81 the next day. And he was one shot behind late in the final round last year until making double bogey on the 17th. Belief comes from winning the European Tour Order of Merit last year, along with the Volvo Masters at Valderrama.
Why he can't: Still hasn't shown the capacity to close in America, let alone in a major.

ADAM SCOTT
Age: 27.
Country: Australia.
Ranking: 5.
Worldwide victories: 13.
Majors: None.
Why he can win: He took baby steps at Doral when he made up five shots in five holes against Woods in the third round, although he stalled after that. Closed with a 61 to win at Qatar, and while he hasn't seriously contended at a major, his victories include The Players Championship and Tour Championship. His hopes, as always, lie with his putter.
Why he can't: His idol is Greg Norman.

FIVE LIKE ZACH
ZACH JOHNSON
Age: 32.
Country: United States.
Ranking: 20.
Worldwide victories: 3.
Majors: Masters.
Why he can win: He showed last year that while the par 5s are crucial to victory, they don't have to be reached in two shots. He brings a simple, compact swing that holds up under pressure, and he relies on a solid putting stroke. Despite winning a major, he remains a normal guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Why he can't: He has no control over the weather.

STEVE STRICKER
Age: 41.
Country: United States.
Ranking: 4.
Worldwide victories: 6.
Majors: None.
Why he can win: All this comeback needs now is a major. Everyone knows he is among the best putters in golf. The reason he has surged as high as No. 3 in the world is a reliable swing off the tee, good iron play to keep the ball in the right spots on the green, and a hunger that has not left since returning to top form.
Why he can't: No crying allowed at Augusta National.

JUSTIN LEONARD
Age: 35.
Country: United States.
Ranking: 35.
Worldwide victories: 11.
Majors: British Open.
Why he can win: Some believe the Masters more closely resembles a U.S. Open, which is about control off the tee and plodding along with pars. That's when Leonard is at his best. He was outside the top 200 in the world a year ago, and a change back to swing coach Randy Smith has him looking more like the guy who never let moderate length stop him from winning.
Why he can't: Still somewhat shaky on the back nine, which cost him two majors.

TIM CLARK
Age: 32.
Country: South Africa.
Ranking: 36.
Worldwide victories: 5.
Majors: None.
Why he can win: Might soon replace Colin Montgomerie as the best player to never have won on the PGA Tour. His length is adequate, but he compensates with incredible grit, especially around the greens. He came close in the PGA Championship at Oak Hill, and finished two shots behind at Augusta in 2006.
Why he can't: No one with a long putter has ever been fitted for a green jacket.

LUKE DONALD
Age: 30.
Country: England.
Ranking: 16.
Worldwide victories: 4.
Majors: None.
Why he can win: He plays his best golf on the toughest, longest courses. Two top 10s in three appearances, but he never seriously contended. A polished swing reminds some of Ben Hogan, but only two U.S. victories raise questions. He does well to stay within his game and win with irons and putting. He earned invaluable experience being paired with Woods at Medinah in the '06 PGA.
Why he can't: Has a knack of chopping up the 14th hole when he's in contention.

FIVE WHO COULD SURPRISE
FRED COUPLES
Age: 48.
Country: United States.
Ranking: 369.
Worldwide victories: 20.
Majors: Masters.
Why he can win: The only Masters champion to have never missed the cut, and could break the record he shares with Gary Player (23) this year. But it's not about cuts. While his rich talent has been offset by injury, he's like a great pitcher who simply knows how to get guys out. It was only two years ago when he had a 5-foot birdie to tie Mickelson on No. 14, only to three-putt for bogey. If he putts decently, he contends. And if he contends, Augusta National might work its magic.
Why he can't: The bank between the 12th green and Rae's Creek has been shaved.

LEE WESTWOOD
Age: 34.
Country: England.
Ranking: 19.
Worldwide victories: 26.
Majors: None.
Why he can win: Once ranked as high No. 4, he has quietly strung together a steady diet of top 10s around the world. Much of the focus on English golf is on youth, but he could follow Harrington's lead at Carnoustie and bring Britain its first Masters since Nick Faldo in 1996. Dedication to the gym has brought him extra length.
Why he can't: Last time Europe won a major and the Ryder Cup in the same year was 1989. Europe doesn't lose the Ryder Cup.

RETIEF GOOSEN
Age: 39.
Country: South Africa.
Ranking: 28.
Worldwide victories: 28.
Majors: U.S. Open (2).
Why he can win: Famous for asking if he won the green trousers when he finished second to Woods in 2002. He has gone three straight years in the top 3 at Augusta, and was poised to win last year until playing the final 11 holes in even par. Came close at Doral, his first time in contention since last year's Masters. He could be building toward something special.
Why he can't: Too much exuberance.

SERGIO GARCIA
Age: 28.
Country: Spain.
Ranking: 14.
Worldwide victories: 16.
Majors: None.
Why he can win: Considered by many to be the best ball-striker in golf, and among the best drivers. Those are two good traits to have at the Masters. He has shown the ability to take it deep at Augusta, but only after he's out of contention. The youngest player to be labeled "best to have never won a major," and like Mickelson before him, it's only a matter of time.
Why he can't: This is the only major where he has not seriously contended.

JONATHAN BYRD
Age: 30.
Country: United States.
Ranking: 59.
Worldwide victories: 3.
Majors: None.
Why he can win: The Masters is due a winner from the South, not seen in these parts since Larry Mize chipped in for birdie on the 11th hole in 1987 to win a playoff. He is one of the best young Americans who doesn't get enough recognition. Very powerful swing who doesn't get overly excited when he's in contention. Plus, the Masters sometimes has spells of surprise winners.
Why he can't: This is not a year of surprises.

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